Technology is key to a successful hotel nowadays, of course - it's a good development. It certainly adds to the experience and comfort of the guest, and is indeed needed to meet their basic expectations.
Generation Y is entering the market and they grew up with technology - it's how they communicate. They keep up, and so should you.
But I dare to state that dangerous to over-rely on technology for success in 2014. Investing in hardware and software is safe ground as it is tangible and you can easily measure the results. Everything in technology is measurable. That is why social media is popular among hospitality companies: you know a lot about the users who approach you.
But as everybody focuses on the same technology, what is it that sets you apart? Did you ever consider this?
The next step: the human touch
In our training and coaching projects we emphasise the importance of soft skills. Naturally because our background is rooted in butler service, but also because we sincerely believe that well selected and trained staff are more valuable than any technology you put into your hotel.
That is the nature of the human touch. We are not robots just as our guests are not (room-)numbers. So why are most hoteliers so hesitant to face this aspects of their business? My conclusion is that most organisations are too result-focused. Especially when the economic outlook is somewhat cloudy, the pressure is high to perform. Revenues are key.
But does this stop you from taking a next step as well? Why can they not go hand-in-hand. To have a modern, luxurious and balanced hotel, you need both, as one can not do without the other.
Generation Y might be technology-minded, but they are social as well. They love to communicate. But communication can be both through technology and face-to-face. We, as hoteliers can and should add this last aspect. I would say that with personalising the service at your hotel, your revenues will benefit as well.
Low investment, high appreciation
The nice thing about service is that the ultimate investment is much lower, as you invest in people and directly into your organisation. With technology you know that you have to replace it next year to keep up with the new expectations of your new guests.
The pre-condition is that you know what you want. Technology is straightforward as it does what you buy it for. With personalised service it is mainly you who decides what to do and how to do it. You are at the steering wheel of the personal service you know your guests appreciate. You create that match all by yourself.
The very fact that sometimes new hotels hire staff without knowing what kind of services they are going to provide tells me that they hire potentially unsuitable staff. They go for skills, as skills are more tangible than mindset. Now, they very likely either have to adapt their services to the staff they have, which seems not very logical to me, or they have to spend extra time, energy and money in staff to re-train them.
This is exactly why I would suggest to the hotels to take a next step in 2014. Make it a target to set foot on new ground and dare to put your staff upfront as they are the ones that face your guests on a daily basis. They are your ambassadors. And ambassadors are selected to represent a culture, your culture.
In your hiring process look beyond technical skills. Everybody can learn skills and tricks. It is much more difficult to 'mould' your staff into the culture and service you want to provide.
About the author
Hugo R Mechelse is managing director and senior trainer of International Butlers. IB coaches the high-end hospitality in setting service objectives and to balance the performance of the staff and the organisation as a whole with the expectations of the guest, though coaching and training. Training covers personalised service courses for high-end hospitality staff, private households, cruise ships, and private yachts. Consultancy covers mystery visits and establishing signature Butler Service Departments. His book ‘The Art of Butling' will be published shortly. You can contact him by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , www.internationalbutlers.com