After many years of focusing IT spend on guest-facing technologies, hoteliers are increasingly adopting task management automation solutions designed to support staff and streamline operations.
“Manual process plagues every hotel department, so the right task management software can benefit everyone,” says Kevin Brown, product marketing manager at Amadeus.
“An IT technician can use the system to automate and schedule staff computer repairs. Front Desk managers can digitally log service inspections and compare their own scores with online reviews.
“Housekeeping managers can actually anticipate staff productivity levels. Engineering leaders can use the system determine future budgets for property repairs and preventive maintenance programs.”
While the core benefit of task management technology is to unlock staff capabilities, there is also a growing understanding that staff-facing technologies provide hoteliers with a critical advantage in exceeding consumer expectations around service and personalization.
The conversion of data to knowledge is what the best hotel task management software solutions can do in terms of adding value.
Kevin Brown - Amadeus
Fueled by online customer reviews and retailer and other consumer-facing platforms that provide individualized recommendations, guest expectations around personalized service are getting deeper and more demanding.
“We are in a time where the voice of an individual customer who stays somewhere once a year or less now has the same impact as the voice of a customer who travels 60% of the year or more,” says Brown.
“Because of social media and review sites, the virtualization of word of mouth marketing is influencing all guest expectations around personalization.”
Historically, personalized service elements like early check-in, specific room selection, consistent use of the guest name, and a higher level of prioritization to any desired request were usually only extended to VIP guests.
Now these elements are expected by nearly every guest that stays at a hotel.
“Culturally, the VIP type of experience has become the norm for all types of guests because their singular voice can make or break the perception of your brand of service online. Guests know this, and many hoteliers are struggling to adapt the VIP culture of service to a majority of their guests,” Brown says.
“Empathy, anticipation, and follow-up are the three key capabilities staff must have in order to meet these high level expectations. In a manual world, this is almost impossible due to the amount of time it takes to create that kind of experience.
“Though, the evolution of technology has made it entirely possibly for hoteliers deliver a personalized experience to guests without so much manual effort.”
The task management evolution from physical log books to digital automation
Task management processes have evolved from paper and radio, to excel sheets and radio, and only in the last 5-10 years to automated solutions.
Manually categorizing and executing tasks like guest requests, preventative maintenance programs, or room cleaning assignments is now virtually obsolete and has been replaced with digital technology.
Now software programs instantaneously track, prioritize, and communicate any proactive or reactive task that needs to be performed.
Mihai Bote, director of technology at Swire Hotels, explains: “Task management technology has evolved into a full-blown platform that allows hoteliers to fix problems, respond faster, and keep track of all the needs of a hotel or resort.”
A recent example of this evolution is cloud-based availability. “In the past, these would have been server-based systems on premise, and the client had to install it on their own computers,” Bote says.
“Now with the availability of the cloud, browser-based solutions for task management platforms are available. This is the new component of task management—platforms that are available in the cloud, on any device on any browser.”
Bote anticipates a clear path forward for adoption of task management solutions in the hospitality industry.
“We see a new era where hotels are finally investing in technology for their staff, which is essential,” he says. “This trend will only increase as time goes on.”
Adoption is rapidly growing
While task management automation technology enables staff to deliver on these evolved guest expectations, hoteliers are still struggling to justify the investment. Many hoteliers are focused on upgrading legacy systems in their technology stack, or remained focused on guest facing technology.
However,Hospitality Technology’s 2019 Lodging Technology Study, entitled Hotels Gear Up for the Age of Augmented Authenticity, shows a dramatic 31% increase year over year into gaining better staff optimization insights.
Brown and other experts agree that this escalation of priority is causing task management automation to quickly become commonplace in the industry.
“Hoteliers are finding a clear and direct correlation between task management automation, improving guest satisfaction scores, and optimizing RevPAR,” Brown says.
“For the past 30 years, the hospitality industry has focused on guest-facing technologies. As an industry, we kind of forgot about staff and back of the house needs,” says Bote, who has been introducing and using task management solutions in his work in the hospitality industry for just under two decades.
“Now we see a positive trend for hoteliers to adopt more back of house solutions that will enable staff to better perform their tasks. We are starting to realize that guest-facing and staff-facing technologies are equally important to the guest journey and subsequent experiences.”
3 ways task management automation benefits staff and guests
Task Management technology solutions enable a range of capabilities that benefit both staff and guests.
