The Hotel Integration Platform: From Systems to a Framework
In today’s hospitality landscape, we are missing out on key opportunities to offer a truly personalized experience to our most valued guests. In the first part of this Guest Experience series, I’ll cover how hoteliers can truly reach the gold standard of guest engagement by implementing a scalable, dynamic “framework” – starting with the Hotel Integration Platform.
Let’s look at this scenario – Jane Smith, a regular guest of Hotel Chain A, visits the hotel’s website and decides to sign up for their online loyalty program. To create her profile, she must first enter details such as her email, address, and phone number. She also adds in her preferences – her favorite temperature (18 degrees Celsius) and a high floor.
Jane arrives at the hotel – a towering skyscraper – for her stay. During check-in, the front desk agent asks, “Have you stayed with us before?” Strike 1.
She’s then asked to fill out a registration card with her address and signature. Strike 2.
To her dismay, Jane receives her room number and notices it’s on the 5th floor of the 30-story building. Strike 3.
She reaches her room and it is hot – 25 degrees Celsius. Strike 4.
While Jane’s experience is extreme, are any of us really strangers to these service failures?
Here lies the dilemma every hotelier faces: While we have the opportunity to gather and store large amounts of data on our guests, we are rarely (if ever) able to make it actionable. This could be because the integrations are too expensive, integrations between systems don’t exist, or because vendors just don’t want to integrate with one another. While we’d like to personalize each guests’ experience, we can’t possibly do that without extensive manpower in an already labor-intensive operation. But there’s a way.
Let’s talk about integrations
Many hotels have a multitude of systems both above-property and on-premise, from Property Management Systems (PMS), Central Reservations Systems (CRS), to In-Room Controls, Ticketing, and F&B. Now multiply these in the context of a hotel chain. Every hotel has a PMS, for example, but the PMS vendors may be different, or two hotels using the same PMS may be using them very differently.
To take it a step further, System A may not be able to communicate with System B, while System B might not be able to speak with System C. Connecting these systems to each other is no easy feat and often leads to a crisscross of unmonitored, point-to-point integrations. This creates a fragile environment that is likely to break down, often without anyone noticing, ultimately defeating its purpose. By the time we determine where and how it all went wrong, it’s often already too late and your guests’ experience has been compromised. It’s not just your guests this affects – the morale of your front line staff also takes a hit, because they are the ones who have to deal with unworkable technology and ultimately face your unhappy guests.
Remember that time NASA gave spiders drugs? Are we surprised that it is hard for us to get data when we build an architecture that looks the same?
To their credit, hotels are beginning to adopt integration platforms that help in countering these issues. These platforms integrate with many of your hotel systems and manage the flow of data between them. At a high level, this allows hoteliers to have a complete overview of their data flows and system performance, ensuring all properties are in sync, while also providing resilience to previously unmanaged, complex integrations.
Powerful and stable integration platforms enable hoteliers to capitalize on the synergies between systems by abstracting away the complexities between them. By keeping track of every message sent, the platform can immediately identify errors – thereby enhancing the accountability of your tech-stack by finding where issues originate.
For example, if an error message is detected from your PMS, the integration platform can identify this and generate an automated ticket for that specific issue to your IT team – saving valuable time that would otherwise have an adverse impact on your business.
It doesn’t stop there; the next logical step is enhancing your integration platform with micro-services to create a true middleware. This allows you to move past a simple platform that only allows for systems to plug into each other, and elevates it to one that enables the orchestration of solutions to complex problems. Through intelligent business logic based on your requirements, the platform can trigger different systems based on specific activities or events, creating a micro-service enhanced middleware platform.
When Jane Smith checks into the hotel, the middleware identifies her room preferences. From here, a fully automated business workflow is executed by middleware – invisible even to the front desk agent. It finds a room on a high floor that is already as close to 18 degrees as possible, sets the thermostat to 18 degrees, and assigns that specific room to Jane.
By the time her check in is complete, Jane’s expectations have already been met – if not exceeded – and she doesn’t even know yet.
From Platform to Framework
While the reasons to implement a middleware are clear, we must keep in mind that it is not just a plug-and-play solution. Realizing its benefits requires a strong paradigm shift: we should no longer have to accept the limitations of monolithic software, but instead build a tightly integrated, best-of-breed architecture that we can build a strong framework on top of.
The middleware will sit at the center of this framework, providing a strong foundation on which hoteliers can develop a framework through which:
- Every connected system can be enriched by the others;
- Systems that were never able to speak to one another are now able to converse seamlessly;
- Errors and failures are identified immediately so resolution can take place without your operations, or guests’ experience, being impacted.
Most importantly, you now have the ability to action the data you have on your guests to provide and exceed the level of service they have come to expect. This is where the platform truly becomes powerful as you start to innovate and begin transforming your business by building a framework that focuses exclusively on our raison d’etre: the guest. For all intents and purposes, a Guest Experience Framework. More on that, later.