Hotel staff have always been a mobile workforce. From runners to the advent of the pagers, to radios and more recently department specific systems, there has always been a need to transfer information across staff and departments to service a guest or internal need. It is rare that the person receiving the request is the one delivering or servicing it. Think to the last time you walked past the front desk and asked for your room to be cleaned. It is not the person who received the request who is going to perform the service.
A mobile-enabled employee system can create a more efficient environment. If you’re asking an employee to do something, radio can be an ineffective form of communication for many reasons. With a radio, it’s easy to get the initial message. Then something else comes up and another thing and another and you completely forget to do the job you initially received. This behavior also happens when hotels replace radios with messaging apps internally. Unstructured streams of requests make it hard to know what to do and what has been done. For the maintenance worker who can access a queue of jobs (often assigned by a front desk agent) from a device without needing to return to print out a ticket at a computer terminal or write it down on a piece of paper following a radio dispatch, their work can happen much more seamlessly and effectively.
With a software solution, the jobs sit there until completion so it’s not possible to forget to do something. If an employee does, then there’s a record. Additionally, by digitalizing the request, software providers are able to build in escalations to remind the staff when work has been forgotten or is behind schedule.
For guests, a connected staff offers multiple advantages in line with the consumer expectations realized with service delivery at home. Ordering “Room service” doesn’t mean being tethered to your room from the access point of mobile, but with a digital staff it also doesn’t mean waiting in your room for the arrival of your order. You can order a meal wherever you are in the hotel (or outside of it) and time your arrival like you do your Uber as see your request transition through the staff stages of completion.
Such options free up staff as well. With less time needed at the front desk, employees can be deployed for other functions and increase their ability to service more guests. With fewer systems to navigate and more automation of many of their communication steps, employees are freed up to give guests something that machines can’t — a warm and human touch. Alex Shashou, president of ALICE, said that tests at two hotels that use ALICE’s software have seen up to 50% efficiency gains in housekeeping and maintenance simply by moving to mobile staff communication via a connected platform.
Most importantly, there’s data. By employing a connected digital system, hoteliers can get important information about all of their operations in one place. Data can show which housekeepers clean rooms the fastest and address some of the pain points for guests. Ultimately, by moving all communication to digital, you can understand not only what your guests are requesting, but how long it takes you to complete tasks, linking operational efficiency directly to guest satisfaction.
Knowing your operations is the first step to improving it, says Shashou. With ALICE, we can give our hotels the ability to see the entire lifecycle of a request as it flows from initial creation to a department (or departments), then on to a specific staff member, and is ultimately fulfilled. This allows for full transparency and accountability, as well as an official record in the case when an issue arises. Furthermore, our hotels can then run analytics on all of these touchpoints, slicing and dicing their historical data to gain forward looking insights.
This future isn’t far off. In fact, it’s not even the future. The technology is here now. Hoteliers are quickly discovering the advantages of mobile automation. The days of walkie talkies and pen and paper propping up disparate legacy systems appear to be drawing to a close.
To learn more about ALICE and our platform approach, read our new report, co-authored with Skift.