“The main benefit that task management technology enables is to intelligently manage, prioritize, and communicate anything in a reactive state, like an unexpected guest request, as well as any task that is scheduled, anticipatory, or preventive,” says Brown.
“All of those tasks, for any department, can be put into the system digitally, in real time, to handle all of that manual effort so you have valuable time to do more inspections, train staff, and spend time with guests.”
Underlying all of those beneficial outcomes is that task management technology can convert data into actionable knowledge.
“The conversion of data to knowledge is what the best task management software solutions can do in terms of adding value,” Brown says. “They help you quickly refine information so you can make more proactive decisions for your business.”
Task automation unlocks staff capabilities to anticipate and be proactive
One of task management technology’s key capabilities is anticipating guest needs so staff can proactively address both.
For guests, “on task management platforms, every guest has a profile,” says Bote, “so prior to a guest’s arrival you can review the profile and anticipate the guest’s needs.”
Responding to those needs is foundational to building guest loyalty, notes Brown. “It’s always cheaper to create loyalty business than generate new business,” he says.
“It doesn’t matter how much technology you invest in connecting with that guest, or incentivizing that guest to choose your property. If your staff can’t deliver on what you are selling, they won’t walk through your doors again. You will constantly waste money trying to get new people in the door instead of retaining the guests staying at your property right now.”
For building maintenance, task management solutions have anticipatory triggers built in, enabling hoteliers to eliminate problems - and associated guest complaints - before they happen.
“Typically, the task management platform will trigger a task based on a schedule or a business rule,” Bote says.
“When used correctly, this technology can eliminate or drastically reduce guest complaints by anticipating when an AC filter, light-bulb or a right room amenity needs to be replaced or replenished. You can eliminate the problem by proactively doing these preventive maintenance tasks.”
Breaking down silos by improving communication and inter-departmental collaboration
“If you ask any hospitality operational supervisor or manager what they spend the majority of their time doing, the most common answer is communicating,” says Brown, who was a hotel operations manager before Amadeus.
“Manually tacking down staff to tell them something important, escalating a task that isn’t being completed fast enough, or recommunicating work priorities over and over keeps leaders from actually leading and developing their teams for success.”
We are starting to realize that guest-facing and staff-facing technologies are equally important to the guest journey and subsequent experiences.
Mihai Bote - Squire Hotels
Manual communication requires a significant amount of time and effort, “and communication ends up being highly reactive and taking place in silos. Manual processes like this create cracks for information to fall through. That’s when problems start happening and staff get stressed,” he adds.
“I always hear hoteliers say “we need to work smarter and not harder.” But, in order to truly do that, managers need the time to develop their staff skills. Most of their staff they trained last year are gone, and new staff are usually thrown into their role with little to no onboarding,” Brown explains.
Hospitality has become a highly overworked and stressful industry that suffers from constant turnover. This long-standing and troublesome problem has increased across all hospitality roles in the U.S. to hit its highest level ever at just under 74% turnover, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Financially, hoteliers on average lose half of their experienced line level staff every year at a replacement cost of just under $6,000 per staff member due to recruitment efforts, training, and productivity losses, according to a recent study by Cornell University.
Bote notes: “Every time you provide extra tools to your staff to make their lives easier you eliminate frustration and there will be a sense of gratitude. When you start investing in your staff, the value of that investment becomes quickly realized.”
“When task management technology is used by a majority of departments and is used well, silos break down naturally. Staff spend more time actually working than communicating about work. This means leaders also have more time to spend developing staff skills with the assistance of the technology,” Brown adds.
What’s next? Prepare for the evolution by involving your staff
Bote encourages hoteliers who have decided to look at evolving and improving their operations to start with their staff.
“First and foremost, talk to your staff. Listen and understand their pain points,” he says.
“Any technology deployed will be only as effective as the adoption levels from people who use it, and the belief that it will help make their lives easier. So yes, listen to and analyze guest complaints, but also listen to your buildings, equipment, systems teams, and most importantly the teams that will assist in addressing those complaints.”
He advocates approaching any change or new technology adoption as a bottom-up and top-down collaboration.
“Rather than mandating a system that is geared to helping the staff, we learned that the best and more practical approach to delight the back of the house is to engage with them before you make a decision.”
If you’re interested in investing in a task management solution, be prepared for the change by knowing the right questions to ask along the way. Download the free Amadeus e-book, Questions to Ask When Considering Automation for Hotel Operations, to learn more.