Hospitality India Conclave – Part 4 – Exceeding Expectations, Catering To Next Generation Guests
Previous three editions of Hospitality India Conclave 2012 series can be read here – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. In this edition we will discuss about the role play of IT in exceeding the changing customer expectations. This topic was discussed by team of experienced hotel industry professionals for 60 minutes where the executives explained various IT strategies implemented in their hotels. Following were the panel members:
- Monicka Lakhmana, Director- Operations, Gateway Hotels (Taj Group)
- Carlyle Pereira, GM- Technical Services, Indian Hotels Co Ltd (Taj Group)
- Ravish Jhala, Head IT, The Oberoi Group; Co-Founder, Hospitech
- Johnson David, Head IT, Mirah Group
We are presenting the panel discussion in a Q&A format. The questions were posted by Johnson to the panel members. Discussion by panel members below:
Is IT aligned to business strategy in your hotel?
IT is aligned with sales, revenue, HR & Training.
Any innovative solutions you built in Trident using IT?
TRAI regulation is changing day by day (recent being 5 SMS per day), so we created a mobile app that’s similar to “Whats App” and each group within the hotel communicates with each other through internet. Example, when a guest has an issue, the corresponding department is sent a notification through our “Whats App” even before guest leaves the hotel.
All our future hotels are RFID driven (they all support NFC), and payments are going to be NFC driven. Just to give a perspective – global adoption of NFC is only 3%.
How do you correlate security and customer experience?
When I was in the US, not even a single hotel did any security check on my bag or on m/e. In India – security inspection starts from entering the main gate of the hotel. A General Manager in one of the leading hotels in US told me that security is a cost to them, they are so much confident on the government interms of security, so they trust guests who walk into the room.
What guests expect? (from IT perspective)
Our business is changing and our guests are changing. If the hotel gives me an iPad in the room, then I will not use it because I have my own. So, provide more of apps or interfaces so that customers can download them and use it in their own devices. The Gen Y says – “I have my own device, if you have anything to offer – offer on my device”.
How important is IT in terms of guest experience?
Access to rooms (key cards) – customers go to the 12th floor and figure out that the key is not working, you know what happens next. So, IT intervention is needed to move it to cell phones, hotels in west do this already. In our hotel, we use keycards for elevator access as it becomes imperative to address security issues. Since 2008 security has become paramount, guests expect extra security guards and CCTVs in hotel. Irrespective of all security measures, still guests have a sense of fear when they check-in.
How is IT adapting to changing guest experience?
When guest is in the room, he should be in control of all systems and features. Customers are walking with iPad, iPod and they except the corresponding docking systems in the room. Guests want seamless wifi and email access. Guests are health conscious too – in our hotel we have Yoga CDs in rooms. We have introduced a new service called “24/7″ – where customers press only 1 button for any of their need and there is a person answering all queries.
How do you see IT playing a role to exceed customer expectation?
In our hotel, IT starts as soon as a customer enters the hotel – be it displaying a purple light, which again has a software behind to control it. When a guest enters the room, the AC should be at controlled and preferred temperature (again IT has a play), and guest walks to elevator and gets elevator in few seconds. When guests enter the room they expect a WOW factor. Lighting plays a very important role in a hotel. Lighting consultants from the west recommend low lighting, but Indian customers prefer bright lighting. Hotels are moving towards LED lights to minimize cost in air conditioning (by combating heat generation).
In luxury hotel washrooms, guests can set the temperature of shower, type of water flow (rain, waterfall, misty etc). Every room’s temperature can be controlled from the reception itself. All these experiences are heavily powered by IT.
Video conferencing should be available in the rooms – this is futuristic. In our hotel, we are planning to deploy a big bang backbone will cater to huge bandwidth. We should think of futuristic scenarios and implement current IT and infrastructure. Compare this with mobile calling rates 5 years back, it was Rs 16 per call then, now its < 10 paisa per call, nobody predicted this will happen, similarly we should think of future scenarios for hospitality.
This article marks the last part in Hospitality India Conclave 2012 series.
Author: Karthick Prabu