Dmitry Koltunov, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at ALICE, discusses his approach to recruiting and managing teams that are dispersed throughout the globe, plus some lessons learned after growing a startup from 3 to 140 people.
Dmitry Koltunov, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at ALICE, discusses his approach to recruiting and managing teams that are dispersed throughout the globe, plus some lessons learned after growing a startup from 3 to 140 people.
In this article, we discuss the ALICE product offering, how we leveraged AWS Glue to migrate customers from a large acquisition onto our platform, some of the challenges we faced using this technology, and how we solved them.
Hotel housekeeping needs a makeover, says Alex Shashou, President of ALICE. Why, you ask? As a major part of hotel operations, there’s still much room for improvement.
“It’s the number-one cost center in most hotels, so even small tweaks to efficiency can add up to huge cost savings in a relatively short period of time,” said Shashou.
Hotel operations platform ALICE debuted its latest evolution in June, a housekeeping solution that enables direct and immediate communication between individual members of housekeeping staff as well as between housekeeping and all other hotel departments.
In addition to the pitch sessions, several entrepreneurs spoke about their journeys to success in hospitality. During “From Vision to Company: Founders on Inspiration, Funding & More,” Alex Shashou, co-founder/president, ALICE, was asked whether the industry was viable for disruption, especially in the technology area.
ALICE delighted conference goers by shelling out envelopes of cash to announce its latest release. While envelopes of cash alone would have been enough to secure a shout out for creativity, the meaning behind the stunt sealed the deal with class, creativity and customer centricity. Having just launched the all new ALICE Housekeeping, the envelopes were actually tip envelopes for conference goers to bring back to their hotel rooms and leave for their room attendant paying homage to housekeepers and the back breaking work they do day-in and day-out.
While ALICE has always offered a flexible staff communication and task management platform that is used by housekeeping teams across the globe--the all new housekeeping offering is designed from the ground up to deliver a magical experience that will leave even non-housekeepers wanting to take it for a spin. The platform packs a punch with mission critical housekeeping management functionality like automated room assignments but delivers this functionality in an elegant and easy to use solution that integrates each department on property like a finely tuned orchestra.
Alexander Shashou, Co-Founder and President of ALICE joins us to share his journey building the industry-leading hotel operations platform. With the hotel industry being offline for many years, Alex explains how the delivery of great hospitality has shifted and what your hotel or hospitality business should do about it. Alex also discusses ALICE's acquisition of GoConcierge, acting like an owner at all levels of an organization, treating technology as a new hire, and much more.
We asked 139,251 employees around the country to rate their workplaces. These are the winners, thanks to perks like paternity leave, unlimited vacation, paid sabbaticals, profit sharing and more.
The competition is at an all-time high for hotels to earn guests’ loyalty and many have turned to the latest technology to help them do so, whether it’s Japan’s hotel staffed entirely by robots or the new FlyZoo hotel using facial recognition in lieu of room keys.
While these flashy tech initiatives are trending among media headlines, they don’t always align directly with customer satisfaction. Hoteliers today need to find the right balance of technology and hospitality to cater to what their guests want.
In order to ensure smooth housekeeping operations, hotels should install automated systems, or better yet, an internal system to set immediate tasks and reminders to be integrated with your PMS. For instance, the ALICE application allows hotel staff to communicate with one another and keep track of tasks through its platform.
A good Concierge team does the job so well that they make it look easy. What is often not recognized or seen is the volume of work being done behind the scenes to deliver such a great guest experience. Investing in a tool allows the team to be more efficient and spend more time and attention on the guests. I believe the reason guests come back now is mostly because of the way the Concierge and other team members make the guests feel when they leave, more so than just having a beautiful hotel. Without a tool such as ALICE, it is very difficult to be efficient and create that great guest experience.
Alex Shashou, president and co-founder of hotel-operations platform ALICE, said this year is the year of housekeeping for the operations platform. “In the past, housekeeping has been a siloed technology, but we are looking at connecting all of the hotel technologies to optimize the performance of the hotel staff,” he said.
The way to reprioritize service and the guest stay is to focus attention on your staff and empower them to deliver good service. This means improving staff-to-staff communication and staff task management through a technology platform that works across the whole organization. When service is connected across the entire hotel, staff remain organized, focused, and accountable. This means that they can deliver great hospitality, every time, and the guest can leave satisfied.
Today’s consumers are used to having technology at their fingertips and using it to make their daily lives easier. Guests accustomed to a certain level of digital creature comforts in their own homes may find a guestroom without Alexa, a Nest thermostat or smart lighting inhibiting. Technology has ushered in an era of hyper-convenience and automation that is impacting guestroom design. Customizable technologies that allow guests to truly feel at home while on property are becoming table stakes for the on-demand generation.
Many hotels are playing catch-up when it comes to technological aptitude. With innovations in technology inching into every aspect of our lives -- from the practical virtual assistants aiding our daily routines to AR experiences allowing us to explore creativity and inspiration by bringing art to life -- there is no reason for hotels not to capitalize on these trends.
ALICE, a cloud-based platform, is intended to improve the ability of hotel staff to fulfill guest requests. The vision for this ‘hospitality industry operations platform’ is that more efficient internal communications can result in greater guest satisfaction. Consider it somewhat of an Uber for hotel staff carrying out a multitude of tasks.
