July 25, 2013

There are rooms for improvement

BY :     July 25, 2013

+46 70 214 63 18  per.bjorkegren@sogeti.comIn the middle of summer holiday times in Sweden, I jump into a suitable and for me passionate subject – hotels and their deficiencies.

To me the hotel business should be highly consumer (guest) driven. I stay at hotels more than 70 nights per year, and have done so for more than 15 years. I haven’t seen much of improvement during that period. The only thing that clearly has changed is the increased focus on member programmes, just like it’s the only thing we think about as guests. Despite of this increased focus, I sometimes have to ask for my benefits when I arrive to a hotel. And why aren’t the programmes valid via all booking channels? Am I suddenly another person and a low priority guest when I book via Hotels.com?

BedSome hotel booking systems provide the possibility to type in a note/comment, but it never reaches the hotel reception. Others don’t provide the possibility to make a note to the hotel.

There are booking systems where you are logged in as a customer and when performing a booking you still have to type in all information that is stored in your customer profile.

It seems like the preferences for room booking have never changed. Typically you can make choices like “close or far away from the elevator” and “high up or far down in the hotel”. Where are the preferences that I really care about; iron in the room, bath tub, good Wi-Fi coverage and 24h gym? No one has ever asked me about what really prefer, and obviously the systems can’t store it. When arriving at the hotel the personnel at the reception have poor information about important preferences. For example they often can’t tell if the room has a bath tub without struggling with searching in in paper documents.

This spring I arrived late to a hotel and asked for a late check-out next day. “No problem, fixed” was the answer from the night porter. In the afternoon next day, one hour after I left the hotel, the reception called me and asked why I haven’t checked out. “Your stuff is still in the room!”. I was really confused and first thought that I had forgotten something in the room. After a while I realised that the room cleaner didn’t know about my late check-out and opened my room at 12:00 when I was temporarily out. The cleaner then reported to the reception with a considerable delay, and the reception acted because they didn’t have control. So much stupidity caused by poor procedures and systems.

Something must be fundamentally wrong with the supporting IT systems in the hotel industry sector. It doesn’t fit together. Obvious information about the room, the booking and me as a recurring guest is missing. Solutions for automation and increased quality that are standard in other sectors are totally missing. I now talk about large hotel chains which clearly should afford these investments.

Why don’t the few cleaners have a handheld device where they can see if a guest has checked out from a room and can report back that a room is cleaned and ready for check-in?

One thing has confused me for years. How come that the hotels don’t have a digital register of forgotten items? During my days as a programmer it would have taken me a day to build a solution for that purpose; at the same time it should be basic customer care to handle this issue well. I forget something about every 30th hotel night. During the last 20 years the hotel has called me only once to tell, that a thing was left in the room. And, when calling the reception about a forgotten item they never can answer. They have to switch to the hotels house keeper, which, if answering, during the call has to walk through the complete hotel to look for physical items in different drawers and bookshelves. Worst case is if the house keeper has left for the day. Then no one can answer you until next day, when you are 300 km away.

No doubt about it. The hotel business has a potential. They don’t only have rooms for the guests, they also have many rooms for improvement of guest satisfaction through better IT..

How hard can it be? Or, am I the only one who cares?

P.S. Two weeks ago I had a positive dialogue. A hotel chain, Elite Hotels, has added a question to the guest satisfaction survey. “I you were the owner of this hotel, what would you fix immediately?”. That kind of question is a good starting point for business development. What do you think I answered? “Better Wi-Fi coverage in room 347 and 405, better parking facilities and more rooms with bath tub” 🙂

Per Björkegren

About

Per Björkegren is an Enterprise Architect and IT strategist in Sweden. He has worked within Capgemini Group since 1991 and is the practice leader for Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance within Sogeti Sweden, developing the service offerings and speaking at open seminars. He is also the founder and president of SWEAN (Swedish Enterprise Architecture Network), which currently has close to 1000 members.

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  1. Menno · July 25, 2013 Reply

    Large companies make deals with large organisations (hotel chains). The clients are not the individual customer (You), but the organization you work for. When family hotels would group together they could form a virtual organization and make deals with large organizations. I prefer a family hotel. And wifi. And an iron. No tub, a good shower. A twitter account to communicate with the hotel, for instance when I lost something. An award system that is so simple that even I can understand how it works. An opt-in for dining together with other guests. A window that can be opened and a room without heating. Lights that work like at home and not these “clever” systems. One double bed (did I ever ask for two?). And someone that tells me a story before I go to bed.

  2. Darren Baker · July 31, 2013 Reply

    I have thought of this often. Why aren’t the hotels tracking our preferences like they track our stays? The hotel experience would be much better if they “remembered” us and our needs, and it would drive a great deal more loyalty with the brands.

*Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group