Guest comment from Michael McCartan, managing director, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Duetto...
If hotels want to make gains in guest engagement, market share and profit they need to embrace the digital age and get connected.
That was the key message from this year’s Revenue Strategy Forum (RSF), hosted by Duetto at the Amba Hotel Charing Cross on 6 November 2017.
The RSF London event provided a platform for discussion on new innovations in artificial intelligence, cognitive learning, big data generation and analytics, and networking.
Bret Greenstein, vice-president of consumer business, IBM Watson Internet of Things, delivered an insightful keynote speech on cognitive and predictive intelligence. Talking about the many innovations coming through the Internet of Things (IoT), he highlighted some of the big changes Watson hoped to make to the hotels industry, through connected devices, including the Panasonic digital mirror, the Harman JBL intelligent speaker, and the Softbank Robotic lobby concierge.
Powered by Watson, all these new technologies can provide hotels with a wealth of data on guest behaviour, requests, complaints and more. What’s more, they can all be retrofitted to hotels, making them a quick and easy addition that does not require a compete overhaul of a property’s IT infrastructure.
He talked about using IoT to provide a seamless experience, personalised to the guest, while also providing better building management to alleviate guest discomfort through technology failure.
He told the audience, we are at the age of the intersection between man and the machine, the physical world and internet world coming together. Today, hotels need to question how they engage with the guest, and how they can deliver higher values of service.
"We are at the age of the intersection between man and the machine, the physical world and Internet world coming together"
In a panel discussion on Rethinking Hotel Technology, cloud-based technology and software as a service (SaaS) were discussed by hoteliers and technology consultants as the biggest change factors in hotel technology.
Cloud systems and SaaS solutions enable hotels to buy solutions that are continually updated, and which can be easily introduced to one hotel or a whole chain, helping alleviate the pain points caused by outdated legacy solutions.
According to Richard Pemberton, hospitality technology consultant, Avenue9 Solutions, the move to cloud-based solutions also makes it easier to invest in new technology. He explained how cloud-based tech is seen as an Opex, rather than a Capex spend, and is seen as more cost effective, due to its scalability.
The biggest barrier to adopting cloud solutions was a perceived loss of control by hotel owners, according to the panellists, yet many in operations believe moving to SaaS model will prove a turning point for the industry.
Marc Fries, vice-president, change management of AHM Hotel Management, said it was time for hotels to give control over to those more capable, while Nick Price, CIO of CitizenM, said the opportunity ahead of us is truly significant.
The panellists agreed that the current "solar system" IT infrastructure module, which puts the PMS in the centre, is out-dated and that the exchange of data is more efficient when it is transported via a "bus" architecture. Price explained this as a transit system that collects pieces of information and transports it on, without going via the PMS.
All agreed that artificial intelligent, IoT and big data will drive hotels forward.
In our panel discussion on The untapped potential of personalisation – brand vs. independent, representatives from Premier Inn, Red Carnation Hotels and The Set Hotels discussed personalisation in a digital world.
Hoteliers have always strived to personalise the guest experience, but now they see the need to extend that to the digital marketplace.
Hoteliers are looking for solutions that help them:
• Design the customer journey
• Deliver a seamless, end-to-end experience on property
• Engaging with the guest post-stay
However, personalisation is also seen as delivering an easy guest experience. That can include automated check-in. Although there was a caveat from the panel: all this work can be undone by a follow-up email that is not personal and doesn’t talk to the guest in their tone of voice. With one click, the work done on-property can be undone in seconds. And that is why hoteliers need to invest in solutions and data analytics to get granular in their guest understanding.
Put the guest first, centre and last
Making your product revolve around the customer was the end message of our closing keynote speaker – Rik Vera, Co-Founder of Nexxworks.
He delivered an enlightening presentation on the ever-changing customer, talking about how digitisation has not only changed the industry: it has changed the guest.
In today’s hyper-connected world, the guest wants to be at the centre of the universe. They are looking for a constant selfie experience, with them in the centre of the frame.
Vera warned the audience that today’s customer base is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, before going on to explain how data is the new gold. It’s about knowing the customer, not about selling to them.
Once a hotel has engaged with that guest they can reap the rewards. In today’s connected world, an engaged guest becomes a hotel’s greatest marketing person, Vera explained.
Personalisation remains the heart of hospitality, but in order to get ahead of the competition, hotels need big data and social connections to truly inspire the guest.