As the demand for luxury shifts away from goods and increasingly toward experiences, customers don't just want any experience: They want personalized experiences that are either inherently unique or specifically tailored to them.
In fact, as travel industry intelligence platform Skift wrote in June, "Personalization in the hotel industry has ceased to be a trend. Today, it's an obligation."
The hotel industry will be taking more steps in 2019 to keep up with this demand, predicts Alex Shashou, cofounder and president of hotel operations and guest management platform ALICE.
Alex Shashou, a co-founder of the hotel operations platform ALICE, believes the largest hotel trend of 2019 will be revitalizing or significantly stepping up the concept of hospitality and doing so via the increased use of behind the scenes technology.
In this episode, Alex reveals…
ALICE is a hospitality operations platform that allows hotel managers to oversee all operational tasks in real time, streamlining the internal communications process. The NYC-based company was founded in 2012 by Alex Shashou, Dmitry Koltunov, Julie Ulrich, and Justin Effron.
I had the chance to sit down with Shashou and ask him about how the platform came to be, as well as how they're bringing new vitality to an industry in need of it.
What Employees Say: “ALICE is an amazing company to work for if you are a driven individual looking to be a part of something big. They offer opportunities to grow and learn while working in a fast paced environment. Truly the best job I have had by far.”
Alexander Shashou, co-founder and president of ALICE, received the
Shashou said that he is most proud of the company's product. By working hand in hand with the platform's hotels to understand all of their operational challenges, the company has developed something that is helping hotels deliver better service and proving the value and power of service in the guest experience, he noted.
Hotel Renew is at the vanguard of a bigger lodging trend, and according to Alex Shashou, the co-founder of the hotel operations platform ALICE, this type of authenticity will be a major factor in hotel experiences in 2019.
“Hotels that don’t want to be viewed as a commodity need to stop treating their guests like one. A guest is so much more than their reservation," he says. "Guests deserve to be treated like family. Once they are, meaningful and authentic relationships will not only forge, but flourish."
Shashou says in 2019, he expects more hotels will strive to deliver authentic experiences to their guests.
By the first half of 2019, the island aims to debut a My Puerto Rico app. The app will use the hotel operations software of Expedia-owned company ALICE to enable visitors to the island to text questions to concierges and tourism experts. Sample query: “I’m at Toro Verde. Where’s good to eat around here?”
Discover Puerto Rico, a new destination marketing organization that came online in July, is the island’s first tourism marketing body that’s separate from the government.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company, a government organization that promotes economic development on the island, recently signed a partnership with hospitality tech company ALICE to bring the mobile app concierge service to Puerto Rico.
Travelers will be encouraged to download the app, called “My Puerto Rico,” when they book a hotel in Puerto Rico, said Alejandra Orozco, Alice’s director of sales for Latin America. “I can text the hotel to say I’m surprising my husband for his birthday and can you please get a cake for this date?” she said. “I do see a future where we start to bring travelers all information of attractions within the app where we have information about the destination.”
One of My Puerto Rico’s most unique features is a messaging system that allows guests to communicate directly with their hotels, either through the app or SMS. Guests can send a message to the front desk requesting room service, more towels by the pool, or even warn about an unexpected early or late arrival time.
"My Puerto Rico mobile app was developed focusing on improving the visitor experience in our destination, as part of the efforts to strengthen our tourism offer,” says Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares.
“In order to compete globally, we need to reinvent ourselves and adapt to the needs of a modern traveler, who carries out all his efforts from the mobile phone.”
Viceroy Hotels & Resorts are the first to utilize the Samsung Gear 3 watch with ALICE guest management software, which provides employees with a single hands-free tool to receive and respond to guest requests. The company has seen success with a deployment to its housekeeping, engineering and bellman teams and is working on phase two, which will add full voice services to the watch for employee communications.
“Our vision is to provide our employees with one hands-free device that will eliminate the need for radios and tablets,” Darren Clark, vice president of technology, states.
Two years ago, this 110-employee services company (ALICE) settled on a marketing message that has since clicked with brands like Viceroy and Nordic Choice Hotels. Rather than being a grab bag of software to replace old-school tools like walkie-talkies and pagers, it now presents itself as a suite of tools that promise to play nicely with a hotel’s other software and processes and that can be purchased a la carte or as a bundle. Smartly done, and its business-to-business marketing skill should be a lesson to other Expedia Group units.
ALICE's co-founder and president Alex Shashou sat down with Nordic Choice Hotels' head of business Christian Lundén to discuss innovation at the company's properties and how the influence of other industries spurs the company's own innovation.
Beyond the guest-satisfaction benefits, hoteliers who leverage a guest-messaging system can see additional benefits as well, ALICE's Alex Shashou said. “Text messaging allows a convenient, engaging and personal medium for hoteliers to market and promote their hotel services,” he said. “Text messaging also increases connectivity between hoteliers and the guest, giving hotels the opportunity to act on complaints and concerns before they reach social media or review websites.”
Viceroy already uses the ALICE task management platform across its portfolio of upscale properties. But as a part of the brand’s constant quest to take its service to the next level, they decided to see whether adding Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches to their device fleet would provide that extra edge, through a pilot at the Beverly Hills property.
