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Mr. Torbet

Technology

Every Guest Brings a Screen

The New Battle for Guest Attention

By Peter Torbet, Director, Product Inovation, Acentic

Now the smart TV screen is the guest communication and entertainment portal, the hotelier has the chance to reach out and provide a more personalised service. If hoteliers support these services by offering a tiered system of bandwidth and investing in network infrastructure, they will keep their guests more than just connected - they will keep them coming back.

Long gone are the days when the hotel bedroom was dominated by the TV screen and it was the sole focus of attention for the guest, after the mini bar of course.

Screens still dominate our lives, but which screen and when, really depends on who you are and why you are staying in the hotel on that occasion.

Think back to when you last entered a hotel bedroom - what did you do? Reach for the television remote control and watch the local news, unpack your laptop and get connected to the Wi-Fi or check your mobile phone? Guest behaviour is totally driven by need and, of course, habit.

Different demographics follow different patterns of behaviour and if you are travelling for business you want your laptop firing away as quickly as possible to complete your tasks for the day. You may want to connect your laptop to the TV screen to practise a presentation on a larger screen, or stream your music through the TV speakers.

If you have your young family with you, you might want a favorite TV channel straight away to keep everybody happy while you sort out the unpacking. Moody teenagers will want to connect to the Wi-Fi and catch up with Instagram or Snapchat or stream the latest episode of a show over Netflix to while away the time until dinner. Everybody, but everybody is looking at a screen.

The trick to keeping all your guests happy in your hotel is no longer just robust HSIA (though that is more than half the battle I admit); it is having the technology that seamlessly allows all these screens to talk to each other. A recent Ericsson Mobility Report revealed that by 2021 the number of smartphones worldwide will have increased by 3 billion, so this is an issue hoteliers need to tackle right now.

At first glance this mobile revolution might seem to undermine the very role of the hotel's technology in the room. For example, nobody ever uses the hotel phone for anything other than room service and complaints to the front desk. So why don't we just give every guest a tablet so they can order up whatever they like. Does the room even need a TV screen anymore! Does the hotel simply just have to provide the right kind of high speed connectivity and leave the guest relationship shut in the server cupboard or cloud?

Of course not! Hospitality is at least a two-way process and to provide a warm welcome and excellent service you need technology to help you create this atmosphere, not stand in its place.

Technology Can Help You Create This Memorable, Personal Guest Experience

The smart TV screen is now at the heart of a guest communication and entertainment portal that will allow the hotelier to inform and reach out to the guest. It is a vital communication gateway, allowing genuine, meaningful and real time interaction with the guest. In-room entertainment is no longer provided solely by the hotel. Hotels are at the Hub of the guest communications, empowering them to stay connected to their own world and lifestyle. In this 'always on' world in which we live, this is vital to our guests.

On the other hand, the Hub connects both ways and the screen interface can also connect with the hotel, their facilities and special offers. Scrabbling through the room directory to find out if the spa has availability is time consuming and so often the directory is disappointingly out of date in a high percentage of rooms! Now hoteliers can broadcast a range of time-relevant, attractive messages to guests, keeping them in touch with all the latest offers. This can also turn your screen into a virtual publishing portal and offers from neighbouring attractions, airlines and shopping destinations can be hosted as well.

Personalisation is the future of customer service in every industry and the hospitality industry is rapidly realising the potential of technology to help them achieve this in meaningful ways. At one level technology can allow users to take control of favourite content stored on their devices and play them back or view them through the in room TV screen. Their own mobile device turns into the handset, controlling TV volume, channel change and view available TV channels and VOD movies.

Hotel chains such as Starwood, Marriott and Hilton have gone one step further. Guests can use their smart phones to gain access to rooms and hotel services. Other brands such as Hub by Premier Inn enable guests to use their devices to control room temperatures, adjust room lighting and change the channels on their televisions.

Where's the 'hospitality' in this I hear you ask? It is about remembering the guest experience for the next time they visit. It is about knowing your guests' preferences so they feel and value the personal touches.

