The Future of POS Systems for Hospitality: Data and Interoperability

Jay Sherman

Looking ahead, Point of Sale or POS systems for hospitality will be shaped by the confluence of data and interoperability.  Data, understanding guests’ interests, behavior, and history, allows staff to deliver a better and more targeted experience. The interoperability of this data allows for the guest experience to be seamless. Combining these two things ensures that guests will receive a highly personalized smooth experience that feels natural.

Some people believe that the traditional POS is going out the window and one way of many it could be headed is in moving into self-service apps.  I don’t necessarily believe that, but I do believe POS is going to “come in from every different direction” with interoperable data.

Especially in the hospitality world, everybody wants to know everything about their guests and be able to serve their guests in a different way. The interoperability of data is key to making this happen. Having everything connected to each other becomes very important to delivering personalized service.

This issue of interoperability has faced hospitality technology for years.  I’ve worked with Microsoft and Oracle and they have the same problem:  is the guest data you have in your PMS all of the guests’ data? You have your membership system that has guest data. You have your table reservations, vacations, and spa bookings. All of these things have different guest data. The key is getting all of that into one system of information that has everything working together in a central single guest profile.

Back in the US, my mom has a Tesla. One of the things that I thought would be really nice is if Tesla were to build an app store. Imagine –it doesn’t have to be built into the car, it could be on your mobile phone, tying in your Waze or Google Maps or something. If you’re placing an order for McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A, whatever restaurant on your road trip, being able to sit there and say, “This is the food I want.” If those apps can all talk to each other, now your car’s GPS or the GPS navigation on the phone is going to know you will be at that McDonald’s at this time– almost down to the detail when you pull up to that drive-thru. They’re going to have your license plate and they’re going to know what time you should be there. In theory, you’re going to pull up and they will say, “Mr. Sherman, it’s great to see you. Please pull ahead.”

For hotels, we are talking about the same idea. Not just with fast food on road trips! The same level of customer experience is enabled by interoperable data.

Now, going back to POS, if they start tracking what kind of food and beverage I’m drinking, there are lots of possibilities. For example, anybody who knows me knows I always drink Diet Coke. If that is something that a hospitality business can look at in my guest profile, they’re going to see this guy is always drinking Diet Coke. Then they can think about the guest experience with the minibar. So, when I check into a hotel instead of having a minibar with Coke and Sprite and beer, none of which I want to drink. Now, I’ve got six bottles of Diet Coke. Not only is it great for me as a guest, but I’m also more likely to actually use that and buy that overpriced Diet Coke!

So having that guest data is really important, with interoperability tying it all together.

3 Key Takeaways
  • Determine your Single Guest profile source of truth. Is it your PMS, your Customer Data Platform?
  • Connect your POS, and other systems to your central single guest profile.
  • Implement changes in small steps. Ensuring changes are done for the benefit of the customer and with their data sharing consent.

Challenges to Data Interoperability

I think the big challenge with data interoperability, is what I would call the creepiness factor.

It sounds great to us to sit there and say, “Oh, wow, my flight is delayed but my car service knows that.”. It sounds great to say at the hotel when we walk in “Oh, Mr. Sherman, I see you’ve arrived.” All of that sounds great in theory. The tricky part is when people start going hold on. How did the hotel know I was walking up?

At some of the highest-end hotels, you hear about the tricks they do:  the Bell Man taking bags out of the taxi. They see on the tag “Sherman”, and they’re radioing ahead that Mr. Sherman has arrived. That’s something that those high-end hotels do. And guests at a high level expect that.  

One time I was staying at a Ritz Carlton in China. And somehow I was picked as the guest of the week at the time, but apparently, they put your picture up, and everybody knows you. But it really disturbed me when I’m walking down to go to a meeting, and a housekeeper comes out they go, “Good afternoon, Mr. Sherman”

So I think you have to do it slowly. People have to see the real benefit of the application of their personal data. That’s always been that challenge. We have to understand the benefit the guest is going to get. And I think that’s where each hotel brand has to find the right solution for them from their hospitality technology company. We can give them all the capability, our POS our PMS, and all of our products have that ability to connect and share data.

If someone said to us, I want your PMS to connect to Uber, we can absolutely do it. There’s a will, there will be a way to make it happen. The question is, does the hotel use that technology? Do they see the benefit? Do they see the desired intent? They communicate to their guests why they should do this and why they should experience it.

There are things with interoperability that we could absolutely do, but never catch on to because of privacy concerns and being socially acceptable.  For example, the idea of putting an Alexa in hotel rooms. So you could be in your hotel room and say, “Alexa, I want to order some room service. Can you get me a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke?” And your order is placed. Sounds fantastic. Until suddenly people started going, “Wait a minute, I don’t need that microphone in my room. It’s one thing to have in my house but not to randomly have it in my hotel room!”

Advantages of Interoperability

The biggest advantage that customers can see if they embrace data and interoperability, is everyone getting a level of service that used to be reserved for only the highest end. Taking what used to be something reserved only at the highest-end hotels and restaurants and people who had the memory and the ability to do it. Technology now can take over making those tools available. And then it’s up to the hotel to figure out what’s appropriate to use and how to use it. Only when the data is understood and applied in a manner appropriate to that business is the power really unlocked.


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