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How Hotels are Mobilizing Staff

In order to gain efficiency, offer real-time access and streamline operations, many hotel operators are equipping staff with mobile devices, allowing them to perform duties from anywhere on the property. Whether its smartphones or tablets, company-owned or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), many operations are being performed on the go.

“As you mobilize the guest experience, you can integrate that with the staff and have an incredible customer service experience that can’t be beat,” says Jonathan Stark, a mobile strategy consultant based in Providence, R.I. “The end goal is to create a customer service experience that is jaw dropping.”
One area where many hotels are finding success with mobility is replacing two-way radios carried by housekeeping, maintenance, and other hotel staff with a mobile device. Not only is it less disruptive to hotel guests, but it also allows staff to respond more quickly, and the property to track requests and work orders electronically.

At Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (, the company mobilized its work order entry system, HotSOS by Newmarket International Inc. (, which it began using in December 2013. All hotel employees and supervisors carry iPods or iPhones using the HotSOS app, and can enter, view and respond to any hotel housekeeping or maintenance issues. Whether it’s a water leak or a room that needs new linens, everything goes through the HotSOS system, says Dan Lynn, director of IT at the hotel.

“It’s less disruptive to guests compared to using radios, and everything is now in real time,” he explains. “Also, as long as the employee is carrying the iPod or iPhone, you can get in touch with them right away, whereas before you had to wait for them to come back and check into the office. It’s a much quicker resolution to problems.”

For Philadelphia-based HHM, ( operating 115 hotels across the United States and formerly known as Hersha Hospitality Management, the objective in mobilizing employees was to create better accountability and faster problem resolution. Using hotel ServicePro by Hotel Systems Pro Inc. ( the chain not only tracks guest requests and work orders, but features an escalation system where requests are bumped up higher after 15 minutes.

“All our departments are utilizing iPods and mobile phones to communicate guest requests and work orders throughout the hotel,” says Hiram Negron, regional director of operations at HHM, explaining the next step is to move to iPads and tablets. “The system has reduced the use of two-way radios, and improved efficiency by allowing teams to use mobile devices to close requests and orders.”

Key to the success of any mobility program is a reliable wireless network, and SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills ( turned to Nomadix ( wireless Internet access gateways for its guest network, which is also the network employees use to communicate via mobile devices, according to Ahmed Shalaby, director of IT at SLS. The housekeeping and maintenance departments utilize Vertical Systems Inc.’s V Inspect mobile app ( The property also recently implemented Kipsu (, a guest engagement platform.

At check-in, guests provide their mobile telephone number and can communicate with the hotel staff via text messages during their stay on the property. The texts not only go to the mobile phone of the manager and supervisor working at the time, but also get logged into the computer system, notes Shalaby.

“The staff will get the notice right away and can respond back,” he explains. “It all gets recorded into the web-based system and allows us to quickly respond to any guest issues and resolve problems while they are still here, rather than looking through complaints after they checkout. It’s been very successful.”

Mobility raises matters of security
Whether a hotel is using company-owned devices or BYOD, security is always a concern with mobility. At Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, the property uses Airwatch by vmware’s ( mobile device management (MDM) solution to track the iPods, which are company owned, and iPhones, which in some cases are owned by employees.

The hotel offers three options for employees: a company-owned device, where the company pays for the monthly charges and device; BYOD, where the employee purchases the phone, but the company will pay the monthly charges; or a hybrid where the company pays the monthly fees, but employees have the option to buy the phone from the hotel, giving them more control over upgrading the phone to the newest option available.

“We use Airwatch to monitor all the devices, and the employee will sign a waiver if they own the device,” Lynn explains. “Since it’s on our network and accesses company email, if the device is lost, we can send a remote wipe command to remove any data and the waiver addresses that.”

At SLS, a Starwood hotel, the devices are all company-owned, and employees sign a waiver stating they will not use the device for anything outside of business. Also, each device has an Iron App, which is Starwood’s security software to enforce security and policy, says Shalaby. HHM also uses company-owned devices, which are programmed by the chain’s IT department and secured with a PIN code, and all system logins are controlled by management, Negron notes.

Setting the groundwork for mobile management
In order to embark on any type of mobility program in the hospitality space, there needs to be a good infrastructure in place, including wireless coverage, which is why SLS implemented the Nomadix gateways, according to Shalaby.

“One of the most integral components to mobile management is having a good WiFi system. If internal networks are not streaming, the devices become useless and you will quickly build up a frustration level,” Lynn notes.

Compatible devices and a strong wireless signal throughout the building will allow everyone on staff to send and receive the communications and handle calls in a timely fashion, according to Negron.

Furthermore, training, policies and procedures must be set, and getting employees excited about using the new systems is another key component of a successful mobile program.

“It’s important to get employee buy-in and make sure they understand why the company is doing it and what the benefits are,” Lynn explains. “Then make sure you have security in place, whether it’s an MDM solution or password strategies.”   

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