“We expect to see a minute, two minutes, even three minutes shaved off each guest request,” says Darren Clark, vice president of technology at Viceroy Hotels and Resorts. Cutting that response time “definitely improves the feedback you’ll get from the guest,” he says.
In conjunction with ALICE, the hotel operations platform, Samsung is issuing hotel staff with Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches so that contact between managers and the team can be quick, discreet and hands-free.
The benefits of using a smartwatch versus a phone or tablet, ALICE Creative Director Sean Cohen, have a lot to do with maintaining eye contact.
“In a hotel, an enormous number of people have to do two things at once — they need to have their hands free and available,” Cohen explained. “And the definition of being hospitable and making eye contact and smiling are difficult to do when you’re looking at a smartphone.”
Hotel operations system ALICE is integrating voice requests made by guests through Amazon Echo devices located in their rooms.
Alice is working with Volara, which specializes in voice-based engagement software for the hospitality industry, to allow requests made through Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant to be synced into Alice’s task management platform.
This integration means the platform will pick up verbal requests made by guests in their rooms via the Amazon Echo device and relay them to the relevant hotel staff without any manual processing.
These requests can include ordering fresh towels, scheduling room service or checking on the status of an ongoing request. All commands can be configured to the hotel’s brand.
Dmitry Koltunov, CTO, ALICE: “In the next 5 years, I believe that we are going to see the conversation shift from integrations into APIs. With integrations, the focus has mostly been on systems sharing data and getting a common context. With APIs, the thinking becomes much more about systems exposing capabilities for à la carte use. We will see hotels build their technology in the form of a unified platform, and leverage APIs to really get creative about their brands. The empowered hotelier will wield a portfolio of APIs to orchestrate guest and staff experiences that will present a new standard of evolved hospitality.”
Airbnb and other “shared economy” businesses have raised the bar for travel providers who wish to deliver personalized, truly local experiences for guests. For hotels, the new environment means a rethink of a hotel’s relationship with their guests - and in many ways, a complete redo of the foundations of the guest experience….
Many industry leaders are working on the problem of seamlessly meeting guests’ needs in real-time. These include companies like ALICE, which offers efficient point-to-point communication among hotel staff, personalized room service and manages other aspects of the on property stay.
... Some startups take the approach of being enablers by adding services a hotel couldn’t provide before, such as how ALICE digitizes hospitality operations at Nordic Choice that were often a manual process before.
At ALICE, we've been working hard to fully understand the General Data Protection Regulation GDPR) and its obligations on us and our customers. In order to help hoteliers and anyone else who has to figure out what is going on, we're sharing a guide with what we've learned. Here are some common questions around GDPR.
Dmitry Koltunov, CTO of ALICE and co-chair of HTNG’s API Registry Workgroup explains, “This effort is about helping the tech leaders in our industry collaborate and increase the pace of innovation. There is a great African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others.’ APIs are at the heart of allowing our industry to present a united front to embrace ongoing innovation.”
They say that startups get made or broken by the depth of talent amongst founders – perhaps that’s why Expedia-backed ALICE has made it – big time. Justin is the money guy, Alex the marketing visionary and Dmitry the technical mastermind. Together they’ve taken the hotel world by storm and really changed the game for what a hotel technology company should look like.
Forbes Travel Guide launched its “Brand Officials” program to spotlight and steer member hotels, restaurants, and spas towards superior quality vendors to help ensure a stellar guest experience. The company says that it seeks out the best brands in any given category and conducts extensive due diligence prior to extending an invitation for a brand to join the program. While the designated “Brand Officials” cover everything from a back-of-house communication tracking platform to gourmet chocolate, they all share one common trait: each one elevates the guest experience.
Expedia is investing in hotel operations, having taken a stake in ALICE, which it said will become the world’s first operating system for hotels. Think of it as like the IOS or Android to your phone, said Expedia executives.
Earlier this year, Expedia led a majority investment in a company called ALICE. The startup has a bold goal of transforming the way that communications work across a hotel’s operations.
Rather than a property management system, the company calls it a hotel operations platform. While there are some minor distinctions, the cold, hard truth is that ALICE is a modern PMS built for the post-legacy technology era. It’s not a big leap to include reservations capabilities for a full PMS.
Through these learnings, we broadened our focus to see staff technology as the real lynchpin to the guest experience, and we built ALICE as a technology that would connect staff operations through an end-to-end platform. It's only by solving the staff side of the equation that we can help hotels deliver a better guest experience. A guest can only order room-service, and know exactly how long it will be until it arrives, if the app is integrated with back-of-house operations.
Concierges get some help from various web tools. In addition to GoConcierge, which also helps hotels identify and follow up on guests’ requests, there is Alice, an operations platform that helps hotel departments work together, manages concierges’ activities and customizes concierges’ communications with guests. Alice, which is majority owned by Expedia, bought GoConcierge in September. The two say they are now building a single platform incorporating the best features of both systems.
During a major disaster, communication between hotel employees is also crucial. Justin Effron, CEO of hotel operations platform ALICE, said that the greatest security challenge facing hotels today is the constant flow of people coming in and out of hotels, and the difficulty operators have keeping information channels open for communicating. Alice’s platform, and others like it, allow for direct communication between both guests and employees simultaneously, which can help with disseminating information during a chaotic event.
