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Pro or a Con

Mobile App in Hospitality:
Pro or a Con

From Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Machine Learning algorithms, technology is revolutionizing every aspect of business today, significantly increasing efficiency and productivity. Specifically in the hospitality industry, consumers use technology to make dinner reservations, arrange travel accommodation and make payments. They are also seen embracing technology that enhances their restaurant experience. 

Hotel operators are constantly on lookout to attract and retain hotel guests by enhancing their on-site experience with technology-based amenities to maximize guest experience. As a result, the hospitality industry is investing in a number of upgrades.

But, the question is, are the housekeepers happy with this reform? Are they adapting with this technological transformation, or were they satisfied with the traditional old routine?

A recent article published in ‘The Philadelphia Inquirer’ stated how a mobile app is making a housekeeper’s job hard. The housekeepers at the city’s biggest hotel, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, were handed out an iPod with a featured app installed in it. ‘It was supposed to make their job easy’, said the superiors, ‘but made it hard instead’, responded the housekeepers.

The app took away their ability to organize their day and made the work more physically demanding, as it sent them zigzagging across the hotel floors. Often the housekeepers had to follow the assignments given on the app which sent them to the occupied rooms much later in the day, where the guests sometimes got upset and complained to the management, wondering why the housekeeper has skipped their room even though the guests had seen them cleaning rooms on the floor all day. In this case, who was to blame – the housekeeper or the app?

Being the city’s biggest hotel, which spans a whole city block, the housekeepers found themselves pushing their heavy carts, with linens, towels and toiletries, back and forth on thick carpet from one end of the hotel to the other.

Kat Payne, a housekeeper at the Marriott for the last eight years, had a very precise and efficient way of getting her work done. She knew that occupied rooms were quicker to clean than checked-out rooms, and that guests who left for the day appreciated their rooms being cleaned by the time they returned. So she’d finish the occupied rooms in the morning and focus on the checkouts afterward. Which wasn’t possible anymore.

Just like everything else, technology is also not perfect. Somewhere along the line, technology has made things easier for the hotels and guests, but not the employees.

When we took this up with Aval Sethi, Founder & Chief Executive, Protaiga, who specializes in software solutions, this is what he had to say.

In a hospitality business, response matters the most – and that too without compromising on quality. Imagine a situation where a hotel room just gets vacated at the eleventh hour and you have another guest waiting to get the keys. It may take your housekeeping staff anywhere from 30-90 minutes to bring everything in order.

If it is a large hotel having rooms spread across several floors, it could become a challenge to let your staff know the priorities in the nick of time. Consider this: hotels like Marriott or The Taj having campuses spread in several acres with dozens of floors with rooms at different corners of the facility.

Here, every moment counts – right from communicating with your housekeeping staff to the handover. It is all about minimizing the downtime as much as possible. While speaking to a hotel owner, I realized that there exists a huge room to optimize on this aspect and improve the response time by several folds. Many times, it takes hotel administration several minutes to locate their housekeeping staff working in some corner of the hotel and then move them in the right direction. This becomes an issue when the clock is ticking ahead, and the guest is eagerly waiting to get the room. It is an on-the-ground, operational issue.

Much of it can be automated. How? Considering that there is an in-house mobile application available right inside the mobile device used by the staff, a large part of the process can be handled with ease. The hotel administration can track the location of housekeeping staff through GSP (Global Positioning System) functionality and raise the alarm for the staff nearest to the room meant for handover.

The staff assigned with the responsibility can thus quickly begin with the works and inform the administration back as soon as the room is ready through application itself. This way, even the cumbersome walky-talky system can be replaced by an efficient Wi-Fi enabled mobile application that can play a larger role than a communication system. It leads to automation!

When each important detail of the most pressing client servicing processes is captured through a digitized system, it throws open the windows of opportunities to improve. The hotel management could now get data that could be analysed to make better decisions. For instance, when you know the pattern of delays caused due to some specific tasks, you can address them more confidently. Each piece of data can give you insights not just into processes but the areas where you can optimize your operations.

Applying automation in the age-old systems may not come without teething troubles and resistance, but given the long-term benefits, it is all worth it. In the end, it becomes an imperative if it enhances your customer service and as a result your brand image.

Considering both the scenarios, it is clear that automation and technology are the future of all the business. Does this mean that the upcoming personnel should have “Technology” subject included in their syllabus so that they get a hang of it from the start? Or is there any other answer for it?

Clean India Journal urges the readers and experts to share their views on this topic.  

Yash Sama

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