Imagine having access to a hotel concierge that silently provides you with all the information you need without having to leave the comfort of your room or speak to a single person.

The silent concierge is utilized by many hotels today, as guest-driven technologies are being developed to provide the hotel guest with limitless information and the ability to perform a multitude of transactions traditionally handled by hotel employees.

Hotel phones will fall silent as guests now have all the answers at their fingertips. Utilizing in-room technology, guests can take control of their transactions to order room service, place wake-up calls, order extra towels, call taxis, book spa appointments, request newspapers, request turndown service, check flight information and find information related to weather, directions and restaurants.

Inside the hotel room, guests can also control in-room systems to play music and movies on the hotel’s TV and adjust the temperature and lighting. Even the thermostat of the guestroom can be linked to a device that controls room temperature while the guest is in the room or anywhere that has Internet access.

There are three ways to deliver such capabilities to the guest — install a touch-screen tablet such as an iPad or Samsung device in every guest-room; create an app that the guest can download to their own device; or design a mobile website.

These days, many hotels are also using third-party vendors for information management and applications. When a guest requests a service, it can be delivered to a variety of different existing hotel systems such as the PMS, POS, telephone and TV. For example, when a guest requests another set of towels, the request will go directly to the housekeeper’s smart- phone; the employee will then fulfill the request and notify the system that the e-quest has been completed. If the request has not been handled by a pre-set time, the system escalates the request to a housekeeping supervisor. The system tracks all the data so the hotel can generate reports on the number of requests and analyze the response time by request and employee.

Since the information is cloud-based it is stored off-site and can be accessed through a web browser or special application. The hotel’s only technology requirement is providing consistent high-speed Internet access.


A TRUSTY TABLET

The Opus Hotel Vancouver was the first hotel in Canada to introduce iPads and iPhones in its guestrooms, using Vancouver-based Travel Vu, which connects to the hotel’s internal phone system. Plus, the devices can be used off site to make calls, take pictures and watch videos.

 “Travel Vu has allowed our guests to stay connected with the hotel while off property,” says Nicholas Gandossi, GM of the Opus hotel, Vancouver. “By providing a virtual concierge through the iPads in every guestroom, the guest can now enjoy the same benefits of having their own personal concierge at their fingertips even while they explore and enjoy the city,” says Gandossi. The service, which costs $9.95 daily, includes unlimited phone calls anywhere in North America, unlimited Internet and access to the hotel’s guest directory and room service menu.

Jack Stephanian, president, Travel Vu says his system is valuable because it provides information on where to sleep, where to eat and where to have fun. “Hotels are actually making money from their phones again,” he says, “and guests save money to surf and call.”

This fall, Toronto’s new Four Seasons hotel created a buzz by equipping its guestrooms with iPads through Intelity ICE, a property automation system that provides business intelligence and work-flow management. According to David Adelson, president, Intelity, of all the company’s installed systems, 87 per cent of the guests will touch the iPad, and 64 per cent will use it. The guest can use the system to request housekeeping, look up hotel information and express check-out.

Dimitrios Zarikos, regional vice-president and GM, Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto has noticed an increase in guest service and productivity. “Life is easier, more current and updated for our guests,” he says. “We’ve seen productivity gains as we don’t deliver newspapers anymore and we don’t have menus on the door knobs. It’s all on the iPad.”

On Canada’s West coast, Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim rolled out the Intelity ICE systems in its 400 guestrooms in the summer of 2011. “The commitment from our team to take care of our guests has been exemplary since day one,” says Philip Barnes, GM and regional vice-president of Fairmont Pacific Rim. “This superb technology will serve to further assist all our colleagues in doing so,” he adds. “The Intelity ICE implementation will assist the team in consistently reaching their number-1 goal — ensuring every guest leaves happy.”


ACCESSIBLE APPS

While not all hotels can afford to install tablets in each room, they can create apps that can be easily downloaded onto the customer’s mobile device.

MConcierge, a Montreal-based company has developed an iPhone app that can be customized for the hotel and acts as an information portal. Guests can use the app to request roomservice orders, wake-up calls, and look up directory information.

June Tang, vice-president of Sales and Marketing for MConcierge Systems Inc. says the application collects valuable guest analytics for marketing and operational purposes. “While these applications provide services to the guests, it also improves the service of the hotel. Each transaction on the guest-service application is track-ed by the system, so in real time all current requests can be tracked. If service levels are not meeting certain thresholds, escalation emails are sent to progressively higher levels of management,” explains Tang.

The cost of these systems varies by vendor from a per-room fee per month to revenue sharing of advertising revenue generated on the sites. The real cost is keeping the information current and maintaining high-speed Internet.

Most importantly, the technology’s benefits go beyond streamlining guest services and increasing employee productivity. The flow of guest requests and information becomes less dependent on employees and leaves less room for error. It also gives operators better information management as well as the ability to monitor and analyze up-to-date information. The silent concierge is a tireless worker, 24 hours a day.

Warren Markwart is the principal of MK2 Hospitality, Toronto, which specializes in integrating hospitality technology with revenue management strategies, guest service and business objectives. The 30-year industry vet has held executive roles at Fairmont Raffles International and Delta Hotels and Resorts. He was recently honoured with the Award of Merit by the international Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals association. He can be reached at warren.markwart@mk2hospitality.com.

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