From geek to grandma

IT guru Roger MacFarlaine on the need for responsive technology

Roger MacFarlaine
Roger MacFarlaine
Make sure it's not merely the IT geeks who understand how to use your in-room technology, says MacFarlaine.
Make sure it's not merely the IT geeks who understand how to use your in-room technology, says MacFarlaine.

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts regional IT guru Roger MacFarlaine says that as long as in-room technology is simple to use and responsive, it will improve the guest’s experience in your hotel

Before the days of internet, mobile phones and online booking engines, guests enjoyed a more personal touch when checking in and staying at hotels. A bright smile and warm greeting was a pleasing sight for many a weary traveler. The personal interaction between guests and hotel staff was, and still is, a key differentiator between one hotel and another. In recent years the ‘fly in the ointment’ that may be seen as spoiling that marriage has been the implementation and use of technology in our hotels. This begs the question — what is the right amount of technology to employ to comfort our guests without them being overwhelmed or irritated? For IT persons and hoteliers, it is both a science and an art to find that happy medium.

Today’s guest cannot be corralled by any genre nor demographic because all guests now travel with notebook pcs, mp3 players, and mobile phones all containing personal content, so they look for a hotel experience that provides them some levels of familiarity. These tech savvy guests are generally on the move and look to understand technology in our hotels quickly. In our hotels, the technology services we provide must work and operate without any problems. To a guest there is nothing more frustrating than when a piece of technology is too complicated, difficult to understand or just does not work. After all, how many times have we heard or read guests comments like this: ‘The remote that controlled all of the lights and TV was downright confusing to use’. No doubt some of us have had the exact same feeling!

When it comes to in-room technology, the average guest would allow about 30 seconds to come to terms with a piece of technology and if it is too complicated, then they give in and are generally frustrated.

In my experience, many adopt technology for technology’s sake, working ‘on the fly’ as to how to use it to deliver a particular service. I would rather hotels implement one technology offering and do it well, than presenting many and failing in all of them.

Common sense approach

Sometimes hotel IT geeks dream up technology services that overwhelm the guest instead of applying a common sense approach to the technology that is so easy that grandma can use it. I believe that the IT geeks must always put themselves in the shoes of the guest and look at technology and the functionality from their perspective. High tech in the back and low tech in the front is a good credo to have.

Are we hurting the guest service experience by delivering individual services using technology? On the contrary — technology in our hotels should be responsive and in response to guests’ needs.

Now, I am not implying that we move away from providing our guests with a personal touch and letting technology services take over — instead, the technology should enhance the personal touch and servicing of our guests. In reality, technology in our hotels has been evolutionary because today’s guests are now computer literate, so providing such technologies is not only helping our hotel operations but actually giving our guests what they want.

For example, a guest who is looking for a restaurant destination can access the web quickly from his room (via a hotel’s internet and wifi network,) can select a restaurant to eat at, and also determine the appropriate dress. They don’t have to wait for the concierge to call back with questions to determine the guests’ likes, needs and preferences.

In summary, service technology options have enhanced the guest service experience. And it doesn’t matter whether this guest is staying for business or pleasure; fast and efficient servicing, via technology, is key to addressing their needs. Once thought of as a ‘value -add’, in-room technology-based services are now a critical success factor in a hotel’s day to day operations.

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