In Newsletter #52: In Newsletter #52: Robots! | Lessons learned from scaling Airbnb | Five core duties of a hotel General Manager
Robots! Such a fascination of ours (and every sci-fi nerd's), yet are they really making a difference in hotels? We think not just yet and write about it below in #1. We’ve also highlighted below (#2) a great inside look at how Airbnb scaled and some advice that can relate nicely to the hotel world.
I really loved the infographic in #3 on a manager’s top responsibilities and think we ought to build one for the Concierge role following our acquisition of GoConcierge. How could we not! Any concierge readers out there please email us back your top 5 responsibilities. Let’s do a funny version and a real version?
No room for it below, but another piece I’d like to highlight is a great linkedin article from Viki at IT consultancy Cardonet on the risks of not managing technology correctly. We have often said that every business is turning into a technology business. You’ll also notice a new section … as promised, we’ll be highlighting a vendor we admire each week, so keep reaching out to us if you’d like to be included.
In London for Hotel Tech Live next week and Dmitry is in Washington at HTNG, so please reach out if you are too.
Happy New Year,
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK'S NEWS...
New York Times | As Amazon Pushes Forward With Robots, Workers Find New Roles
Why it matters: This fascinating article on Amazon’s investment in robots to run their warehouses shows just how much companies are looking towards automation. From driverless cars and drone delivery armies to warehouse robots, one wonders just how long all jobs are going to survive against our cyborg counterparts. As much as some of our managers might fancy the idea of managing a team of eight robots (as 21-year old Ms. Scott does in the article), we think we are quite some way off from you having to worry about this.
This is because there are a few key differences between warehouse jobs and hotel jobs. For starters, a warehouse job is as repetitive as they come. Henry Ford made famous the assembly line process back in 1913, introducing the innovation of standardization by continuously moving his cars past individual workstations where each worker would repeat one task. In contrast, most hotel jobs, while frequently occurring, are rarely repetitive, with each person wearing multiple hats as guest demands fluctuate.
Another key difference between hotels and warehouses is that a warehouse is not also the storefront. Robots are far from being the beautiful creations we see in movies like iRobot. Guests may not feel too comfortable having their breakfast served to them by a mechanical arm and forklift, or more realistically, being satisfied by a vending machine breakfast buffet.
This is not to say that we haven’t seen a few robots pop up in hospitality and gain a lot of industry attention and deserved acclaim - from Connie the Concierge to Aloft’s robot butler. Our friends at Savioke have won many awards for their Relay delivery robot that has made over 150,000 drops (not just in hospitality*)... but for now and for a while ahead, robots remain a touch away from being a regular sighting at a hotel.
Lessons learned from Airbnb
Medium | Lessons Learned Scaling Airbnb 100X
Why it matters: When Jonathan Golden joined Airbnb as their first product manager in 2011, the fledgling startup was at an inflection point in its growth - graduating from niche accommodation alternative to product market fit. During Golden’s six year tenure, the company scaled over 100x on every metric: “listings, users, revenue, employees, and, yes, sometimes complexity,” he writes. Although his advice in this piece is aimed toward operators of marketplace businesses (which have the particular “chicken or the egg” challenge of connecting sellers with buyers), there’s wisdom here for hoteliers too.
One particularly resonant piece of advice is about the necessity of taking risks when it comes to serving your community. The Airbnb example Golden gives is from the time when the company had to backstop community angst about trashed homes (after some particularly high profile cases) by providing insurance, but no underwriters would come on board. His solution was to have Airbnb itself guarantee $50,000 worth of damage - at a $500 million exposure to the company. As it turned out, just providing the guarantee was all that was needed to reassure their community and get the company back on track. When it comes to hotels, anything outside the status quo is considered risky. Guest engagement tools like mobile apps & SMS messaging were first seen as a risk, but are now commonplace and proving a useful component of the guest experience. Similarly, when guest texting was first introduced it was seen as as potential risk - raising questions like, how will guests react to this new channel? How can we teach staff to strike the right tone? How quickly do our staff need to respond to text messaging? How can we deal with a sudden influx of guest messages? Although there are many unknowns when it comes to text messaging, it’s guaranteed you’ll never see the upside of adding this communication channel without deviating from the established status quo and taking the plunge.
