Few if any industry professionals would have predicted a severe lack of available labor resources being a leading hospitality challenge just one year ago. Yet if anything can be said about the influence of the pandemic on hotel performance and needs, it is that it is unpredictable and hoteliers must make use of any means available to swiftly adapt to suddenly changing market conditions.
With summer 2021 projected to experience a record spike in travel due to pent up consumer demand, the industry now finds itself in a race to fill the 2.8 million jobs that practically vanished overnight as a result of COVID-19, but that are now crucial to ensuring returning guest satisfaction. However, with many ex-staff obtaining new employment since being furloughed hoteliers find themselves with limited options to regain pre-pandemic service efficiency and quality levels. The first option is to attract potential employees by increasing starting pay for open jobs. Although, while this may create stronger interest from candidates a hotel’s operational expenses will rise significantly which ultimately can lead to higher guest fees.
Fortunately and thanks to ongoing advances in work and service automation technology, hoteliers have another choice available that can provide guests with the service quality that they expect while keeping costs down. From guest self-service platforms and chatbots to AI-based labor management tools, this blog identifies the most effective solutions now available that should be a part of any hotel’s reopening strategy.
Streamline Guest and Staff Communication
With influxes of new guests arriving by the hour, short-handed staff can quickly become overwhelmed juggling multiple requests which raises the risk of tasks slipping through the cracks and affecting satisfaction rates. To combat this issue, hoteliers should consider the adoption of mobile-based guest messaging platforms that can alleviate much of the load from the front desk and other guest-facing departments. While initially viewed as a guest convenience-enhancing feature, guest messaging services also can streamline operations by eliminating the need for staff to act as a middle person and instead automatically directs requests to appropriate departments.
As any hotel employee can no doubt relate to, many guest queries are same ones asked daily which require the same response but that still take up valuable time. Here too, advanced guest messaging solutions that include AI-based chatbot abilities can offer an additional benefit by automatically responding to commonly asked questions such as inquiries into restaurant hours or details on what onsite attractions are available. These abilities not only allow hotel staff to focus their attentions on more immediate responsibilities but also ensures that guest needs are always addressed in a timely manner.
Make the Most Out of the Guest Self-service Trend
Even before the start of the pandemic, self-service solutions such as kiosks were already enjoying substantial adoption rates due to offering instant-convenience and either no or drastically reduced wait times. Now, self-service technologies can also be put to valuable use in streamlining employee responsibilities and decreasing the number of areas requiring human supervision.
Digital keys and Mobile check-in is just one self-service platform example that can automatically eliminate a routine, yet time-consuming process from the moment a guest arrives. By allowing guests to check-in digitally and use personal devices as a room key, digital key technologies can simultaneously enhance guest experiences, ensure social distancing and minimize guest lines at the front desk.
Another popular example of self-service technology that hotels should consider is the implementing of self-pay services for high traffic areas such as onsite restaurants, bars or shops. This again not only results in faster service for guests but also translates into less employees required to successfully operate specific departments.
Invest in Newer Labor Management Tools
Ensuring that available labor resources adequately match upcoming demand can be a daily challenge in its own right, but given the current state of unpredictability and with groups of employees having to quarantine due to a positive COVID test, its difficulty has only increased. Core to a hotel’s recovery strategy should therefore be adopting an advanced labor management and staff scheduling platform that can circumvent these issues by using advanced formulas to instantly determine future labor demands and provide recommendations on the best use of available resources. With today’s employees also seeking more flexible schedules, these platforms can also prove to be invaluable in structuring work schedules and shift lengths that can seamlessly accommodate suddenly arising employee unavailability without jeopardizing service quality or guest satisfaction.
While the hotel industry has traditionally been viewed as being a step behind other markets in terms of technology adoption, the new realities of having to maintain a clean, seamless and enjoyable hotel environment despite worker shortage issues have spurred a resurgent interest in adapting newer innovations. What exact technologies make the most sense for a hotel to adopt may ultimately vary based on a number of unique property factors. However and thanks to the ongoing ingenuity of the industry’s providers, hoteliers are certainly not without options when it comes to identifying solutions that are proven to make employee and hotel management lives easier.