6 a.m. wake-up call: It’s time to upgrade your tech

By Jeanelle Johnson

Long lines at the front desk. Well-intentioned hotel staff working away at their keyboards, searching feverishly for guest reservations and preferences. And then making a room assignment manually. Too often, hotel guests begin a stay by experiencing the limits of technology rather than a welcoming customer experience.

The hotel business ecosystem is complex, with brands, owners and property operators all working to maintain profitability while satisfying investors. But guests don’t see the ecosystem. They see the sign above the door and take notice of their experience, good or bad.

Until now, brands and owners haven’t prioritized updating decades-old legacy systems. But those that have made investments are seeing improved experiences for both customers and customer-facing employees.

Today’s cloud technologies make the implementation and integration of technologies less arduous. Doing so can also help you address other business challenges your hotel faces today, including staffing shortages and increased operating costs.

Realize tangible business benefits

PwC’s 2023 Cloud Business Survey found that cloud-powered companies—those using the cloud to transform how they do business—are already reaping the benefits of their investments. Not only do they report fewer obstacles to realizing value, respondents are also realizing value at double the rate of their non-cloud-powered peers.

They also anticipate seeing continued revenue growth of 15% or greater in the current business environment. Although true cloud-powered companies represent the vanguard of adopters, any company can benefit from transitioning applications and systems to the cloud.

  • By modernizing your management technologies, for example, you’re likely to see top-line and bottom-line improvement, especially for owners and operators with multiple properties.
  • The ability to react to spikes in demand by automatically revising booking forecasts for each night and room category could yield a wealth of benefits.

Enhance customer experience beyond the stay

Hotels routinely track guest satisfaction by asking them to assess staff friendliness, room cleanliness, food quality, facility safety, WiFi speed and more. Achieving desired levels of unit growth, however, requires going beyond these metrics. Hotels should be so in tune with customer preferences and behavior that it makes guests feel at home from the start. The only way to cultivate loyal brand ambassadors is to create a welcoming experience throughout—from the very first booking.

Advanced analytics, including AI, are essential in accomplishing as much. For guests, particularly in digitally savvy global markets, a tech-enabled experience is essential to meet expectations. From digital wallets and contactless payment (no need for a credit card on file with the front desk) to personalized apps and rewards programs, tech is now integral to nurturing customer loyalty. Guests will soon control nearly all the spending power, as noted in PwC’s 2022 Holiday Outlook, with millennials spending more than other age groups.

Attract and retain employees

The labor shortage in the hospitality industry is unlikely to ease anytime soon. Automated processes like contactless check-in and check-out have provided some relief. At many properties, however, guests still wait longer than may be ideal. On the frontlines of consumer frustration, hotel staff would welcome more efficient interfaces. They know guests want more personal interaction, and they’re eager to provide it.

Creating a modern interface between back-end and front-end systems—a single pane of glass—can boost morale, which, in turn, can help you attract and keep the talent needed to provide warm, welcoming service. As a bonus, the efficiency gained from this kind of integration may mean your property can provide a higher level of service with fewer employees.

Perfect timing

Perhaps most important, the timing for a meaningful tech upgrade may never be better. While still in high demand, the waves of tech layoffs mean more tech talent is on the move. And it’s easier to make these investments when times are good and the hospitality industry is poised for growth, as it is this year.

Travel continues to rebound. Consumers are ready and eager to travel for fun. They are brand conscious, but also willing to switch when brands don’t meet their expectations. Investing in front-office and back-office technology upgrades now can help you meet guest expectations for a human-powered, tech-enabled experience that keeps them coming back.

Jeanelle Johnson is a principal, lead client partner/travel, transportation and hospitality (TTH) sector coleader, PwC, focused on client service, industry perspective and research for the firm’s leading TTH clients. With nearly 25 years of experience at leading investment banking and consulting firms, her passion is to help clients with strategic planning around their growth and investment agendas and advise on business-wide risks and value drivers in their business transformations.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.