Alex Shashou, ALICE’s President & Co-Founder, sat down with Adam Knight of Knowing Hospitality to chat about all things hotel technology on the Proven Principles Podcast.
From lean teams, to education in the industry, to the barriers being faced by hiring managers, here’s a recap of their conversation.
What’s Happening in the Hospitality Industry Right now?
Alex: We’ve never seen hoteliers turn to technology this quickly. It sounds self-serving...you don’t need to go with ALICE if you’re thinking about turning to hotel technology, but simply, you’re bringing back hotels that need to offer the same amount of service, with half the staff. The only way to do that is to have better processes. And the only way to get better processes is with hotel technology.
The hotel industry has evolved and suddenly all these things you should have invested in five years ago, like Guest Messaging, mobile check-in, and mobile apps, are now front and center. With COVID-19, we’re seeing that hotels are being forced to evolve and adopt the technology trends.
As we move into recovery, have you been surprised by anything?
Alex: There are things that have really surprised me. First, I can’t believe how difficult hoteliers are finding it to bring back their teams. Because of the government stimulus program, unemployment has never been friendlier in the U.S. and right now, hotels are really struggling to hire.
Hiring quality staff has always been a struggle in the hospitality industry because there are so many opportunities, whether it’s in alternative accommodations or online services. Now, it’s difficult for a different reason.
From the guest side, I think I was shocked by how we spent three months with the entire industry trying to figure out how to protect ourselves: how to break the curve, how to take precautions, how to outfit our hotels with new SOPs, how to use checklists and how to make sure PPE is available for hotel guests. Now we’re seeing that guests don't have that same concern for PPE and COVID-19 related procedures.
Guests are booking these hotels outside of the city and they want to escape COVID-19. They want leisure. They want restaurants.
What do you think guests want right now?
Alex: Guests have always wanted experiences. Nothing has changed. We spent so much time wondering if they would feel comfortable going to hotels that we lost sight of what they will really want when they return.
It’s not masks. They want you to have masks, but they want to relax a bit themselves.
They want you to bring your concierge back immediately and have them call every restaurant and every business in the local area and figure out where the safe experiences are. Guests are not coming to hotels to do nothing. We’re finding that they’ve been cooped up for three months and they want leisure back. They still want a fantastic guest experience.
Miami is a prime example. The city was booked for July 4th, and then the beaches closed and everybody cancelled because people were coming for the beaches, not for the PPE.
What does it look like for teams to “do more with less”?
Alex: While the domestic leisure market is doing so well, businesses aren’t traveling yet, and that’s the bread and butter for a lot of the industry. Also, some hotels are in restricted areas so they’re seeing less people come back as well.
Hotels are first bringing back staff with good character because you need someone who is going to be multi-skilled, someone who is willing to be the concierge and front desk, someone who is willing to be housekeeping and runner. You need people who are very happy to roll their sleeves up and work together with a smaller team. And the smaller team is going to need to communicate well.
On the cloud-based technology side, we’re seeing guest messaging is really helpful. If you have guests that don’t enjoy talking on the phone, guests can text you and you can work with that. It’s easier to work with 10 texts instead of 10 phone calls.
With guest messaging you’re also going to have a better service outcome because you can prioritize texts, and you can have templated responses. We’ve found that guests enjoy communicating on their mobile phones.
Housekeeping is changing a lot. Right now one of the key themes is opt-in service, so hotels need to figure out housekeeping technology so they know which rooms to clean because they have a lot less to clean. But when they do clean them, they have to clean and sanitize them with much higher standards.
How is ALICE helping?
Alex: We took a look at just about every guideline on COVID-19 in hotels and thought, how does technology fit?
- We wrote an eBook on post COVID-19 operations with all of the answers
- We’ve written blogs addressing everything from how to provide contactless communication to how to prepare your hotel for guests who are quarantining?
- We also created a podcast series, Hotel Wake Up Call
But it’s not just us, the whole industry has been helping and doing new things.
Alex: The industry is coming together. We’ve never seen so much collaboration between competing hotel brands and competing hotel technology vendors. If you’re a hospitality technology vendor or the CIO of a hotel group and you’re not on the weekly HTNG calls -- what are you doing?
They’re doing a weekly call where the smartest people in the industry get together every Wednesday. And share what they’re seeing in real-time. It’s free. And if you’re not using that shared knowledge that is free to access, you’re going to fall behind and miss things.
Are there any assumptions that were made in the early days of COVID-19 that were wrong?
Alex: We definitely missed the mark a little bit by trying to guess what guests want when they’re coming back, and we definitely didn’t foresee how hard it would be to rehire staff.
What we did notice, and this was from earlier on, is that we were seeing all of our hotels shut down and most hotels had never shut down before. Seasonal hotels shut down every year. They’re trained in closing and also in reopening.
But the majority of hotels were built to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We had to educate so many hotel partners about some of the SOPs. We built COVID-19 checklists around closing and reopening hotels.
You take for granted the simple things, like flushing toilets to make sure plumbing works, because you’ve never done that before. For the first time our industry stopped. And it was an opportunity for us to start implementing some change.
When the train is moving, it’s hard to make changes. When it stops, it creates opportunity.
The full interview with Adam can be watched on YouTube, and is also available on almost all podcast providers. Just search for Proven Principles!
Interested in learning more about how ALICE can help your hotel streamline operations, unify departments, and maximize staff productivity? Schedule a demo today!