During a particularly lousy hotel stay four years ago, Justin Effron had a vision of how the customer experience in hospitality could be improved through the application of technology. To pursue this, Effron, who had no hospitality industry experience (he was working a finance gig at Citibank) joined forces with Alex Shashou and Dmitry Koltunov, who added their hotel and technology backgrounds to the mix.
The three got to work raising capital, ultimately landing a $9.5 million investment led by Expedia. The resulting product is ALICE, a platform that helps coordinate communication "backstage" for roughly 2,000 hotels that together contain 500,000 hotel rooms (a number that has grown by nearly 1,000% in 2017).
Ease of communication and customer service is the hallmark of any world-class hotel. As such, hotels are looking for new methods to exceed their guests’ expectations in these departments. Consumer technology is outpacing business technology, but as customers, we expect personalization and a seamless experience as standard from our hotel stays.
The concept of picking up a landline phone to speak to the front desk feels entirely alien now; this is the age of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Step forward ALICE, a hotel operations platform that is blending hospitality with technology.
Struggling to secure their positions at the top, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Ctrip, and Priceline have been active in the private markets, with a combined 25 acquisitions and 10 startup investments in the travel tech space since 2013. These moves are aimed at consolidating market share, moving into new geographies, and expanding the travel giants’ service offerings.
Like Alexa, Alice is improving guest service delivery at Dream Midtown. Nearly all hotel guests carry some form of mobile device, and now they can contact the hotel via SMS anytime, anywhere, consequently rendering guest room phones little more than a safety feature. SMS connectivity gives the hotel a chance to respond to guests in real time.
In short, the impressive time-saving and revenue-generating benefits of platforms offer immediate value, making them the best use of budget funds. Here are seven reasons why it makes sense to make space for a hotel platform in your 2018 budget.
Software packages from New York-based ALICE can offer similar functions, said Noah Aris, ALICE customer success associate.For example, in the event of violent activity in the area, management could tell the staff to lock the doors and not go outside. If there is a blizzard warning, it could let staff know rooms would be available at the hotel if they are concerned about coming to work.
HotelTonight’s prospects are hotly debated across the travel industry, and Skift reached out to assorted travel-industry brainiacs to weigh in with their ideas on what’s ahead for HotelTonight. One of the things we asked them, too, was whether they thought there were parallels for HotelTonight in Hipmunk’s exit, which is believed to have been for less than what its venture capitalist partners invested. Here’s what the travel intelligentsia said...
ALICE's momentum continues. The hotel operations platform provider has acquired GoConcierge, a Los Angeles-based concierge platform company. The financial terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed.
“The GoConcierge business has developed a client base and reputation in the industry we have admired and respected since founding Alice,” said Justin Effron, CEO of Alice, during an interview on the deal with Hotel Business.
ALICE, a New York startup that sells operations software to hotels, said today that it has acquired a competitor, GoConcierge, in a deal whose terms were not disclosed.
In the absence of face-to-face communication, messaging is the next best thing, said Alexander Shashou, co-founder and President of ALICE. From the customer lens, messaging allows a hotel to deliver service to guests in a more conversational, customized and personalized manner than apps or other technologies can.
ALICE's CTO Dmitry Koltunov shares travel startup wisdom with the audience at the New York Travel Festival 2017 (watch the video).
Shashou shares the biggest growth transition of ALICE, how it addresses the last frontier of travel, allows all departments to communicate, gives guests access, connects different software systems, and how ALICE is building great partnerships with big names.
After a big investment from Expedia, Alice CEO Justin Effron wants to help make your next hotel stay a little more pleasant. He talks about how the company is streamlining the hotel business.
Lodging in a hotels should afford you the convenience and service of an entire hotel staff, yet due to outdated and fragmented platforms, the process is rarely seamless. Thankfully, ALICE is fixing this. Its platform gives you the power to connect via text and the app to provide services and information from the hotel. Behind the scene, the app’s backend is used by hotels to connect every department of the hotel to provide stellar service for guests through improved communication. The SaaS platform takes hotels from using legacy systems to a streamlined platform that ultimately improves revenue for properties and results in cost savings.
Since May, the company has doubled its platform usage. It now processes more than 50,000 requests a week, up from the 10,000-a-week pace it had a year ago. The company anticipates hotels will handle more than 2 million requests on its platform over the next year.
Why did Forbes Travel Guide select ALICE? “ALICE is innovative and trained to the standards that we use to rate a property. It is constantly modifying its technology based on each client it works with, listening to feedback and adapting offerings to meet that client’s specific needs and wants,” Hill explained. “In the end, we really admire the way ALICE allows a property’s team members to communicate effortlessly with each other, which results in a more engaged guest and a better overall experience.”
Alexander Shashou, co-founder and CEO of ALICE:
“The app has been a game changer in helping our small staff personalize service,” says Stella Garces, director of rooms at The Montauk Beach House. “Whether it’s through the Alice app or newly launched text messaging, we can respond more quickly and efficiently to deliver the ultimate Hamptons experience.” Detailed analytics let Garces and her team track guest trends and have even inspired service modifications, such as a bathroom amenities upgrade. If only it could do dishes...
Building post-stay rapport with travelers is one of the greatest challenges facing hotels today, particularly with the scant number of online reviews being filed per stay.
