Putting your software systems and data into the cloud brings mobility, flexibility, efficiency and peace of mind, as Rosalind Mullen reports
It’s hard to find much to argue with when it comes to cloud-based solutions. By storing and accessing programs via a more powerful host on the internet instead of their computer’s vulnerable hard drive, hotels of all sizes can easily access data at any time from any location and on any device. It lets them work more flexibly, communicate with staff and guests more effectively, become more cost-effective – and enjoy peace of mind.
There are countless examples of improved efficiency. “The cloud gives an opportunity for a different level of interaction, both internally and with customers,” says Jo Stanford, EMEA and Asia at Amadeus.
Whereas previously, an event planner on a site visit might ask detailed logistical and financial questions that the manager would have to go away to do some research on, a cloud solution lets the manager respond to the prospective customer immediately. “You capture them while they are engaged rather than let them walk away and maybe change their mind,” says Stanford.
This mobility also means, for instance, that a manager can respond to an issue wherever they are rather than wait to get back to their desk, because they have access to all the information on their device. Stanford cites a PhocusWright study finding that 72% of first responders win the business. “Someone who can respond immediately with details, whether they are at their desk or not, will leverage business and increase revenue,” she says.
The cloud also facilitates greater communication within and between teams, such as the catering and operations departments, or housekeeping and maintenance, which ultimately improves the guest experience. For instance, if a housekeeper discovers a bathroom is leaking, a cloud-based system enables them to use their device to submit a work ticket direct to the maintenance department. With a laborious manual system, the guest may have checked in by the time maintenance knows about the leak. The ability to sort the issue out before the guest discovers it increases efficiency and customer satisfaction.
“A top priority for an hotelier is to solve an incident before it impacts on the guest,” says Ransom. “So you can proactively resolve incidents and work to increase customer satisfaction scores, making cost savings and leading to revenue increase.”
Statistics back this up. According to Forrester Research, a one-point increase in the customer experience index score generates another £5 in annual revenue per guest. So a brand with two million guests can generate more than an additional £10m a year.
Stanford adds that the cloud enables hoteliers to be responsive to and track customers and their expectations. “Customer convenience tools can make life easier for everyone,” she says. “By using a cloud system, an event planner can, for instance, track details and communicate requests such as menu selection and so on. They can log onto a portal and see their information rather than having to send a query via email or phone a catering manager and wait for a response.”
The all-in-one advantage
Significantly, an integrated cloud system also enables you to analyse data better (see article on page 4), according to Simon Bocca, chief operating officer at Fourth. “Every hotel generates masses of data each day, but meaningful interpretation is impossible without the insight provided by a connected, integrated insight hub,” he says. “Data presented in context with other data sets is significantly more useful.
“Imagine the power of a complete picture of how an employee is doing. With an integrated operations platform you can take data from all appropriate data sources and combine them into one coherent picture – taking into account time and attendance data, training, productivity, tenure, upselling, skills, guest satisfaction, mystery diner data and tips. Using technology to automate as much as possible gets managers out of the back office and into front of house to focus on the guest experience.”
Gino Engels, co-founder and chief commercial officer at OTA Insight, says that real-time access to data analytics across channels enables hoteliers to see at a glance what is happening in their market and make informed decisions on pricing and distribution: “We’ve had customers able to increase revpar by over 15% in a 12-month period by managing demand, pricing and parity more efficiently across their room type variations and across the right channels.”
Meanwhile, Whitbread’s Premier Inn has just introduced the Amadeus CRS and PMS, which will provide a real-time view of business. It is also adopting the Amadeus payments platform, which will let the company process guest payments more efficiently and safely.
Premier Inn managing director Simon Jones says: “All of our key data will be accessible via one screen. This will help us save time, as we’ll be able to focus more resources on analysing data in a meaningful way. With information on a centralised platform, we can ensure a more consistent guest experience regardless of location.”
Scalability is a notable advantage of the cloud. Traditional hotel management software can’t be easily integrated with software from different providers, so adding features can be expensive and laborious. Cloud-based systems, though, can be connected to other compatible software, enabling you to customise your management system and add all sorts of time-saving apps, from collecting deposits to capturing e-signatures.
For instance, property management, distribution and digital marketing tech provider Guestline works with partners Avvio, Digital Alchemy, GuestRevu, ResDiary and UpSellGuru to meet customer needs for website integration, marketing campaign management, guest reviews, restaurant bookings and so on.
“Each integration is designed to support the PMS and enable hoteliers to improve their efficiency and in turn expand their services and/or distribution,” explains sales and marketing director Rupert Gutteridge. “We have recently launched new event ticketing software to enable hoteliers to boost revenue further by selling tickets to events. The Online Ticket Sales tool was designed to integrate with Rezlynx and offers a web solution that can take payment and combine ticket prices with room rates if required from customer websites.”
