We hoteliers are notorious for pushing back on new technology, but the reason why is misunderstood.
For starters, new tools are often pushed onto us, built by technology entrepreneurs who adapted them to fit our industry. The classic “technology in search of a solution.” Sure, they might address certain needs, but there are always gaps specific to our industry.
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The first time someone called me about a guest text messaging service, for example, I said, “This is not going to work.” Eventually trying one of those platforms only reinforced my skepticism. It was clearly built by non-hotel operators.
The advantage of GuestEQ is it’s a guest messaging and back-of-house communication platform that was purpose-built from a hotel operations point of view. Yes, I launched a product that does something I initially scoffed at, which goes back to what I was saying: I am all for technology when it improves how we operate. And it has. Since rolling out GuestEQ to our portfolio a year ago, our guest service scores jumped 15 to 20 percent.
Here are the advantages we’ve discovered by building GuestEQ ourselves and testing it within our hotels:
Understanding the complexity of hotel ops
Technology providers that attempt to “move our industry forward” aren’t necessarily wrong about what could improve, but they often miss the mark in how to do it. They underestimate the complexity of hospitality. They don’t get the dynamics involved in a single property among the owner, GM, front desk, maintenance and so on.
In guest messaging, common platforms miss the connection between guest-facing services and back-of-house operations. A guest communication channel is worthless without a clear path to fulfillment. We built GuestEQ to tie together guest needs with staff accountability behind the scenes. Other tools tend to be silos where accountability reaches a dead end with unhappy guests.
Knowing what to automate
Some platforms hype up their AI to automate guest communications. Well, from all our years of experience, we know guests don’t really like bot interactions. Plus, we want them to interact with us. We believe firmly that customer service is not going anywhere and it can’t be replaced or fully automated.
Automation comes in handy after that human interaction – relaying that message to the maintenance staff, housing a record of open and completed tasks, and keeping the guest informed on the progress. Automation is also helpful for handling the most common guest requests like more towels or coffee. Beyond that, hotel staff are the “killer feature” that ensures exceptional guest experience. That is why people come to hotels versus renting out a stranger’s home.
Automation is a great tool to make our hotels run better, but it can’t fully replace human interaction.
Learning from real-time hotel staff feedback
Common platforms underestimate the buy-in needed from each user, and how differently each section of the house functions. One tool might work great from a hotel owner’s perspective, but if it’s a nuisance for the front desk and maintenance teams to use, then it will either bog down actual operations or they won’t use it.
Building and deploying GuestEQ has been an eye-opening experience – not all of my ideas worked at the beginning!
Case in point: At the outset, I built a product to get the information I need to run these hotels. Ultimately, I found out through the staff, in giving them the software and letting them use it, that the data I wanted was making their jobs more difficult in certain ways. So, we changed it.
GuestEQ isn’t just one hotel COO’s vision come to life. This goes back to understanding the complexity of a hotel and how everyone from management to the front desk to maintenance will be using this tool. A platform is only useful if people, you know, use it.
This also means we haven’t stopped tweaking GuestEQ.
Most tech companies will set it and forget it, updating things periodically. With GuestEQ, we’ve literally been updating weekly since we put it in the field a year ago. One example is our initial scheduling tool, which was met with resistance (OK, the staff hated it). I thought, “what are you talking about? This is easy.” But the staff actually using it wanted it to look like the schedule they already have hanging on the wall. So we tweaked it to meet their needs.
We initially rolled GuestEQ out to our seven hotels, one at a time, and each property provided these types of on-the-ground insights. To keep that going, we’ve even installed a feedback button so users can suggest changes or new ideas at any time.
Luckily, we are in a unique position to beta test our hotelier-driven ideas in real-time, uncovering functionality that even we didn’t consider – which is then incorporated without pushback. In the end, there is no app for on-the-job experience.