How are hotels to keep in contact with travelers in a way that is welcome and keeps their attention? According to Alex Shashou, co-founder and president of hotel operations platform ALICE, the problem is more difficult to answer than it seems because guests would most likely prefer to be left alone.
Alex Shashou, co-founder and president of hotel operations platform ALICE, said many lost-and-found operations are complicated by antiquated procedures such as handwritten books with years of logs and varying degrees of handwriting legibility. However, modern applications such as ALICE's (and indeed some of the loyalty-facing apps put out by hospitality’s biggest brands) allow for direct text interaction between guests and operators, and ALICE allows travelers to log their own lost and found requests right on property.
Thanks to a sleek app, we have a unique look at the kinds of complaints logged by travelers.
ALICE is a hospitality app that streamlines performance and maintenance efficiency throughout hotels, luxury residential locations, co-working spaces, vacation rentals and concierge services.
It recently made findings available of the top ten most prevalent requests and complaints from guests at hotels running the ALICE platform.
Alexander Shashou, co-founder & CEO of hospitality operations system developer ALICE, said texting guests is a necessary evolutionary strategy for hotels because traditional methods of building relationships with travelers have degraded in their effectiveness over time. What’s more, hotels that embrace SMS text messaging as opposed to direct messaging through a loyalty app have the added bonus of being able to reach every one of their guests without exception.
In advance of HITEC 2017, HTNG opens registration for the industry's first API Registry.
HTNG's API Registry Workgroup has created this registry to address the number of inefficiencies in the hospitality solution space, including the difficulty of finding potential technology partners whose products and/or services could add value to a hotelier's offerings. By making it easier for businesses to connect to technical partners via a registry, the workgroup aims to facilitate the first step in building connected solutions.
"Most hotels today are running outdated legacy systems, which are disconnected from one another. So we broadened our vision - not just to give the guest side a mobile offering, but to deliver a technology operations platform for all staff to work on together, from concierge to front desk to housekeeping, and even maintenance: An operations and communication platform for the whole hospitality industry."
The ALICE founding team leveraged thorough research to start the company. For 10 months they visited hotels and envisaged every interaction for hotels of different sizes and configurations. They started a book club to discuss and learn from other companies at similar stages about what could be brought across to ALICE. But the founders view the biggest success factor as hiring a great team, one “that’s smarter than yourself,” and then giving them “the autonomy to figure it out.”
ALICE Co-founder and president, Alex Shashou, explained what he thinks the main advantage of automating hotel operations is: “Hotels have so many tasks to take care every day, many of which are repetitive and mundane. To compete with the alternative accommodation sector who sell services on an as-needed basis, hotels need to be thinking about increasing operational efficiency and automation is one method to do so. Additionally, the less time that staff spend doing administrative work, the more time that staff member can spend with your guests, improving the guest experience.”
Improving the guest experience has generally meant offering better guest rooms, facilities and resources – and, also, providing better, friendlier and more personalized service. But, with the advent of next-generation technology solutions, GEM has reached new levels of efficiency and effectiveness, with personalization a primary focus area for improvement.
Looking to improve communication and transparency, Hotel Zephyr sought out a hotel operations platform to assist with requests across all departments—and it found it in a solution offered by New York City-based company ALICE.
New York, N.Y.
Like a shared hotel to-do-list for the post-Walkie Talkie era
Created four years ago, this seller of a hotel operations platform has 55 employees and has raised $13.5 million, with Expedia as a minority investor. Alice provides one system for guests, front-of-house workers, and back-of-house staff to communicate and track requests. The unified system means that a guest request via a text message for, say, more linens, is conveyed to the right worker. Guests can also order services through mobile apps and other methods.
After success in the United States and considerable demand to bring ALICE to other markets, ALICE is coming to the United Kingdom with a special promotion for the company’s first 50 UK hotel partners.
Justin Effron, Alex Shashou, and Dmitry Koltunov knew that something was missing in the hotel hospitality industry, so they set out to discover what is was. ...The three visionaries...launched ALICE in October 2013. It is a hospitality operations platform that helps hotels consistently deliver exceptional service by providing one system for guests, front-of-house and back-of-house staff to communicate and work together on. The company’s mission is to improve the hospitality experience through customer-driven technology.
The editorial staff of Hotel Business has selected six rising stars in the hospitality industry - among them, ALICE's co-founder and President, Alex Shashou.
Hello Scout’s New York launch came via a partnership with ALICE, a N.Y.-based operations platform for hotels. ALICE partners received early access to sign up for the five pilot spots, which were all claimed within just a few days. Hello Scout says they prefer working with ALICE hotels since communication within the hotel is smoother and more efficient.
The "concierge and front desk service in your pocket" is allowing hotels to deliver unparalleled customer service.
Software must be set up and used properly to succeed; accomplish this by assigning a system champion, sticking to an implementation process, and instill continued monitoring of the process.
The hotel of the (near) future, should be able to communicate with real-time messages to prospective or in-house guest, generating more revenue and increasing guest satisfaction. This is why we recommend great solutions by companies such as ALICE, and a host of others.
The communication between the hotel and guest is being handled by the ALICE mobile application, allowing guests to track any problems and manage their relationship with the hotel.