Personalisation is the ultimate luxury that hoteliers can offer their guests these days. Customized touches are common in cars for example. In certain cars you can set your seat, steering wheel height, counter display and entertainment options (which these days allow for easy streaming of the driver's own music stored on a mobile or tablet). Nowadays hoteliers need to match this level of personalisation; mattress firmness, mini-bar contents, room smell, in-room massages or work-outs can all be personally selected to suit the guest.

The role of technology's is to assist in providing these services as well as logging personal preferences. Sensors can now be placed in the corridor which will enhance your green credentials by turning on lights and ambient music as you progress along a corridor. When you put your tray in the corridor another sensor can summon staff to come and collect the dirty tray or service your room in your absence. You can harness technology to focus on your guest in a way that wasn't possible previously without a bankrupting retinue of 'Downton Abbey' type staff!

The Conference Organiser and the delegates are also benefiting from this technological revolution and here too personalisation is at the heart of the changes. The new approach includes powerful conference management tools allowing delegates and organisers to have their own TV interface to extend the conferencing experience beyond that of the conference room. Enhanced internet access comes with customized portals on the in-room TV solution. This will enable a hotel to apply fully customized conference themed, welcome screens as well as a tailored on-screen directory.

So, we understand what is driving the growth and the new technology opportunities. It enables a closer understanding of guests and facilitates the provision of more personalised services. How does the smart hotelier go about making sure he has the high speed internet connections that he needs, enabling him to best serve his guests?

From the moment they check in guests are eating chunks of bandwidth through multiple devices, competing for data and putting pressure on networks. The requirement for upload speeds has increased so rampantly that all hotels should be running off a synchronous bandwidth line which is robust enough to allow a number of devices to stay connected at any time.

Simply increasing internet bandwidth is not enough to offer a better HSIA solution. A small percentage of guests could still use up most of the bandwidth in a hotel. However, by offering a tiered system of bandwidth, the hotel can keep a wide range of guests who have a need for more bandwidth more satisfied with their overall user experience, while also generating revenue from its HSIA. Your team needs to monitor the usage and spot any high volume demands for available bandwidth throughout the property. There is no point in attracting a major conference to your hotel if they don't have a seamless and continual Wi-Fi experience for both their presenters and delegates.

If you haven't reviewed your level of internet service provision over the last three years, you are in potential danger of losing guest loyalty through bad IT experiences. Even more crucially you are most certainly losing the chance to exploit the new revenue opportunities that may come from selling enhanced Wi-Fi services to guests.

Network infrastructure is the key foundation of the hotel operations and hotels need to invest in it. A hotel installing a new Wi-Fi network should future-proof its Wi-Fi equipment, so that it is always upgradeable to the latest wireless network standards.

Appropriate Wi-Fi needs to be accessible in all areas of a hotel so that guests can easily connect 24/7. Without an ideal number of access points (APs) throughout the property guests will lose connection and satisfaction scores will plummet.

Heat mapping combined with transmission sensitivity reports (measuring uplinks) can help identify how well APs will serve and meet guest Internet expectations.

When things do go wrong you need a well-trained team (with off-site back-up) to help manage fluctuating bandwidth demands and respond to guest's internet queries. This kind of support ensures that the hotel also gets good marks from its guests for helpful service.

At heart a successful Wi-Fi service has to be more of a 'partnership'. Planning, understanding, implementing and setting the right goals for an installation have to be part of this partnership to deliver seamless and faultless connectivity. This equally applies to new build properties and developers have even more of a responsibility to ensure they future proof the HSIA service.

One thing we all know for certain - Millennials expect a 'blazing' fast internet service and to attract them as your guests, your hotel needs keep them connected.

Peter Torbet has been with Acentic since he graduated with an Honours Degree in Product Design from De Montfort University, which included a placement at Aston Martin. In his role as Director, Product Innovation, Peter enjoys looking at products from a creative technologist perspective, identifying opportunities, defining and taking product specification and development from proof of concept stage through to market. Peter works very closely across all disciplines within Acentic, from Operations, Product Management and R&D, through to Sales. An advisor to the Executive Board of Acentic, Peter’s global remit sees him travelling the world to support all key territories including Asia, the US and EMEA. Mr. Torbet can be contacted at Please visit http://acentic.com/ for more information. Extended Bio...

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