Covid-19: How to Operate Your Hotels Remotely

By Stig Lagerstedt 16. June 2020

Remote operations can solve challenges for hoteliers.Reopening in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, many hotels find themselves both critically understaffed and financially drained. Now, hospitality professionals need to reexamine how their operations and guest-facing services can successfully function. Remote operations can solve several of these challenges.

Companies that enable remote work have exploded in the wake of coronavirus. Zoom, Slack and Atlassian are hovering near all-time highs when the broader S&P 500 is down more than 20 %. While your hotel can’t go fully remote for obvious reasons, now is the time to improve operational capabilities and optimize areas that can be managed remotely.

With hotels critically understaffed while also financially and emotionally drained due to the current crisis, hospitality professionals are among the most in need of reexamining how their operations and guest-facing services can successfully function when staff resources are limited, spread out across a property or are otherwise unable to work onsite.

Free guide: Modernizing the Hotel Access Management System

Meet Guests’ Expectations

By adopting best practices, including those featured in this blog, hoteliers can be sure of their ability to remotely and effectively run their business. This is regardless of whether there are external or internal factors playing a role in reducing the availability of personnel within a specific hotel location. 

Now that employees have demonstrated their ability to carry out their responsibilities from virtually anywhere, industry professionals can work towards providing a safer hotel environment that enhances social distancing capabilities by meeting their guests’ expectations, while also improving the overall service experiences.

Suggested reading: Meeting Hotel Cleanliness and Distancing Standards Post-Coronavirus

Going Remote Starts with a SWOT Analysis

As each hotel possesses its own unique operational requirements and challenges, property leadership should always begin their transition to remote-working capabilities by examining and identifying what works best for the specific needs of their business and guests.

Savvy tech buyers will recognize this process as a pre-requisite to start with internal capability mapping and problem identification, otherwise known as a hospitality SWOT analysis. To ensure that appropriate remote-compatible solutions are identified, any strong analysis must now take into account how the post-COVID environment has or will affect regulations and guest expectations.

Identify Weaknesses

First, you will need to compare your BC (before COVID-19) organizational chart with your AD (after disease) chart to identify any weaknesses where you are now understaffed. These are the places where cloud-based technology with remote-working capabilities can be used to fill the gaps through effective operations management.

Next, you’ll need to map out the guest journey and perform another round of SWOT from the perspective of your team to determine how such technology can enhance guest services while also addressing new market health concerns.

This part of the analysis must identify the contact areas where guests or staff would ordinarily either

  1. a) touch an amenity such as a credit card reader or
  2. b) locations that may lead to close contact with other people

Maintain a Successful Hotel Business

The end goal is to identify where and how a remote-based solution can be leveraged to enhance guest satisfaction and not detract or disrupt the required positive experiences.

Using this “two cut” SWOT analysis will show you where to focus your time, energy and resources in implementing remote-based technology that can assist with maintaining a successful hotel business at all times.

Mapping the Guest Journey to Cloud Technology

Wherever your analysis lands in the tech stack and guest journey, you’re going to need cloud-based software to allow your team to run properties remotely at a moment’s notice if needed. This is because any number of factors, from health concerns to economic hardship, can suddenly arise that make working onsite or in close proximity to others either impractical or impossible.

At the core of achieving the ability to run a successful remote operation lies a modern cloud PMS.  A cloud PMS allows your general manager to make decisions and execute business strategies remotely from any mobile device or computer. Additionally, these systems are generally designed from the ground up with open APIs.

As the central operating system of any hotel, a cloud PMS enables the ability to implement other remote-based systems and services that have an impact on operations management and the guest journey - without this you’ll find that other remote-compatible upgrades you want to implement within your hotel are difficult to make.

Remote Guest Service

Now more than ever, your front desk and call center agents need to offer guest services that are able to address concerns over coming into close contact with others or risking exposure to surfaces that may transmit germs. As guests consider booking with your property in these uncertain times you’ll need to assure them that your property is open and capable of delivering a safe experience.

With guests now accustomed to receiving instant results, your hotel will also need to provide them with the ability to interact with services in a way that always ensures immediate service and satisfaction regardless of their proximity to staff. Remote technologies such as website live chat tools enable your team to cater to such needs by allowing them to connect directly with guests without physically being close by or even on-property.