Alexander Shashou, president of hotel operations app ALICE; Alexandra Zubko, co-founder of direct booking platform Triptease; and Marc Heyneker, CEO of reputation manager Revinate, gave their opinion on where the hospitality technology opportunities lay.
Questions and conflicts surrounding messaging adoption at hotels challenge service delivery in the digital age, and present operations teams with new obstacles. The result is often an unpredictable experience for the guest and a compromised delivery of genuine hospitality. The industry is in for a wild ride.
While we’d probably cut these response times in half or maybe more before we start to get frustrated, the importance of this survey lies not in how long people are willing to wait for a response to a hotel service request made by text, mobile apps, email, or social media. It’s the fact that more hotels need to be paying attention to these channels and instituting better standards for addressing requests that come through them.
"Forbes Travel Guide and others routinely grade hotels according to their response times picking up the phone to answer a guest request, so isn't it time we understand what online response times should be like as well?"
Remember Alice from the Brady Bunch? She was the wise, warm “go-to” housekeeper who was on top of everything that was going on. You could depend on her in any situation... she always knew what to do. Well, Alice was the inspiration for the new hotel platform, ALICE. Built from scratch with input from hotels who already want to be customers, ALICE provides a 360-degree view of everything that’s happening in your hotel.
ALICE, Expedia are much more than a hunch and team up to create a blended family of mobile app solutions.
"A lot of the fear in hospitality is that technology takes away from [delivering exceptional service]. No. The point of the technology is to better empower staff to deliver better service and better empower the guest.”
“What we do is provide a platform that allows you to offer a guest multiple ways to engage with you [the hotel], but centralize it so the hotel can manage it, dispatch it appropriately, and respond,” explained Alexander Shashou, co-founder and president of ALICE. “It should be up to the guests how they message a hotel and hotels shouldn’t force it one way or the other. Any channel you don’t offer is a barrier to you offering service to your guest.”
One of Skift’s stated aims is to demystify and dejargonify the travel industry. As part of that aim we are launching our first ever travel industry mapping project, what we’re calling Skift Travel Tech 250. These are the 250 travel tech companies that are shaping the modern day travel experience.
"By actually putting a technological measurement tool in everything you operate, you allow your staff, your management, and all your operations to be thoughtful about how to run that hotel. The by-product of having ALICE in all your departments is you’ve now installed a massive measurement tool that can allow you to gauge your quality of hospitality. That’s where we want to be, we want to allow hotels to be smarter, not just to operate faster."
The platform model offers plenty of lessons for traditional hotels. How can hotels harness the power of platforms to seamlessly unify their operation and realize huge gains in revenue, efficiency, and guest satisfaction in the process?
"We’re focused on taking away the mundane from the staff experience – taking away all the logging and duplication through three different systems – allowing the team to work in one place, and for communication to flow through the hotel."
#1 - ALICE
ALICE features both department specific apps (Staff, Guest, and Concierge) as well as an overarching suite you can use for better operating efficiency across your property.
"Companies such as ALICE have built smartphone apps that connect staff and guests directly, and help businesses streamline their concierge operations."
Concierges also say texting is helping them better serve their guests. Noah Lemaich is chief concierge at Sixty Hotels on the lower east side of Manhattan, which uses a system called ALICE.
“Texting is something all people are used to, so it is not only convenient for them but allows us to convey information in an easier way,” Lemaich says. “For concierge services, it is more efficient to use texting rather than give them a piece of paper with a dinner reservation or directions, for example. We can text someone an address, they click it, and off they go.”
HITEC 2016 entered the record books as one of the highest attended conferences with 6,395 hospitality professionals representing 65 countries. Eager attendees flooded the showfloor to visit the 867 exhibit booths showcasing the latest in hospitality technology products and services. The HITEC exhibit hall featured hundreds of companies announcing new products and showcasing their signature technologies. Some of the hot topics and themes among the exhibiting vendors included: Internet of Things, robotics, mobility, payment security and improving communication and service.
Companies such as ALICE are offering the option to network an entire suite of services at a hotel through a single smartphone app, simplifying the process.
"Boutique hotels used to buy products from three entities in order to offer this kind of service," said Alexander Shashou, founder & president of ALICE. "If it's all under one umbrella, you can understand what guests are doing at every interaction in the hotel."
“The idea behind a mobile workforce is not only being trained in multiple roles, but if the bar is busy, why do you have five people standing at the front desk?” said Alex Shashou, the cofounder of ALICE. Shashou points out that airports have already done this to an extent. “I often see the person who checked me in at the gate also letting me on the plane.”
Like Uber, Seamless and Netflix have done in other industries, it’s now possible to make transactions fully digital and improve delivery efficiencies. This is true both on the guest side and on the staff side. Alex Shashou, president of ALICE, said that tests at two hotels that use ALICE’s software have seen up to 50% efficiencies in housekeeping and maintenance simply from moving to mobile staff communication via the app.
"Ultimately, ALICE empowers hotels to increase team efficiency and communication, enabling hotels to deliver higher levels of service to their guests. A platform that keeps staff and guests on the same page is imperative in this day and age. Guest engagement technology is a highly competitive space right now, and only a few are having an impact. Keep a look out for this company."
"To grow ALICE from three of us to 30 people, and to get through the early stage hurdles, we had to find a way to prioritize learning as a team. So we started an office book club. No other tradition has had more of a positive impact on our culture, our processes and our product."
