SCOTTSDALE, AZ—Hotels depend on technology to operate smoothly but, with the amount of turnover at hotels, many properties can find it difficult to provide adequate training for their solutions. And, like anything else, technology does at times break down. That’s where Hotel Systems Solutions (HSS)—an integrated hospitality company entering its sophomore year—comes in.
“We initially formed HSS to fill a customer service void created from long hold times, and slow issue-resolution,” explained Erik Strom, cofounder. “Hotels were, and still are, frustrated with waiting weeks or months to receive that resolution. Furthermore, hotels experience high training cost, as well as low product optimization… we created Solutions to alleviate hotels’ frustrations.”
Scott McGraw, cofounder, added, “Hotels have purchased the best piece of software on the market but aren’t always using it to its full potential. Imagine buying the super car of your dreams, but only driving around the block because you don’t know how to drive a stick shift. If you knew how to drive a manual transmission, imagine what the car could do for you. Now, apply that same thinking to your software.”
Together, the cofounders have more than 40 years of hospitality management and technology experience to provide the hotel community with integrated systems and support for Opera PMS and POS, among others. Services HSS provides include professional consulting, system installation and configuration, operator and manager training, customized interfaces, forms (RDF and XML-based), custom reporting tools, and network and data center support.
Employee turnover is a significant problem when it comes to technology tools. McGraw noted that one of the biggest challenges that hotels face is information retention. “Employees frequently move from hotel to hotel, often taking that valuable knowledge with them. Keeping staff trained and making the technology work for the hotel are key,” he said.
Strom noted that this could be especially difficult with larger tech partners. “For example, a hotel purchases the application from the partner, it gets installed, the hotel is trained, and then they are supported by people at a helpdesk that are usually not intuitive on the application. If the hotel wants re-training, it becomes very costly to the hotel, and may take many months to schedule,” he explained. On the other hand, he said, challenges with smaller partners could be that they may overcommit themselves and have slower response times.
According to Strom, HSS can help mitigate these problems through assisting hotels in re-training on applications, refreshing what they forgot, demonstrating unused features and simplifying what the hotel is already using. McGraw added, “We understand that a breakdown in technology affects the entire operation; staff has to shift their focus away from the guest to fix broken technology. Our team is able to provide timely responses and solutions, and act as their liaison in the event an escalation to the manufacturer is needed.”
One of the biggest challenges can occur because technology systems have gotten larger and more complex. “We have found a lot of finger pointing, for lack of a better term, occurs,” explained Strom. “When an issue arises between multiple technologies, each company claims the issue is due to the other’s system. So, a hotel may go back and forth between technology partners until their issue is resolved. It is time consuming for hotels, and lowers their expectations on their technology partners’ customer service.”
McGraw noted that HSS came about because of this complexity in the market. “During my tenure at NOR1 as the integration manager, I was approached by several customers who were having challenges with other interfaces and didn’t know where else to turn,” he said. “Customers were asking a nonrelated vendor to assist them because they knew I understood the product.”
Strom had this advice for hotels to better utilize their technology: “First, understand the technology you currently have. Many hotels have great applications/technology already implemented, but may not be utilizing them to their full potential. Next, make sure you know your market… My final piece of advice would be to compare future needs with what a technology partner is currently offering. For instance, evaluate employee turnover and determine if the vendor provides a cost-effective, adequate and continuous training method. We have seen many tech providers train key people on the technology, and then those people are expected to continue the training to other hotel personnel. It’s hand-me-down training from one hotel person to the next. Call the company’s support line up front. Create an issue—one that may occur often in the hotel—and see how long the response time is, as well as issue resolution.”
— Nicole Carlino
Originally published on http://www.hotelbusiness.com/Hospitality/How-Can-Hotels-Fully-Leverage-Complex-Technology/53243