Right now, “recovery” in the hotel industry means keeping the lights on and moving forward with a lean team and a lean budget. And the right hospitality technology stack can provide this path toward recovery.
Maximizing the value in your tech stack is critical, but often this is easier said than done. For one, the ideal set of technologies for a given hotel is as unique as the hotel itself. Your tech stack needs help you to meet your guests’ evolving expectations and to navigate fluctuating operational and business needs. And an off-the-shelf solution sometimes doesn’t cut it.
So how do you build a specialized hospitality technology stack that gets the job done and drives recovery? Here are 15 insights from hotel industry leaders for making the most of your existing technology and finding solutions that will enable you to meet the needs of the new and next normal head on.
- Heed market trends toward contactless tech
First, look for technology trends that will last. We are decidedly in a market where the majority of guests will be delighted by the option for contactless experiences. And the previous barriers to guest adoption of contactless tech are gone. Solutions like mobile check in and digital keys, which were growing in popularity even before the pandemic, are now at the top of the list of tech investments for hoteliers. With benefits to the guest experience and hotel operations, contactless technologies are a first step in today’s hospitality technology stack.
- Ask existing vendors if you’re maximizing their features
The heart of your tech stack is your PMS, RMS, CRM, and CRS. These may be four discrete systems, a single system, or anywhere in between. Whatever the make up, chances are you aren’t using every feature that you’re already paying for. Before searching for new solutions, ask your current vendors if there are underutilized features in the products you already use.
- Map your operations to find efficiency gaps
Understanding exactly how everything gets done in your hotel is not easy. Likely there is some process that requires a large amount of manual effort to get a routine job done. These tasks can lay hidden for years as staff quietly spend a portion of their day executing them. Mapping out internal and guest facing operations step by step can help reveal long-standing efficiency gaps that your technology stack can address through optimized workflows and automation.
- Accurately assess the cost of your current systems
Investing in new tech can seem like a steep cost – but only if you compare it to an incomplete picture of the cost of legacy systems. What is the cost of on-premise system maintenance? What is the opportunity cost of performing routine tasks manually instead of automating them and focusing on higher-value strategic work? There are multiple ways that legacy systems can subtly but significantly drain your finances and hold back your staff from being able to adapt to changing market conditions.
- Re-evaluate your metrics to focus on what matters
Comparing last year’s data to this year isn’t particularly helpful anymore. We’re in a new market and with it we all need to evaluate what metrics matter in this new normal. RevPAR has always been a limiting metric with its focus on the top line, because we all know the bottom line is what matters at the end of the day. Now and moving forward, metrics like Revenue Per Available Guest (RevPAG) or Total Revenue Per Available Guest (TrevPAG) may be more appropriate for understanding the health and growth opportunities for your hotel. And a tech stack that helps you capture and share this and other more relevant data in real-time, while also helping you improve them, will be key.
- Develop RFPs that clearly state the “why” of a solution
This may seem like a given, but industry leaders suggest the requests for proposals often describe a desired end state – but not the objectives and value the hotelier is looking for from that end state. Putting out an RFP for a technology without a way to determine if it’s successful could mean you invest in a solution that doesn’t really work for you. State your pain points and goals clearly. You may be surprised at the many ways you can get there, and you are more likely to find a pathway that fits your unique needs.
- Incrementally digitize
You don’t need to abruptly shift to a large, all-in-one technology solution to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars to drive recovery and be ready for the coming years. Hoteliers can, and should, incrementally introduce technology into the guest experience and incrementally digitize operations. This is both more cost effective and realistic from a change management standpoint. And the market is full of solutions that can help you build your hospitality technology stack in this way.
- Weigh the benefits of solutions built specifically for the hospitality industry
Solutions that are purpose-built for the hospitality industry have been developed with your use cases in mind. That said, best of breed technologies perform well across industries (like CRMs or inventory management) for a reason. The key is to find a hospitality solution that leverages the best practices and insights from other industries with similar use cases and adapts them to the unique needs of the hotel industry.
- Avoid the halo effect and ask for proof of concept
Often, it is easy to see the overwhelming benefit of one or a handful of features of a given tech solution – but that is not the best way to evaluate a technology partner. Don’t let one feature overshadow the question of applicability of the other features and basic functionality. And certainly don’t this halo effect override red flags like a lack of testimonials or demonstrated success in your use case.
- Expect interoperability
It is past time to throw out siloed systems and data. Expect systems to communicate with each other. Expect real-time data and business intelligence. As you build your stack, expect easy integration and open APIs. This is critical for two things: optimized operations where any department can submit and track data, action items, or queries across the organization; and a 360 degree view of the guest experience where interactions before, during, and after the stay are captured for a complete guest profile.
- Look for solutions that are flexible and scalable
Hospitality technology is too important to think in the short term. You already know this, but putting this concept into practice means finding solutions that are radically flexible and scalable. This is something that cloud-based, SaaS technologies excel in. They enable you to pay for only what you need now and easily expand to additional features down the road. Pricing should be transparent, and never penalize you for foregoing the whole enchilada at the start.
- Prioritize your technology partners’ deployment strategy and customer support
What bridges the gap between a great technology solution and your newly mapped and optimized hotel operations? Good deployment strategy and support. This means prioritizing solutions that are easy to use and easy to train on, without trading robust functionality. It also means prioritizing partners who can execute deployment in a way that meets your operational needs and who will stick around beyond implementation for ongoing end user support.
- Engage your hotel staff – the other end users of the technology
In the realm of hospitality technology, the guests’ user experience, for good reason, is thought of first. But hotel employees, the other important end user, should have a similarly seamless end-user experience. For every guest-facing technology, there is a back-of-house operational interface. And if that end isn’t adopted and engaged by your staff, you will never realize the full value of a new technology solution. Furthermore, many employees are anxious about technology adoption, worrying that new automated systems could replace their jobs. It’s important to tackle these anxieties head on and describe the ways it helps them do their jobs better, easier, and faster, so they can focus on the human touch that cannot be replaced.
- Designate an owner and champion of a new technology
Implementing a new technology is a process, from researching the tech to scoping the project to managing the training of end users. That’s why it’s important to assign an owner(s) to ensure successful implementation and utilization. When a tech solution has an internal champion, there is an expert in your organization to oversee its installation, resolve issues, assist in training, and secure a solid ROI.
- Intentionally integrate your tech stack into SOPs to achieve your ideal end-state
Your tech stack is only as good as the operations that leverage and support it. As you introduce new technologies, you’ll need to adapt your standard operating procedures. If you don’t assess and augment your SOPs so the new tech can be effectively integrated into workflows, you’ll end up with redundancies and bottlenecks. And this can result in never realizing the optimized guest experience and hotel operations the technology was meant to help you achieve.
In the end your hotel technology stack, and each tech vendor within it, needs to work for you in the particular way that will drive your recovery. With so many solutions now available for emerging guest needs and operational pain points, it can feel like a maze finding the right combination for your hotel. But keep in mind, if you know your objectives and how to operationalize them, your hospitality technology stack is yours to shape. There are solutions that will meet you where you are and help you to get where you want to go. You just need to envision it, and ask.
Ready to add Digital Keys to your hospitality technology stack? OpenKey is the leading provider of complete digital key solutions. Schedule a demo to see how we can help your hotel on your path to recovery.