"Third-party on-demand providers such as ALICE are already allowing hoteliers to satisfy guest requests for room service, house-keeping, tickets, dinner reservations, even booking a private jet as part of a mobile digital interface. Furthermore, hotel management can monitor all requests and services from a 360-degree vantage."
"We pride ourselves in having an interface that always feels like you are communicating with an intuitive, warm human that cares about you. ...We are not the only one ... ALICE, a hospitality software company, is creating communication and workflow management tools to improve hospitality in hotels for their guests."
"We have a real opportunity to grow our network. To help more hotels and build a community for our hotels to learn from one another. Right now we are in a position where we can offer hotels the opportunity to try our product with no risk. We are confident that once they are using ALICE they will become a valued long-term partner."
"[With ALICE] you’re giving guests the luxury of choice for how they make the request, but you’re giving the staff one system to manage them,” Shashou says.
"Three years ago, we embarked on a very ambitious project: to build a software platform that can solve the barriers to delivering exceptional service in hotels today," said Justin Effron, CEO of ALICE. The Series A allows the startup to work with many more hotels and new markets, he explained, adding: "It also repays the faith that our initial hotels have shown in working with us as a startup."
"ALICE, which allows hotels to manage and complete guest requests across various service departments with ease thanks to its intuitive host of mobile suite products, announced today that it had closed a $9.5 million Series A funding round."
"Our challenge is how do you simplify letting guests choose how they communicate with hotel staff but at the same time bringing that all to the same back-end,” said Shashou. “The bounds of hospitality have changed. This platform has the ability to transcend hotels and [ALICE] is working heavily with residential units and work spaces as well."
"The software solves major hotelier operational pain points and it’s easy to see how they are able to save hoteliers money and man-hours. Alice puts the entire hotel operating system into the palm of a consumer’s hands through their own devices."
"Hotels are really good at knowing about you before you arrive, and have a really good understanding of you when you leave (reviews, etc.),” said Shashou.“When you are with them it’s a gray area. ALICE helps fill that gray area with technology, an additional connection to your guests."
“It makes sense to offer mobile staff in every department, not just the front desk,” said Alex Shashou, co-founder and president of hospitality operations platform ALICE. "Mobile staff is able to build relationships, direct the guest and perform the transactions the guest wants all at the same time.”
Expedia also announced an investment in ALICE, a software-as-a-service provider that enhances the hotel guest experience, and also gives hotels a workflow management tool to improve operations…. "It addresses the little things, like the light bulb that's burned out and gets into a review," said Arthur Chapin, vice-president Global Product at Expedia. "With 30 million user reviews, a lot of these little negatives get through."
"Media coverage, to date, has fixated on Alice’s consumer-style mobile app that guests download — which can let guests order services like room service and late check-outs via text-messaging style communication, among other things. Yet it’s the back-end technology that enables a hotel to manage requests efficiently that has also excited Expedia Inc. ...Expedia’s investment in Alice signals that mobile devices have changed the game for on-property and in-market services for hotels."
"Over the last several years at Emergence Capital we have seen an exciting new set of companies emerge that offer cloud solutions within a specific industry vertical — collectively known as “industry cloud” companies. The opportunity is enormous."
"Hotel operators may have come late to the smartphone app party, but it’s starting to look like they’ll be the last to leave. If hotel companies have their way, you’ll soon be able to interact with booking, with onsite staff, and even with your room directly through your phone—and with far more capabilities than ever before."
"Founders of tech-enabled startups, particularly those that are disrupting industries with high-touch customer service requirements, are used to this challenging line of questioning (whether it is during an investor meeting or when they are pitching a panel of investors at a startup event). I recently coached a founder to respond with "we will have challengers in our vertical, but unless those same competitors invest in their customer service at the high level we have, it is unlikely they will succeed" the next time she faced that gnarly question."
"ALICE, the leading mobile service-on-demand enabler for the hospitality industry, announced today the launch of its partnership with Bttn, the creator of the Simplest Internet User Interface in the World. Working together, ALICE and Bttn bring a whole new level of instant, personalized services to the guests of boutique and high-end hotels and hospitality providers."
"Both the Marriott and Virgin Hotels, which is starting to build its own chain, have launched proprietary apps that allow guests to access services, often well before they even arrive for check-in. But many brands still rely on the ubiquitous hotel radio or several different software systems to run different parts of their operations, and all that tech doesn’t necessarily speak to each other. Which is where Shashou is trying to squeeze into this increasingly crowded space — with a cloud-based, off-the-shelf product that connects all of the back-office functions on a single platform (that costs $8,000 to $15,000 a year for a subscription)."
"Founded in early 2013, Alice gives hotel guests access to a concierge 24-hours a day from their mobile phones. It also has the ability to connect guests with other members of the hotel, based on the settings, and replaces the expensive radios housekeeping uses to let engineering know there is a "plumbing issue" (clogged toilet) and the engineer uses to let the front desk know "it has been taken care of" (painstakingly plunged and wiped down with sanitizer)."