Another piece of advice Golden gives is to move faster than the competition. “When competition comes after you, move ridiculously fast,” he writes, detailing the story of Airbnb’s blitzschnell international expansion to quash an emerging European copycat. In many ways, this point ties in with the one above - often, outmaneuvering the competition requires risk. But there are ways hoteliers don’t have to go completely out on a limb to find inspiration that can keep them one step ahead. Go stay at an Airbnb and observe the differences and try to adapt them to fit your hotel. Maybe contract with some apartments around your hotel to accommodate families that might want a large space to be together but still benefit from hotel services. Hotels and hotel companies like Public and AccorHotels are making bold moves (no doormen, self-serve everything and community programming, for example) to set themselves apart. Maybe embracing different models entirely (like a “shared workspace hotel”) can be your competitive advantage.
The last pointer Golden gives perhaps applies best to the running of a hotel: “When the fires are out, don’t rest. Focus on streamlining the user experience.” Hoteliers well know much of the job entails putting out fires and bracing themselves for the next one. However, real operational and guest experience breakthroughs can be made if you can put a roadmap for improvement in place, so work can be done when there is capacity to do it. In fact this next article below considers just that, looking at five areas in which hotel managers should apply their focus to optimize staff performance and guest satisfaction - when the fire fighting work is done.
A General Manager primer
eHotelier | Infographic: Top five core duties a hotel manager should focus on
Why it matters: This piece goes out to all the hotel managers – the multi-taskers who hold together every department in the hotel; the problem-solvers who assemble each piece of the jigsaw puzzle to uphold the brand promise. It is clear the work they do is a cornerstone of any successful hotel. But as glorious as it may sound, the job description of a hotel manager is in fact a never-ending to-do list, and getting enough sleep seems to be more of a guideline than a reality.
Karishma Lad from Hotelogix has attempted to categorize these tasks, and elegantly summarized them into five key points in an infographic.
We couldn’t agree more with Lad. For hotels to create lasting memories for their guests, managers need to keep up to date with “forward thinking” hospitality technology trends. However, innovation should not be confined to the guest experience. After all, the staff is the backbone of the hotel. Happy staff = happy guests, right?
Innovation should be employed to care for your staff as well – to “build a positive work environment to keep high motivational levels,” as mentioned by Lad.
Working in a hotel entails wearing multiple hats, in large part because of the range of guest requests received each day, varying from those for extra towels to dining reservations to pictures of a dog dressed as boat captain. Hcareers has put together a series of witty memes that truly reflect what it is like to work in a hotel.
While hotel staff is preoccupied with delivering the guest experience, an imperative duty of the general manager is to take care of the staff experience. And if you are already in flow with hotel technology trends, you already know how to tackle this – via communication. Staff value transparency and accountability, both of which can be achieved by investing in platform technology to ensure that every staff is on the same page.
Another point to be elaborated upon is the importance in focusing not just on technology when it comes to innovation. While Lad reported a significant 64% of guests preferring technology-receptive hotels, it’s a tall task to expect managers to always be at the forefront of technology in this constantly evolving digital age.
Accor Hotel Group CEO Sébastien Bazin preaches, "In today's world, either you change or you will be change.” Bazin is not referring solely to technology. Take Accor Local for example – technology-wise it is just like any other concierge service, yet this fresh business concept of providing services, such as holding packages for locals, has opened up a huge market living right at their doorstep that had never been explored.
Chinese military general Sun Tzu once said, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” This has never been truer in implementation of hospitality technologies. Bermondsey Square Hotel has kept Airbnb very close – to the point where enemies might have just turned into friends. Learning from the success of Accor Local, Bermondsey Square has embraced change by offering housekeeping, key management, maintenance, and point-of-contact services to Airbnb rentals within a 1-mile radius, and seen success in generating ROI.
The key takeaway here is to adopt open-mindedness towards innovation. A hotel manager has so much on their plate, and there is really no need to reinvent the wheel. Creativity is abundant within the hospitality industry. Managers should stay up to date with the competitive landscape and capture the window of opportunity to adopt and implement best practices.
- How the iPhone Changed the Way We Travel for Better or Worse Skift
- HotelTonight Outlook — Travel’s Best and Brightest Have a Say on Its Prospects Skift
- Hotels need to optimize mobile offerings Hotel Management
- Using Apps to Improve Hotel Operations Lodging Magazine
- 7 Elements of Hotel Brands Built to Endure Skift
TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY SPOTLIGHT
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