Can hotel management software help overcome the challenges facing the smaller teams of the hotel industry? The answer is, as with many other solutions meant to help hoteliers and their staff in this new normal, that it can. But it needs to be done well.
Across the hospitality industry, small hotels and major chains alike are being asked to do more with less staff, and do it safely. With many employees still furloughed, historically low occupancy rates, new safety guidelines and protocols, and increased guest sensitivity, hoteliers and their staff are feeling strained. We can all agree, maintaining guest satisfaction is a challenge under these circumstances.
But guest satisfaction is still paramount and hoteliers are ready to rise to the occasion. Though the definition of “satisfaction” is now augmented with a desire for contactless services and a heightened focus on cleanliness and safety, guests still want a seamless, personalized experience.
And balancing these guest expectations with the limited bandwidth of smaller teams is an exercise with high stakes. Bad reviews can stymie recovery efforts. Burned-out employees create an attrition issue. This can fuel concern over a terrible synergy of increased hiring and training expenses and decreased revenue taking root.
How can hoteliers avoid – or stop – this spiral and deliver on their promise of a superior guest experience?
Technology solutions can help. But only if they enable flexibility and streamline hotel operations – not increase operational complexity. For hotels working with a smaller staff, it is essential to automate more tasks and bring visibility to both manual and automated workflows across departments. Hoteliers want to eliminate the manual work an app can do and see the data on process improvement. This is especially true for hotel managers who are now handling more of the day-to-day operations and don’t get the same vantage of overseeing a full team in full swing.
With the right technology solutions, hoteliers can unburden their staff, troubleshoot issues in procedures, and deliver the experience their guests want. Here is a look at key hotel management software solutions that have the potential to help, and an overview of the features to look for that make them workable for a small staff.
The basic features of any hotel management software solution
No matter what hotel management software you use, there are a handful of key features it should have. For a small staff to actually realize the software system’s benefits, it should be cloud-based, mobile-friendly, and easily integrate into your technology stack and standard operating procedures.
Cloud-based solutions give your team flexibility. Instead of being tied to a workstation, today you and your staff need to be able to access your hotel’s core technology from anywhere on your property as well as offsite. These software platforms are also easier to scale and update, with maintenance and improved versions a click away.
Just as guests are relying more and more on their mobile devices to unlock their hotel experience, your staff should be able to as well. When your team can use their phone or a tablet to respond to guest messaging, assign a guest request, or complete a cleaning checklist, they provide better service faster. Mobile-friendly hotel management software is also a safer option. There is no need to rely on communal workstations when your staff has everything they need to do their job on their smartphones.
The ability to network your hotel management software into a cohesive system is essential for efficient operations. If your staff needs to manually transfer information, tasks, or requests from one platform to another, then the gains of the technology can be negated. For a solution to be effective, it should offer integrations with your existing technology. This is generally done through an API, which is basically a set of rules that govern how technologies communicate with each other. With open APIs, your technology solutions can easily integrate with one another. This allows data to be passed automatically between them, which automates workflows and streamlines operations.
Key hotel management software categories for satisfied guests and staff
Most hotels use dozens of software solutions. But the exact stack of solutions will vary from hotel to hotel, and property to property. So this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of time-saving hotel technology products. Instead, these are the categories of solutions that have the greatest potential for creating operational efficiencies that in turn positively impact guest satisfaction, and vice versa.
Property management software
Let’s start with the cornerstone of hotel management systems – the PMS. In order to access the benefits of today’s hotel management software, hoteliers should leverage a cloud-based system that enables easy integrations with other software. This may mean trading out legacy PMS solutions for modern, scalable ones.
When evaluating a PMS for your hotel, skip the bells and whistles that you’ll pay for but never use and focus on the functionality that will help streamline and scale your operations. For example, you may not need an event management module, but PMS solutions that offer mobile check in will make both your staff and guests happy.
The front desk has become fraught with new safety protocols, but leveraging a guest access management solution can lessen the load on your staff. An essential component of the contactless guest experience is keyless entry systems and digital keys. These allow guests to actually skip the front desk and go straight to their rooms, opening their door with their mobile phone.
Digital key providers like OpenKey offer a cloud-based platform that automatically provisions and revokes mobile keys based on guest reservations, or integrates that functionality into your property management system. When your staff is no longer tasked with sanitizing an endless pile of keycards, they will thank you.
Additionally, both mobile check in and digital keys allow hotels to begin the guest experience before they arrive by prompting guests to download the hotel app. Your app then becomes a source of self-service property information as well as a direct marketing channel. This helps to personalize your guests’ experience, even while making it “contactless.” And it can be a time-saver for several departments.
Staff management solutions
There is a whole suite of solutions in staff management software that can help to better coordinate and support your staff, so everyone on the team can turn their focus to your guests.
One area of staff management solutions that helps hotel teams do more with less in a socially distant environment is collaboration technology. These technologies offer a place for staff to communicate and troubleshoot in real-time with team chat and coordinates the many hats your staff wears with streamlined team reassignments.
Another set of solutions that can help hotels manage turnover and ever-changing protocols is learning management systems. These optimize onboarding and upskilling with online and on-demand training, and provide progress reports for managers to oversee and support that training, remotely. A well-trained staff is a supported staff, which pays dividends in terms of guest satisfaction and employee retention.
Food and Beverage management solutions
Hotel restaurants are a mainstay of hotel amenities and a major revenue driver. But today, the way a guest experiences a hotel’s food and beverage services is expanding. Namely, due to the growing market of food-ordering apps broadly, hotel guests are looking for similar experiences during their stay.
Mobile ordering and room service management solutions enable hotel teams to offer mobile (and contactless) food and beverage services, driving revenue while keeping everyone safe. Again, integrations are a critical component when evaluating these solutions. They should easily integrate with your PMS and point of sale system for billing and guest information. Some solutions also provide or integrate with inventory management systems – particularly those that manage grab-n-go markets and hotel pantries. And if your hotel has its own mobile app, look for integration capabilities or SDKs that your app developers can leverage to bring ordering services directly into your hotel app.
Guest service solutions
Among the trending contactless, mobile-first solutions are guest messaging services. As a modern alternative to calling down to the front desk, guest messaging gives your guest a direct line to hotel staff – no matter where either party is. Guests can put in a housekeeping request from the pool and housekeeping can send a text confirmation from their mobile device to the guest when the request has been completed. This not only provides a superior service for today’s mobile-first world but it quickly extends the reach of your small hotel team.
Guest service solutions like messaging will all be cloud-based and mobile-friendly. But when you evaluate solutions, be sure to look for capabilities that focus on the relevant use cases for your hotel and go beyond just chat. It needs to also help you operationalize guest requests with ease. Functions like task assignment across departments will require integration with your other hotel software, like your property management system, staff collaboration, housekeeping, and food and beverage software.
Ready to leverage the benefits of digital key technology? OpenKey, the industry leader in digital key solutions, is here to help. Schedule a demo today and see how this hotel management software solution will delight your guests and empower your team.