How digitization and system integration are transforming hotel operations
Everything from the front desk to housekeeping and engineering is on a closed loop that feeds directly back to delivering great services to your guests. Improved efficiency is welcome at any time, but it’s especially important now as the hospitality industry emerges from the Covid-19 era, facing both higher energy and materials costs and a shortage of labor.
One key approach to achieving efficiency is to digitize the chain, creating visibility across the complete property for your teams. With such transparency, teams can get the data they need to plan ahead using information about typical patterns and then can seamlessly react when guests make on-demand requests that require attention.
While digitization might have been previously considered a “luxury” feature, the opportunity for efficiency is equally important across all tiers. With lower room rates, midscale properties have an equally high need for real-time intelligence to optimize their teams’ work – achieving the same daily tasks with a smaller team.
Hospitality properties traditionally consume among the highest amount of energy per square foot, a result of the need to prioritize guest comfort. According to U.S. government data, energy costs account for 6% of hotel operating expenses, or a whopping US$2,186 per available room each year.
By replacing unreliable keycard drops with real-time occupancy detection in guest rooms, energy management becomes fully automated, perfectly balancing guest comfort with sustainability.
This newly established real-time occupancy status for each room creates an invaluable new data point for all operational teams. Combined with context such as requests to make up a room, do not disturb notifications, and the expected check-out date from the PMS, understanding whether a guest is present in the room right now unlocks the ability to make dynamic decisions on task assignment and prioritization.
The daily scheduled make-up of rooms is among the most frequent of operational tasks. Although some brands offer to do this less often for sustainability reasons, or in exchange for loyalty rewards, it still consumes much of your teams’ attention.
Much of a housekeeper’s day can be lost travelling to rooms that are either have Do Not Disturb active, or with a guest inside who asks them to return later. With smart controls, however, this information is already known, and the housekeeper could be informed before hauling equipment all the way to the door.
Better still, this information can be shared securely and in real time between hotel operational systems. A range of companies are already doing this, consuming the data from smart room control systems to dynamically reprioritize a housekeeper’s tasks throughout the day.
Within these app-based housekeeping systems, scheduled tasks can be automatically suppressed if a room has DND active, while rooms with a make-up request are moved to the top to be to attended first. The balance of scheduled tasks can be dynamically prioritized, with unoccupied rooms prioritized higher, as the system knows that the housekeeper will be able to get straight to work.
Such automatic prioritization maximizes efficiency by removing lost time and contributes to guest experience by fulfilling requests as quickly as possible and removing unnecessary interruptions. Automatic prioritization can also improve room turnaround times, helping guests with early check-in requests and reducing pressure during peak housekeeping hours.
Preventive maintenance to the rescue
Preventive maintenance is another advantage that smart integrated networks can bring to hotel management. Sensor technology can keep constant watch over hotel assets, providing both real-time and historical data for facility teams to monitor and use for troubleshooting.
In addition to visibility, systems can continuously monitor usage and conditions against a defined “normal” range, creating proactive alerts when a condition exceeds this for a period of time. High or low temperatures or elevated humidity levels, for example, provide advance notice that the HVAC system has a fault—even before you hear it from the guest.
In addition to environmental conditions, many other areas can benefit from proactive monitoring. Entrance, balcony or room safe doors left ajar, a device going offline, or a water leak can all provide proactive notice that hotel task management systems can capture, assigning to a team member with the right skills to resolve.
In the near future, such predictive maintenance functions will employ machine learning capabilities and become even more effective.
Guest safety and convenience
The intelligence and data that smart controls securely provide can also help to keep a hotel and its guests safe. In recent years, many hotels have instituted a policy of routinely entering and checking rooms. This has often required manual note keeping when DND is left on in rooms for extended periods.
With smart controls, room statuses are automatically logged, allowing alerts to be created whenever a status exceeds a defined time. For example, a security team could be assigned to check on a guest’s well-being after DND has been active in a room for 48 consecutive hours. This approach also works for guest requests, allowing teams to monitor and escalate when a make-up room or laundry pickup request is taking longer than defined by normal service levels.
For larger parties using multiple interconnecting rooms, smart controls can easily merge statuses across the adjoined rooms for convenience, all in a couple of clicks at the front desk during check-in.
After check-out, room personalizations, requests, and adjoining logic are automatically set back to hotel defaults, removing tasks from housekeeping’s to-do list and ensuring that rooms are always ready for the next guest.
Next-generation guest interfaces
Whether through in-room devices such as a IPTV, tablets, or voice, or allowing guests to use their own devices with hotel apps and chatbots, it is now possible to securely empower your guests to self-manage their stay.
Digitally savvy guests love the simplicity of self check-in, digital keys, room control, and making requests without needing to visit or call down to the front desk.
Streamlining guest requests to allow an extra pillow to be delivered or a spa treatment or restaurant table to be reserved can ease the load on the front desk and call center teams, sending the request straight to the team or resource best able to assist.
Some hotels have even added automation to delivery, employing robots to bring amenity requests to a guest’s room, creating a truly memorable moment.