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Do You VoIP?

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March 14, 2007
Mark Munger

© 2007 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Do you VoIP? My use of that term as a verb may make some cringe but in reality anyone who spends time talking on a phone today has had his or her voice encoded, packetized and sent to some far destination. You just didn’t know it and that is how it should be.

When purchasing a radio you don’t know whether it is based on a tube or transistor. Tube technology has all but disappeared from audio video equipment. Just the same, the questions about buying VoIP need to disappear from our voice discussions. VoIP is an enabling technology that allows its application (voice) to be converged to a single network. VoIP-based equipment is the current standard for new voice equipment.

VoIP is here to stay and it will be the foundation for all future voice communications. It is a more efficient technology on which to build a feature rich, communications environment. The network foundation that VoIP rides upon is an enabler to many other services that allow a property to save money, be more productive and most importantly enhance the guest experience to gain additional and repeat business. It is the evolution of communications.

Is a letter written on a computer any different than one written on a typewriter? Is a typewriter less expensive than a computer and printer? No one today will argue the productivity gains of the computer. Just the same, the discussion about VoIP will disappear in the near future.

At conferences and seminars, I make the statement that all future guests services will be network connected. And although I have gotten some to spin this a little, no one will argue this fact. And yes, I am serious that voice is just another guest service and when combined with other services on the same network, provides the hotelier and guest with much more than a phone call. But as the context of this article is to extol the virtues of VoIP, let’s look at the primary reasons VoIP is the current standard for voice communications.

Business today has already spoken on this issue. IP phones are outselling traditional PBX phones in new systems. VoIP and its feature rich environment is the primary choice for business communications system today. VoIP though Vonage, Skype and many other vendors is providing consumer’s flexibility with more features and lower costs. Your customers are using it away from your property. Hotels are upgrading to new flat screen televisions and other in-room technologies. Shouldn’t the same rationality apply to your phone system? Customers are expecting the same level of features and functionality they receive at their office and home. If you don’t provide it, your competition will.

Don’t purchase what the market is not investing in. All major and non-niche voice equipment manufacturers are investing primarily in systems that are based on VoIP. Research and development in current and new voice products is almost entirely devoted to IP-based technologies including VoIP. If your vendor isn’t investing in it, should you?

Productivity is increased with simplified management and more flexible deployment options. VoIP systems require less training with easier configuration interfaces. Phones can be added, moved or swapped out with little to no configuration change.

IP-based phones increase guest satisfaction by using the phone as an application delivery device. The phone becomes an additional way for the guest to receive service. Information and requests can be automated and responded to quickly using the interface and protocols provided by a VoIP phone. It also can enable services like Skype to be extended to the guestroom phone, providing services they may already be used to.

VoIP is less expensive to deploy by sharing the same network and cabling system that delivers high-speed Internet access and connects other in-room technologies such as the minibar, set-top box, safe and environmental controls.

Open, standards-based VoIP systems are typically less expensive than non-VoIP, proprietary based systems. Applications from multiple vendors can be deployed based on multiple manufacturers and not limited to one PBX vendor’s product. Moores law of increasing functionality can flourish in this environment.

But back to my opening premise, it’s not VoIP that one should debate, but how far to take it. For some properties all that is needed in the guestroom is the ability to call room service and get emergency attention. In these situations, VoIP may not make sense extended all the way to the guestroom. In these cases, an analog phone attached to network connected distribution box on the floor may make the best investment. But with the VoIP-based system as the foundation, many applications for customer service can still be deployed as needed or desired by the guest.

So let’s put the VoIP debate in the past where it belongs. Let’s have a more productive debate about how far to extend the network, where you can get the most return on investment, how much of an increase in guest satisfaction we can achieve, how we can create new revenue streams and why are you not already acting today with tomorrow in mind.

So do you VoIP? I bet you already do and don’t know it.

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