"Long gone are the days when luxury hotel services meant personal touches, such as a butler on hand taking care of your every need. There’s a surge of mobile solutions, such as the recently released mobile App, Alice, expanding hotel luxury service to include a concierge in your pocket. From booking rooms, spa treatments, and dinner reservations, to ordering your favorite champagne, hotel guests can upgrade their services directly from their smart phones."
"We’re unifying all the operations under one system, which allows you to have efficient communication from guest to staff, from staff to staff. We want to simplify service, so we’re breaking down the barriers that exist inside the hotel."
"The business of bringing customers what they want when they want it is no longer reserved just for premium services, but increasingly expected of economy brands as well. Service on-demand delivers a seamless experience by consolidating the process of discovery, order, payment, fulfillment, and confirmation."
"Too many hotels are still serving guests with low-tech methods, the trio realized. So, ALICE began as a hand-held concierge service. The request begins with a guest’s mobile device and ends on the staff mobile device, giving ALICE complete domain control to ensure quality fulfillment."
"From a New York-based startup, ALICE, is being rolled out at luxury properties like the Gansevoort, Parker Meridien, Hilton, and The Setai. Unlike Incentient’s SmartTouch, the app is downloaded onto a guest’s iPad (hotels can also provide a preloaded loaner iPad, or guests can access a Web portal on their laptops). But what ALICE touts as innovative is that all conversations are happening in real-time. That means that when a guest asks for something, the hotel’s employees see it immediately, while at the same time a manager is also monitoring the activity to either ensure it’s quickly met or if he or she needs to make improvements in the service."
"The idea is to build that one solution for the entire hotel. And that’s a pain point that they’ve experienced: From an ownership level, if you’re running 100 hotels, 1,000 hotels, it’s a very hard operation to manage if you’re having to use five different systems to find out what’s happening on a property-by-property level."
"Any frequent visitor to hotels would agree that ALICE really is A Life Improving Customer Experience. The platform seamlessly allows hoteliers to provide mobile services to their guests. Typically, a hotel is running multiple legacy systems across their departments that are not connected, and make for very disconnected operations across the entire hotel or hotel chain. ALICE solves this by creating the first operating system that sits on both the front (guest) side as well as the back (employee) end."
"Not only does the startup offer the guest-facing element but it also promises to take care of the back-end management processes. Even if a request is not made via the app, the idea is that it will still be fed into it. A further positive that Alice offers is the ability for hotels and their guests to communicate with each other as soon as the booking is made enabling properties to provide a much more targeted service."
"Mobile platforms are likely gaining traction due to the sheer convenience they offer hotel guests and employees. Hotels that have integrated with the Alice application allow their customers to discover and request amenities and services from their mobile devices, both before and after arrival at the property."
"By integrating discontinuous platforms and focusing on front-of-house-friendly interfaces, ALICE syncs and simplifies the service loop. And it does it all through a guest’s mobile phone. At check-in, guests are prompted to download the app."
"As technology develops, more and more hotels are building apps that allow guests to request services and amenities on their smartphone. But a company called ALICE is taking it a step farther: allow hotel staff to track and complete each service request on a single mobile platform."
"What we think is the game changer is the backend,” says Alice investor Nnamdi Okike from 645 Ventures. “That was more compelling. It’s bigger in terms of customer purchasing and much more sticky over the long term. They’ve brought on a range of different hotels and we view that as a good validation that this service is in high demand."
"A newly launched mobile app called ALICE is looking to make dealing with hotel staff a lot easier for both guests and hotel management. On the back end, ALICE provides a monitoring and management tool for hoteliers to check on everything from room service and cleaning to the thousands requests that front desk attendants field daily."
"The app is already in several high-end hotels, including Sixty LES, Gansevoort Meatpacking and the Skyline Hotel in Manhattan. Guests can use the app to request services, but the same app acts as the fulfillment and management platform for workers confronted with the requests. "We started as a mobile concierge platform for guests, but quickly realized that there is an equivalent, if not greater, need in efficiently managing the fulfillment of that request."
"We have a number of novel components in our system that gives us a competitive advantage, and we needed to protect that as a business. As a global startup with operations on three continents, we have a need to get smart on IP protection within each region quickly and we need to track all of our IP and trademark licenses across each country we operate in."
"Guests love to work with it; because of how simple and enjoyable it is to request something you want and get right away. We are very proud that Floris Suite Hotel is the first property on the island that is featuring the ALICE application. We’re at a point in time where technology can actually achieve personalization on a much larger scale. This system is a great tool to enhance the service we provide to our guests."
"... ALICE should bring you everything you want at the touch of a button. Such as: ordering room service from the airport, requesting turndown service, making on or off-site dinner reservations, booking a spa treatment, scheduling an in-room blowout, and reserving bottle service at the hotel's top-level Plunge Bar + Lounge."
"Wish you could order food at your hotel, like you can at home on Seamless? Want to send a quick text to have your car pulled up from the garage? Shouldn’t the folks that give you a temporary place to stay 365 days a year be able to do as much as you can do from your home? Hotel systems are a tough market to enter, but if my next guest experience leverages what I’ve seen, I’ll be an unpaid Alice evangelist for a long time to come."
"ALICE aims to improve guests’ experiences while streamlining hotels’ operations to make staffs’ responses quicker. Guests at these properties will be prompted by check-in staff or email to download the app. Hotels guests only need to download the app once and then log onto each properties’ page using their room number."