Running several hotels during COVID has taught me one thing: collaboration is vital to operating efficiently.
At Reneson, just prior to the pandemic, we wanted to streamline our staff communication on site and become a more collaborative, engaged organization overall. As a blueprint, we borrowed best practices from social media. Those platforms are effective at building connections and encouraging conversations while also being accessible and user-friendly – everything hotel organizations need to do better.
We implemented changes at our seven hotels just prior to the pandemic, but proof of concept came during COVID. Our Medallia scores jumped 15% to 20% while fielding more guest requests with a severely limited staff. Anecdotally, our staff reports being more engaged and empowered, which is crucial as hospitality struggles to find and maintain a quality labor pool.
Here’s how we did it:
Connecting our whole network and empowering employees
Think of your organization – whether it is a single property short on staff or an operator with dozens of properties – as a network.
We completely opened up the line of communications in our entire “network,” vertically, from housekeeping to the COO and horizontally across properties by connecting us all on a single platform. We’ve found this accomplishes a few things:
Employees can pose questions to each other across departments and properties to crowdsource answers. This is an effective way to uncover and share best practices. Plus, staff is more likely to ask questions or offer feedback in a passive, digital format. This approach also frees up managers from fielding so many questions during the week.
Similarly, management is posing more open questions to the full staff. For example, we had some rooms available out of the blue one weekend, and I threw it out there to everyone: What can we do? A front desk agent replied, mentioning an event in town none of us knew about, and our revenue team quickly targeted in on that business.
A more collaborative approach to communication also means everyone is tied to (and contributing more directly to) the bigger picture of the hotel and driving its success rather than just doing their own isolated job.
That all means more engagement, not just with just a single hotel, but in building a community and career in hospitality.
Adding guests to the network
Open lines of communication need to extend to the guest.
By extending digital communication to our guest messaging, we’ve found we receive more requests because guests are more willing to ask for help. Increasing the number of requests means increasing the number of issues we are taking care of – this directly correlates to our boost in guest scores. The workload needed to handle this increase in requests is also easier to manage because the flow of communication from guest request to task completion is streamlined.
Fully embracing digital communication
Whether it is a walkie-talkie and paper-based hotel staff, or a management team bogged down in meetings, many forms of hotel communication are outdated. Advancing to a modern, digital communication platform is crucial to becoming a more collaborative hotel organization.
Opening up lines of communication using older tools is either impossible or more likely to cause daily disruptions. Digital communication, on the other hand, allows everyone to respond when they have time without creating any actual gap in communication.
For hotel staff, digital communications add autonomy to their daily routine. They can access and address work orders more naturally within the flow of their day. For upper management, digital communications can eliminate the inefficient aspects of meetings while encouraging more dialogue. Digital communication helps staff on site operate more efficiently, but it also provides management with a snapshot of hotel activities at a level of detail they didn’t have previously – without micromanaging or wasting time sifting through old-school reports.
Selecting the right digital communications tool for all of this is important because each user needs to buy-in and find value. One tool might work great from a hotel owner’s perspective in how it captures and presents a snapshot of the hotel’s daily activities, but if it is a nuisance for the front desk and maintenance teams to use, then it either bogs down actual operations or they won’t use it all.
We wanted co-workers to interact in a way that’s more comfortable – commenting, asking questions, tossing in emojis. From our experience, it’s all about the interface. With a familiar messaging interface, hotel staff interacts more efficiently and more often, which is again why we gravitated to social media’s blueprint.
Regardless of your situation – from 100% occupancy and a maxed-out staff to low occupancy and a skeleton crew – a collaborative hotel strategy, built around digital communications, will allow your hotel organization to do more with less, while driving engagement and guest scores and meeting the needs of a modern workforce.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Curran served as a General Manager at several hotels over the course of 14 years before being promoted to Chief Operating Officer at Reneson, an owner-operator of 8 hotels in Northern California. Unable to find an application that allowed a direct connection with the guest as well as the ability to move the operational workflow online, Scott partnered with a software developer to build the tool himself, launching GuestEQ in early 2020.