Much continues to change since I authored my last article on mobile technology back in 2015 Going Mobile - Cultivating Your Hotel's Digital Ecosystem. As hotel brands seek to satisfy guests' desires to experience hotel interactions from their mobile device, the companies that serve the back-office needs of hoteliers are also ramping up in their capabilities to offer hotel financial and operations data to help properties increase efficiency and communication.
Mobile technology has rapidly grown into the perfect solution for the busy hotelier. No longer confined to their desk to review and manage financial and operations data, the general manager can now more readily get out from behind the computer screen to interact with their team, while still feeling connected to the continuous flow of data that helps in daily decision making to efficiently run the hotel. The integration of mobile as a workplace tool gives the hotelier the capability to interact with data on their terms, when and where they want.
What hasn't changed from 2015 is that we are increasingly tied to our mobile devices, even more so today. In fact, these pocket computers have all but become an extension of ourselves, traveling with us everywhere. The positive aspect of this is that we have continuous access to information and each other in ways that are making us more effective at making business decisions and serving our guests. The mobile lifestyle also gives us the ability to remain connected to our business when traveling or on the go, allowing us to communicate more effectively with our teams and keep pace with the hotel, even in our absence for extended periods.
While there can still be a sense of overwhelm with the sheer amount of data and the always connected world, smart back-office service providers are beginning to better wrap their arms around it and develop the tools for their clients to organize big data into digestible information, and it's proving to be a game changer in accountability and performance in many areas of hotel operations.
Let's take a look at the three C's of making mobile a game changer for your hotel when it comes to maximizing back-office performance:
*1. Centralizing Your Information to See the Big Picture *
There's never a good time to ditch the paper when it comes to convenience, but to truly take advantage of all of the benefits that mobile has to offer, you have to develop a plan to transition away from the old way of doing business and eventually leave paper (and in some cases desktops) behind. Left to some date in the future, you risk the chasm of disconnect between your team and your guests' needs growing even greater, particularly when it comes to hotel operations.
“It's imperative that GMs have a mobile solution to easily ‘zoom in' on internal or guest-facing issues and ‘zoom out' on big-picture trends that shape the hotel brand as a whole,” explains Scott Schaedle, founder and president of Quore, a leading online workflow management platform for hotels. “This critical balancing act can be nearly impossible for hotels confined to information stored on paper tickets, physical logbooks and clunky binders - especially for GMs responsible for multiple properties.”
At M3, we are seeing similar appetites for on-the-go data from all levels within our customer base; owners, investors, C-level, GM's and every position in between. The quick, almost overnight, adoption of our mobile app has reinforced the need to shrink big data into easy to digest, understand and wisely use. Data management is applicable to any position within a company, it is simply the manner in how the data is presented to each person that determines the relevance to each person/position.
The implications of replacing physical logbooks and outdated radios with mobile devices are innumerable. While a mobile-equipped staff leads to transparency and accountability between frontline employees and management, it also provides GMs with the big picture they need to make informed decisions. Before, the sink that stopped up constantly or the guest who complained about a funny smell from their room never got rolled up or pieced together. A mobile solution identifies these repetitions and tells a story. More importantly, implementing a mobile solution leads to increased guest satisfaction. From personalizing a guest's pre-arrival experience to properly addressing a complaint before check-out, mobile-powered hoteliers can proactively customize the guest experience.
And when it comes to managing a hotel's financial health, the necessity of maintaining a secure, cloud-based accounting solution is equally critical to the hotel leader on the go. Moving the processing of invoices to a document imaging solution offers an immediate return in improving the efficiency and accuracy of the accounts payable process, and eliminates the need for document storage and reduces postage. Companies like M3 have worked closely with clients to develop intuitive mobile apps that offer easy-to-read snapshots of the financial health of the hotel on a daily, monthly and yearly view. Hoteliers who find themselves traveling between properties frequently can remain connected to multiple hotels' performance stats that are centrally stored, allowing them to make quick decisions and communicate with their teams on-property to maximize performance.
“Like most people, I reach for my phone first thing in the morning to check the weather, look for texts from family and read emails. Now I can check the critical data from my hotels without opening my laptop,” explains M3 CEO and hotelier John McKibbon. “The M3 mobile app really brings Operations Management data to a whole new level. Everyone in my organization, from corporate executives to property managers, have already made it a part of their daily routine.”
2. Connecting Your Associates to Maximize Performance
Adopting a mobile strategy for your hotel presents a myriad of new opportunities for keeping associates connected, not only to each other, but to the business of the hotel and the needs of the guests. Tools like the intuitively-designed Quore mobile app offer a user-friendly interface to keep the team on the same page.
“Gone are the days of communicating in siloed departments, shifts and management,” says Quore's Schaedle. “Today's mobile-powered hotels roll up information into one platform to improve communication from staff to staff, staff to shift and staff to management. This dialed-in approach ensures visibility and accountability among the entire team while allowing GMs to access the information they need when and where they need it.”
Through implementation of back-office mobile tools like those offered by Quore and M3, the ability to keep the entire hotel team on the same page when it comes to operations and budgeting increases exponentially. Information is tracked and escalated through resolution, improving guest service. Financial reports and data that might have previously been shared on a monthly roll-up basis is now at the GM's fingertips to share with the team, so that they can fully understand how their actions and performance affect the bottom line.
And when it comes to connecting associates with human resources functions, mobile apps are helpful for meeting the expectations of today's mobile-savvy workforce. Apps like the one offered by Inova Payroll include self-service features like completing on-boarding tasks, viewing time-off balances and requesting time off, as well as accessing pay and benefits statements.
*3. Communicatig Your Brand to Improve The Guest Experience *
In addition to facilitating a number of guest transactions, mobile apps allow hotels to effectively communicate their brand message to guests throughout their stay and beyond. The same is true for your associates if you embrace mobile technology in the back-of-the-house, communicating essential brand messages over the course of the workday. “The opportunity for tactical efficiency with a mobile app is substantial,” explains Inova Payroll President and CEO Farsheed Ferdowsi. “But I think it's the opportunity to positively contribute to our relationships with our employees that is often overlooked. In most industries, we are so programmed to provide value to the customer, hotels incredibly so because their existence depends on it. Providing value to our employees is just as important.”
Rather than just a tool to prompt an associate to complete a necessary form, the mobile app becomes a direct communication channel that allows you to promote your brand's values, recognize associates for their good work, and create a team environment.
The use of mobile apps to encourage feedback and collaboration with associates offers an opportunity for a wealth of information about your guests and your processes. Your associates are the guests' front-line impression of your brand, and having a communication method that is convenient and time-relevant can make all the difference in capturing that data and honoring the voice of your associates.
While mobile apps continue to be at the forefront in most industries as a potential solution to nearly any business challenge, for the hospitality industry, there are several service providers who are making big strides in integrating mobile into the daily business practice of the hotels they serve. At the end of the day, these tools provide yet another way for us to communicate with our teams on their terms. While nothing will replace the effectiveness of in-person meetings and conversations, it's clear that hoteliers looking to increase internal visibility, accountability and guest satisfaction are turning to mobile solutions to manage big data and increase financial performance. And this is only the beginning of managing big data in the palm of our hand, as new tools continue to roll out to simplify this process.