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Bring Them All Together - How the WOW the Guest

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March 01, 2006
Disparate | Systems
Dan Phillips - dphillips@its-services.com

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© 2006 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Interesting times are upon us.

The hotel industry is doing well. Technology is moving forward at ever increasing speeds. Technology suppliers to the hospitality industry are evolving with new players and products daily. Thought processes such as those at HTNG are bringing a whole new set of opportunities to hotels wanting to wow guests with a combination of technology and service.
Internet protocol (IP) is making the implementation of various technologies much easier. IP places a solid foundation that allows many other applications to run over it, sharing transport, security and data. IP enables convergence.

Historically, hotels were stuck with completely disparate systems. There was the PMS, or brains of the hotel. Then you have other systems like CRS, PBX, voice mail, call accounting, Internet, POS, video on demand, CRM, accounting, loyalty programs, energy management and others. For decades the industry was forced to run these separate systems many with minimum interfaces for slightly better efficiencies. Remember when phone calls posted to a folio or when a guest was able to view his folio on the television? Those were some wow moments. To get a wow moment today, we need a great deal more to be impressed.

Today’s impressive moments will come from convergence. Hospitality means providing service to guests. Technology should be used to enhance the guest experience at the hotel. Though there are times when service can be stretched to touch the guests outside of the hotel, such as online reservations and loyalty club notifications, the guestroom is the front line. The underlying philosophy to providing technology in the guestroom has always been and should remain, to give the guests equal to or better than what they have at home or in the office. Hotels that want to garner higher occupancy rates will need to deliver what these guests expect.

What hotels need from the vendor population today is what could be referred to as solution providers. Most hotels are currently faced with a scenario similar to this: a PMS vendor, a POS vendor, televisions from one source, free to guest television from another and video on demand from still another vendor, thermostats that are not linked to the entire system, perhaps one vendor for the PBX and voice mail and maybe another for the call accounting and the list goes on. All of these systems were bought and installed at different times. Some were bought and others were leased while some are on a revenue share deal. Some have full maintenance contracts or warranties all with different terms and timeframes.

The industry needs solution providers, as close to a one-stop shop as possible. Though this might seem a tall order, convergence is making this easier. The design, installation and maintenance of a secure, robust network is the starting point. Once this is accomplished, the rest of these guest services are just applications that ride across the network.

The lifeline of the current set of vendors supporting the hospitality industry is very short. If these vendors are still selling and maintaining disparate systems, not living in the IP world, and not willing to partner with their hotel customers, they are soon going to fail.

Convergence must mean more than bringing disparate systems together under one IP network. In hospitality, convergence must also mean bringing the hotel and the solution provider together in a partnership that is vastly different than business in the past. Hoteliers have always been concerned with getting heads in beds. Solution providers must concern themselves with keeping those heads satisfied. Hoteliers and solution providers must enter a new relationship that promotes success for both parties—and that starts with the guest.

Dan Phillips is the COO of ITS, a consulting firm located outside of Atlanta, Ga., specializing in technology in the hospitality industry. For comment or question, he can be reached at dphillips@its-services.com.

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