Most hoteliers I spoke with at HITEC this year said that investment going into technology is enormous, leisure and business travel numbers are up, and there are more and more technology providers for hoteliers to choose from. So how can technology providers capitalize on this surge of need for technology and how do they stand out?
Trust. Build relationships of trust with partner providers and hoteliers. I interviewed 5 trusted leaders from the hospitality industry to ask them how. Here’s what they had to say.
Focus on people and involve the people who will be using the technology in the decision.
“We work with technology providers we can trust. We tend to focus on the technology. However, it’s the process and the people that are most important. You can have the best piece of technology, however the people who are doing the work have to trust the process and trust the technology company,” Buwalda says. People buy from people – from people they trust. Trusted advisors.
“The best thing a technology company could do is focus on the team, those who are using the tool every day. The software provider needs to make sure the tools let them do their job more effectively,” he says. “There’s a great opportunity for IT providers to build trust with the team on site. We like to understand the company and their culture. This is important to the process. It’s important to us to work with trustworthy companies and partners. We’re asking different questions to companies we want to do business with.”
Commit to the long term.
“Whether it’s IT or anything else, we are looking for long term partnerships. We want relationships with sales, technology, and implementation, customer success,” Buwalda says. “When something goes wrong, we need to know that person will be there. When we select partners, we select people we trust, and people we will see ourselves working with for years to come.”
Trusted advisors cultivate a partnership mindset to build customer relationships. Taking a long-term view to customer relationships builds trust. Committing to the long term builds trust. This is Trust Principle #8 from my book, The Power of Trust: How Top Companies Build Manage and Protect It.
Established in 1997, SolutionInc has been in public Wi -Fi networking and internet management for decades. “We are committed to the industry for the long term,” says Randy Currie, CTO. “Companies can’t future-proof their networks. We don’t know what new applications or devices will come out. For example, no one was expecting the impact of the Pokemon Go app on hotels and all their networks,” he says. “What IT professionals can do is future-proof their relationships, by being trustworthy, continually updating their products, being strong communicators and showing commitment to the long term.”
Resort World’s McCallum also prefers to work with providers that have this long- term view especially those who re-invest in the industry, have good customer service and build lasting relationships. McCallum says, “It’s important to me when I attend events like HITEC or the Nevada Hotel and Lodging Association technology conference, that I seek out my current vendors to see what new innovations they’re working on. Knowing that they’re committed to making their current technology effective, but also investing in future innovation for the industry, confirms that they’re in it for the long game. Their reinvestment of time and energy into the future of their technology and to the hospitality industry will bring more opportunity for new builds and ongoing commitment with their current partners.”
Take time to understand the industry and what a day in the life is like for an operator.
Trusted advisors proactively take steps to better understand their client’s industry. They describe issues in the client’s terms and from their point of view. When you take the time to learn the language customers use, it builds trust.
“As an operator of a large Las Vegas property, I find it easier to work with companies that have past hospitality experience, or those that have team members with experience in the business,” McCallum says. “To gain trust, they must speak the language of hospitality in order to relate to the issues we would like to resolve to provide a better guest or team experience. In order to be successful, you need to have subject matter experts.”
Buwalda agrees, “When we choose a technology company to work with, we like to work with people that really understand the nuances of our Strata resort business. A Strata property isn’t like a typical hotel property.”
Remember: Communication is key.
This doesn’t just apply during the buying process, it’s critical after the technology is purchased and implemented. “Things don’t always work the way we expect them to,” Buwalda said. “There are always bumps in the road. When something goes wrong, we need to know that person will be there. Having trust in the technology partner is critical and regular communication is a key part of building it.”
Trusted advisors are confident and effective communicators. Their clear, open and transparent communication inspires trust with customers, colleagues and stakeholders.
Focus on the guest experience.
Hoteliers want to work with companies that understand all technology is put in place to enhance the guest experience. Keeping privacy top of mind is increasingly important to the guest experience. “Paying attention to privacy and security is another way to commit to the long term and the guest experience,” Currie says. McCallum adds, “It is really important for hoteliers to be part of the technology decision so that they guide and protect the guest experience.”
Be ethical and have a social conscience. It matters.
Increasingly, hoteliers want to work with companies that demonstrate their integrity and have a social conscience. They’re looking for those that openly share their company values. Sandy Murray, vice president of hospitality sales for ROAR, proudly notes that “ROAR’s mission is to protect 25 million staff and guests by 2030 and we are passionate about it. We work with our clients to help them train and protect their staff and the property’s guests.”
In addition to guest and staff protection, ROAR is dedicated to helping the industry achieve higher safety standards as a member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Hotel Technology Next Generation Staff Alert pre charter workgroup. “The purpose of working with AHLA and this group is to help create a security privacy whitepaper for everyone in the industry to benefit from,” she says. Murray is also a board member for Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals Chicago chapter. “I sell with a purpose,” she says. “When I sell, I like to educate the hotels: if you don’t buy from us, buy from someone.”
The hotel and resort company Four Seasons spells out a supplier code of conduct on its website. It “establishes clear ethical standards for how Four Seasons does business, including the expectation that our Four Seasons Corporate Colleagues and Field Colleagues behave responsibly and ethically, and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.” Caitrin O’Brien, Vice President, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said, “With operations in 47 countries around the world, we know that our sourcing decisions significantly impact our environmental, social, and economic footprint. That’s why we’re committed to driving sustainable and responsible sourcing across our global supply chain.”
The best products in the world, even when paired with the most talented and committed employees can’t deliver long-term success without loyal customers built via strong relationships founded on trust. Adopting a trusted advisor mindset in all customer interactions is the number one driver to building customer trust and loyalty, giving you and your company a significant competitive advantage.