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  • UNSUNG HEROES: The rise and conquest of hidden technology in hospitality

    730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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    UNSUNG HEROES: The rise and conquest of hidden technology in hospitality

    As the company enters the UK market, Felicity Emmett, the UK Country Manager for Infraspeak explains why hidden technology is – or should be – an unsung hero for the hospitality market…  

    Witches and wizards don’t exist. Despite the vociferous and adamant complaints of countless generations of British literature fans, we cannot fly on broomsticks, predict the future, or conjure food at will.

    Indeed,  despite its rather unglamorous appearance, room service might just be the closest thing we have to magic. Harry Potter may have had a magic wand, and we all know how that turned out… but did he have… a smartphone?

    The young wizard may have had the ability to turn invisible with a bit of help from his trusty cloak, but we have a pretty good alternative: technology. We live in an age of face recognition, fingerprint authentication, QR codes, instant communication, remote controls… we have just invented lab-grown meat… If you run a hotel, you’ll know better than anybody that from time to time, a bit of help can go a long way. How many of your bookings come from people six time zones away? Can you even remember a time when people used anything other than the internet to book their holidays?

    “Endless folders have been replaced by management software, whilst invoices are now seamlessly stored in the cloud.”

    As with many industries, technology crept into the hotel management sphere. Just a few years ago we relied on guests to confirm their bookings via fax. Now, all it takes is an email from Booking.com. Endless folders have been replaced by management software, whilst invoices are now seamlessly stored in the cloud. Even housekeeping can now be managed on the go! Change was always inevitable, but nobody could have ever anticipated it would be quite so fast.

    Smart hotels were once the future, but now they are very much the present. Think about the hundreds of hotels around the world that are now marvelling guests with quasi sci-fi experiences based on remote technologies. Guests can control their AC or order room service using their phones, self check-ins are driving receptionists out of fashion, whilst smart door-opening solutions such as key cards or even mobile applications are making the metal equivalent look like a joke. You can now go sightseeing and receive a notification directly to your phone which informs you when housekeeping has been done. It’s siesta time!

    “Technology has pampered us and made us impatient: we want everything right here, right away!”

    For the sake of this article, we will not engage with the debate on whether impersonal service is a good or a bad outcome of these technology solutions. However, there is an issue you will always have to manage, and that is guest expectations. Technology has pampered us and made us impatient: we want everything right here, right away. Writing a costly bad review or filing a complaint is now just a few clicks away. If guests expect (and rightly so) everything to work flawlessly, when hotels do not match up to the astonishingly high standards set by elite competitors, guests now have an outlet for their unjust frustrations: The Internet!

    Like we’ve said before, humans cannot predict the future, but it’s not exactly a masterpiece  of divination to predict that, in this increasingly innovative and tech-based future, maintenance and software will have an even bigger role to play. It can certainly be intimidating dealing with the rise in technology in hotels, but how else is your team expected to keep track of everything that is happening? Yet, with an already startling number of standard smart devices in hotels, currently ranging from electric blinds and smart TVs to light and tap sensors, it seems inevitable that The Internet of Things will comprehensively arrive in the Hospitality sector and nearly all items will be digital. How are you going to deal with it then?

    The saving grace is that computerised maintenance management systems (also known as CMMS) are getting more sophisticated themselves, and they are allowing managers in hospitality to outsmart this logistical nightmare. One of our new favourite things here at Infraspeak are NFC tags. They are everything your maintenance team could ask for: practical, efficient and smart. You stick them on your equipment so that you can access all information about an asset with a mere tap of your smartphone. No more figuring out where the data is stored, no more delays in fixing it.

    Whilst the benefits of this new technology are undeniable, not all hoteliers have been converted. When analysing maintenance trends, something catches our attention immediately. One of the largest challenges in the industry is a lack of resources (52 per cent), followed by outdated technology (37 per cent) and a lack of technological understanding (36 per cent). The latter indicates a strong need for more intuitive tools which are more accessible for technicians and staff, whilst the former seems to play directly into exacerbating the latter! Confused? So were we. In other words, logistical issues caused by poor software solutions are quite severely impeding strong performances in the hospitality industry.

    With an app like Infraspeak Direct, anyone can easily report a problem or a failure instantly to the maintenance team. This could be a receptionist, a housekeeper, or a technician. This function is especially useful if you don’t have an in-house maintenance team as it allows you to completely skip out the middleman. The quicker the right people are notified of a problem, the sooner they can take action. Infraspeak overcomes this issue with an intelligent scheduling tool which creates simple and specific task lists for the housekeeping team.

    The result of this heightened management capacity is visible for guests from the moment they walk into the hotel. No more clogged toilets or broken AC systems. No more dodgy kettles and no more king size beds being mistakenly switched for two singles! Ubiquitous hidden tech also means guests must only  talk to the first staff member they find, who will then be able to pass it directly to the correct department using their smartphone device. No more complex communication channels! The ultimate goal may be combining this with a customer app, so that guests are able to choose exactly when they need room service, amongst many other personal requests.

    With regards to overcoming a lack of resources, that can be a trickier challenge for many hotels. Whilst we don’t claim  a maintenance app could solve all your problems, it will certainly increase productivity. It is also worth noting that a CMMS can support stock management and outline preventive maintenance plans. We said we weren’t promising a solution to all your problems… perhaps just the vast majority of them!

    For all the efficiency and support a CMMS may provide you as a manager, it is the guests that will benefit most from the software. Even though  they never even come into contact with the CMMS, they will most certainly be grateful for the improvements it will bring to their stay.. We did say we wouldn’t mention it… but the better your hotel runs, the more time you will have to apply those personal, invaluable touches of magic that turn a good hotel into a great one. Efficiency works like an invisibility cloak. Sometimes the things that you never see are the ones you benefit from the most.

    Main image credit: Infraspeak

    Hamish Kilburn / 17.06.2019

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