Welcome to the Digital Hotel!
The hospitality industry is one of the industries where digital disruption is being witnessed first-hand by consumers like us! According to a Meltwater report titled ‘Digital Disruption of the Hospitality Industry’, Asia’s hospitality sector boasts an industry growth of 4 percent to 5 percent per annum.
IMAGINE A scenario where you enter a hotel and just punch in your name in a device, and it welcomes you, shows you, your stay schedule and tells you the exact room number you are allocated, its cleaning status etc., all in one screen! Or would you rather prefer a human undertaking these tasks for you? The hospitality industry is one of the industries where digital disruption is being witnessed first-hand by consumers like us! According to a Meltwater report titled ‘Digital Disruption of the Hospitality Industry’, Asia’s hospitality sector boasts an industry growth of 4% to 5% per annum. As digital disruption rapidly transforms industries, the hospitality industry is nowhere behind in the race. As customers, employees, and partners increasingly expect services and processes to be available on demand and fully connected, the hospitality industry today is rapidly adapting services to be more responsive, flexible, and efficient to deliver the prolific guest experience and long-term business profits.
The power and impact of digital transformation cannot be underestimated and hospitality industry is not immune from the march of technology. The typical guest carries and depends on numerous apps in their phones and expects various service providers and their environment to be tech savvy as well. While many hotels scramble to define their specific goals of digital transformation, the enabler that accomplishes it is always connecting just about everything, enabling higher efficiency gains, simplified operations, and unlocking newer capabilities that guests appreciate, value, and seek. The unexpected protagonist in this industry’s story of transformation appears to be the guest-room phone as they are being redefined. The new generation of telephony has a tremendous role to play in the emerging hospitality industry.
The Digital Guest Room
Just like every other industry, hotels are under pressure to reduce costs and improve customer experience in order to stay competitive. In the past, technology upgrades were largely independent of each other. The hospitality industry has been the epitome of siloed applications and departments and communications have historically had nothing to do with each other. A typical guest stay involves hundreds of applications and systems. Integration is the largest obstacle to digital transformation and the best approach for hotels today would be to reuse devices, software components, and code.
Digital technologies are changing the game today and connecting these and other components into a more extensive, integrated system. A well-lit and temperature-appropriate room can now be created on-demand as the guests check in. On check-out, the room can automatically reset to unoccupied parameters. Hotels are therefore adopting digital technologies to enhance the guest experience and make it more inviting and efficient, however, without breaking familiarity. New systems must complement, not replace, familiar interfaces.
But what does a digital room truly entail? Various components are becoming digital or connected for improved control, efficiencies, and personalization such as in-room mood setting controls, centralized control for check-in and checkout, centralized and in-room controls for curtains and drapes, the introduction of video analytics, etc. Emerging trends such as using guest-room door camera with facial recognition as a door key, an app that can be used for various purposes such as check-in and check-out, a virtual room key, order food, reach the concierge, etc. will also disrupt the industry. And beyond the ability to customize the phone with guest name and text messages, the phone will emerge as a logical command centre for the digital room.
The Common Thread
A modern IP telephone is always-on, connected, offers a display and keypad, and is generally located in the most convenient locations such as the desktop and bedside table. A globally familiar device, the phone is the control centre for all devices in any country. Until recently, there hasn’t been a strong justification to replace the in-room analogue phone. That’s now changing. Its most important for hotels today to think of the phone as a modern, connected endpoint. The conversations around the guest room phones are changing and the phone is emerging as the linchpin of the future of hospitality and will become a gateway to other digital services. While the benefits of digital transformation are broad and diverse, a common thread runs through hospitality digital transformation: Connectivity. Being the primary device for guest-to-hotel communications and an indispensable component of the hotel industry, one cannot overlook the importance of the in-room hotel phone towards providing an enhanced guest experience. Fifty years ago, when hotels began adding in-room AC and heat, in-room thermostats, guests were
overwhelmed but the lack of central control meant unnecessary costs and inconsistent user interfaces. Various attempts to create a master wall/use television and room were made, but the phone offers a far more intuitive experience. Its screen and keypad can support all things digital, including HVAC, audio, window coverings, and more.
A Phone to Open the Drapes?
Just like the smartphone is becoming the central control for home automation, kitchen timers, and music in the consumer space, the hotel industry is exploring mobile apps, but can’t expect every guest to install the app for basic functionality. Modern IP phones today have large displays and keypads, can be deployed as a tabletop or wall-mounted device, and give the property complete control over the user interface as they can be integrated into property management systems and guest room management systems (GRMS). Using standard integration tools, these phone systems can easily integrate with other digital systems. For example, the Avaya series of Vantage phones that run Android.
Even more integration capabilities are expected to emerge in the future. For example, Avaya is introducing a new videophone/doorbell outside the guest room. A press of the doorbell rings the phone, so neither party has to shout through a closed door and will enable a guest to unlock their door with their face. This setup is just one example of features unheard of only a few years ago.
In order to stay competitive, hospitality players need to undertake digital transformation initiatives to enhance the guest experience and reduce costs. Digital transformation isn’t merely the latest thing or an upgrade in technology but a strategy that integrates most or all hotel components.
Hotels have started to implement high-end guest phones to enhance the guest experience by upgrading the device not just in quality, but functionality as well. Hotels need to re-examine and reimagine all the components that impact the guest experience. These products need to be personalized and upgraded without removing the familiarity in design for the customer. The key is that hospitality must adapt in ways that enhance, and don’t detract, from the guest experience that drives both functional efficiencies and meet customer expectations effectively.
The point of Digital Transformation does not mean everything should or can change. For eg: Digitalizing the hair dryer would not add much value to the guest/hotel. It’s important to identify and focus on the technologies that make a real business or experience impact. And it’s equally important to select the right partnerships that can facilitate that and improve overall performance — and make the transformation work for properties and their guests.
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