Not just for majors
The good news is that to benefit from the cloud you don’t have to be a global force the size of Hilton. “Simplicity, remote access and affordability are key advantages for smaller properties, whereas the ease of multi-site management, rapidity of deployment and scalability are major advantages for larger hotel groups, pub companies and serviced apartments,” Gutteridge says.
Amadeus is launching a new product in early 2018 – a limited service cloud that recognises that not all hotels require all the features of the traditional cloud. “The full feature product is often more than a small operator needs, so we streamlined it for limited service properties,” Stanford explains.
As for affordability, businesses pay an ongoing subscription or fee for cloud solutions rather than paying heavily upfront for hardware. While each business needs to do its own analysis, in the context of maintenance, updates and security, the cloud tends to be more cost-effective.
“One of the differences here is operating expense versus capital expense,” says Stanford. “Given the ongoing cost of hardware maintenance, many organisations will purchase hardware and then amortise the expense over several years. Once fully expensed, they’re often dealing with repairs or looking to replace dated hardware. With cloud-based solutions, they’re eliminating these dependencies as well as the potential cost of employing a team or service to manage the infrastructure.”
So what are the downsides? Well, inevitably hotels in remote places with a spotty internet connection will struggle with a cloud system. Sceptics also fear that the cloud is a security headache, although supporters argue that it is safer than traditional IT systems, which are vulnerable to theft, fire, flood and so on.
Reynolds says: “Security breaches typically happen at point of sale – at the hardware level at the hotel. There may be malware on a LAN and it gets in through phishing emails. That is not caused by the cloud. EMV encryption in the cloud keeps it safer. But nobody is immune, so it is important that due diligence is done by hotels and that they work with reputable vendors.”
So what should you look for when choosing a cloud-based technology provider? According to David Davies, managing director at Checkit, (see box, this page): “Buyers should check their data is being hosted in a secure, state-of-the art facility, that the supplier understands security and data protection, and that the platform is well supported. If hardware is part of the system, they should also check that the supplier is managing and supporting the whole system, not just the software. They should also look for suppliers that use the cloud to continually innovate and improve their solution in partnership with their customers.”
Food safety without the hassle
The kitchens at five-star-hotel One Aldwych in London switched to cloud-based food safety management system Checkit in 2017 to optimise compliance and free up time spent maintaining and reviewing paper records. It saves about seven hours of staff time a week and hours of management time.
Previously, as well as HACCP compliance tasks, the temperature of the kitchens’ 15 fridge and freezer units had to be manually checked and recorded several times a day.
Now, executive chef Dominic Teague manages all compliance information in the cloud, which has given him more control over his 40-strong workforce and the 24/7 operation. If a critical check is missed, he is instantly alerted and can speak to staff to correct the issue. The cloud-based records also help Teague keep an eye on the restaurant, even when he is not on site.
“It cuts down on boxes and boxes of paperwork,” he says. “The information is accurate and always there. You are no longer saying, where is that bit of paper? It gives peace of mind knowing the information is being stored on the cloud. If I am not around, the sous chef will get an alert. It saves time, hassle and space.”
As well as being easily embraced by the tech-minded younger chefs, Teague says the system has the advantage of being bespoke. Cloud-connected handsets have tailored interactive checklists with scheduled tasks for all staff from kitchen porters to sous chefs. The checklists alert staff when checks are due and guide them through the task.
“Times and alerts can be set, as can the fridge temperature and how many people get the alert,” says Teague. “And you can keep on adding stuff. You can expand.”
He now uses it to manage all health and safety procedures and cleaning schedules as well as temperature checks for cooked meat and hot water.
“It is not particularly expensive. You pay for the initial start-up and then a monthly fee.”
Checkit managing director David Davies says: “The hospitality sector depends on teams of people successfully carrying out a multitude of routine but critical tasks. Failure to manage these tasks effectively, particularly in food safety, increases the risk of issues occurring with serious consequences.
“Upcoming changes in food safety regulation and the requirement to display food hygiene ratings will mean that businesses relying on paper-based systems are likely to face greater scrutiny from environmental health officers than those that have invested in digital technology, which demonstrates they are likely to have good processes and management control.”
Deliver an experience your guests will love
As travellers continue to look for more personalised amenities and features, hotels need to focus on what counts – guest satisfaction. Owners are always looking for new ways to differentiate themselves and secure the future success of their property. One of the greatest opportunities to make an impact today is through the implementation of connected technology.
The right solutions will not only save owners time, money, and resources, but also provide sophisticated data for more effective decision-making across the property’s portfolio. Through connected technology solutions, hoteliers can gain a complete view of the guest and their needs. Imagine how your team could provide a customised experience with access to a guest’s individual preferences.
Your customers are seeking experiences that delight them. Connected technology can enable incredible guest experiences and make all the difference in a hotel’s future.