With many properties likely to be understaffed for some time, once guests are checked in, they’ll need help understanding key property information and accessing services (the ones that are available). Guest messaging software can serve as an effective solution throughout the entirety of a guest’s stay by providing the ability for them to receive hotel information or make requests the moment they are desired, despite the number of staff physically present at any particular time.

Enhancing Hotel Guest Experiences

Representing a pivotal aspect of the guest experience and in running a successful hotel, the check-in process and in-stay experience is the most critical facet of running your property remotely to ensure that business can continue to run smoothly and that guests continue to feel safe.

Remote access management solutions like Vostio Access Management enable your team to cancel keycards, receive intruder alerts and assign room access via an RFID encoder from virtually anywhere. This ensures that guests can still gain seamless room access while ensuring that potential security threats are always monitored and addressed without the need for staff to be at the front desk or near a stationary terminal.

Mobile Hotel Key

In the era of social distancing and reduced surface contact, there are also two critical ways that a cloud-based access system can assist guests with checking-in safely and protecting their health:

  1. Mobile check-in: An advanced cloud-based access management system will be fully compatible with services that allow guests to use personal devices to check-in remotely. This eliminates the need to wait in-line at the front desk and risk coming into close contact with others.
  2. Digital keys: Hotels can further provide guests with the ability to gain access to their rooms or other hotel areas by using their smart devices as a digital key. This sidesteps the requirement to provide guests with physical keycards which may lead to the transmission of diseases.

Even prior to the rise of the health pandemic, guests consistently voiced their preference for virtual key services as a means to enhance convenience and achieve faster service. Cloud access management systems therefore not only facilitate the ability to implement technologies that can further safeguard guest health. They can also ensure that hoteliers are able to fully meet heightening guest expectations for what qualifies as a satisfactory and hassle-free hotel stay experience.

Hotel staff can perform effective team collaboration with the correct cloud-based software.

Managing Remote Staff Operations

The last piece of the puzzle to ensure that hotels can operate at reduced staff levels or with employees working at a distance from one another revolves around maintaining active and effective team collaboration via remote work capabilities.

Essential options to consider include cloud-based housekeeping and engineering software. Systems such as these can allow your team to digitize SOPs (standardized operating procedures) and ensure that regardless of staffing levels, physical proximity or new protocols, your team is nonetheless able to effectively communicate and iterate process flows by altering the checklists and workflows of fellow team members.

Platforms now also exist that can serve as fully comprehensive remote work management systems, allowing physically distanced hotel leadership and department personnel to for instance, continue the effective scheduling of labor resources and the assigning an array of property-wide tasks. Such tasks can include the remote assigning of guest requests to appropriate team members or the dispatching of an employee to oversee the needs of arriving vendors. Other examples further include assigning staff to routinely check the performance and condition of on-site equipment such as elevators, air conditioning units or refrigerators.

In addition to ensuring the ability to maintain efficient staff workflows and procedures, advances in cloud-based software can also provide opportunities to remotely manage numerous hotel finance-related operations. These can include the ability to oversee and control inventory levels, track real-time hotel sales performance, review property accounting and expense data and many more.

Investing in Remote Technology Means Investing in your Hotel’s Future Success

Perhaps the most defining characteristic of hotels in contrast with all other businesses is that hotels are open 24/7 and never close their doors. Retail businesses have key holders but hotels have historically never needed the capability to close their doors let alone run remotely. However, as recent events and trends demonstrate, the ability to implement remote-compatible systems and services can make all the difference in being able to continue running a successful and efficient operation that can meet both business and guest needs.

The investments that you make today in running a contactless and semi-remote operation can therefore continue to pay off for many years to come as the industry shifts and needs to adapt new challenges or demands.

Why not download our guide on Hotel access management system? Here, you’ll learn how to prepare for the immediate future - making your hotel stand strong and ready for the industry’s latest trends and challenges.

From the content:

  • What to expect from the access management system
  • Key elements in the next hotel access management system
  • Checklist: Signs that you need to update your systems

Modernizing the Hotel Access Management System  Download our free guide now ›

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By: Stig Lagerstedt

Stig is VP of Hospitality Solutions for ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions and responsible for ensuring that company market strategies and innovation efforts align with customer needs. He is a member of our team for more than 20 years and recognized as an established expert in hospitality technology. Stig has played a central role in the acquiring of several company patents that have pushed industry security and operational efficiency abilities to new heights.

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