The evolution of information and communication technology presents a great opportunity for hotel innovation because it connects us with the guests’ powerful insights on how to improve our service offer and product quality, and how to diversify our offerings. So how do we integrate technology with our staff? And if we do, how do we steer clear of the extreme idea that technology is the only important factor to maintain and grow in the future?
There’s no doubt that technology is a vehicle for growth and improvement in the future, and also for better communication on a larger scale so that our businesses are more efficient and more profitable. But not all entrepreneurs or organizations have the tools for technology to go hand in hand with their employees without losing the essence that only a human being can provide through their warmth, empathy, and communication.
Keys for Integrating Technology with Hotel Innovation
Integrating technology with the hotel industry is both a necessity and a challenge to provide a better service to our guests. The levels of integration however, are variant and the question of whether or not to integrate is met by several different view points.
One of them being the owners of independent, small or medium-sized hotels, and owners of family businesses where the technology factor is not only an investment issue—which can sometimes be an uphill slope—but also an integration issue; for example, “selling” staff members that have been around for years doing things a certain way on new technological tools to improve their tasks is almost mission impossible.
Another case are owners who, convinced on the technology era and its benefits, make the effort to have all the necessary tools, but cannot take advantage of all the benefits that technology offers because their employees either don’t believe in it or don’t take full advantage of the benefits of these new methodologies.
And a third case are those establishments that take technology to such an extreme that their staff act like living machines, working by means of technology only and referring clients to different applications to solve their needs without further interaction.
Technology: A Synonym for Change and The Instability of Our Human Factor
None of the aforementioned three examples are good or bad. Again, the question is not to align yourself with one extreme or the other. Considering the constant changes—not only of environmental conditions, but of new economies, new markets, and new client preferences—any radical position that you assume with the current market conditions will force you to pay very high costs in the name of survival.
Understanding the arrival of technology and its impact on our lives, businesses, and relationships, is not to assume an extremist position nor to allow ourselves to become completely absorbed to the point of losing our presence or essence as human beings. We don’t simply become a realized chapter of the popular TV series “Black Mirror” (I recommend you watch the first episode of the third season, “Nosedive”).
The ideal scenario is to integrate technological tools, starting with the basics and introducing little by little those a bit more sophisticated that can add a differentiating value, depending on your type of product where you want to go.
Priority technological tools would be, for example, having a good web page, having an agile reservation and purchase process, having an operational management system that allows you to measure and analyze results in order to improve every day and to make the right decisions at the right times based on facts and figures. More sophisticated tools would be to integrate systems such as artificial intelligence. These would be examples of the most basic technology that we can count on to the more complex or sophisticated in order of priority.
The clients will undoubtedly appreciate it, and their purchase decision will be affected by the basic technological tools that you offer; but they are also looking to live an experience during their stay—the essence of which only people can make them feel. There are market niches for everything; there will be those whom appreciate being able to manage everything through their mobile device, while maybe for others, the technological infrastructure that your hotel offers won’t be a priority. However, what all clients do expect is that the basics are well covered, like arriving to an impeccable, comfortable, warm and friendly place with excellent service and a great breakfast!
Ana María Pittaluga
Hotel consultant, founding entrepreneur of AMP Hotel Consulting and mentor, with more than 20 years of experience in the tourism and hotel sector, leading business innovation and business development plans in Latin America and Europe.