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HT Talks Tech with Founder of Hello Guest Screen

HT caught up with Crystal Shell, founder of Hello Guest Screen, the leading solution to customize property screens with unique images and real-time, calendar-synced guest information.
Crystal Shell
Crystal Shell's vision for Hello Guest Screen is to make it a standard feature in every short-term rental, from Airbnb to VRBO.
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What drew you to the hospitality industry? What was it and how did it influence you?

Crystal Shell, founder of Hello Guest Screen,: “Early in life, I was fortunate to travel extensively, and I have vivid memories of the exceptional experiences provided by staff, servers, and concierges at various hotels and establishments. The way they attended to every detail and went out of their way to make guests feel special left a lasting impression on me. Their dedication to creating a welcoming and delightful atmosphere inspired a deep appreciation within me for the art of hospitality.

Witnessing how these professionals could transform an ordinary moment into something extraordinary fueled my desire to replicate that feeling for others. It became clear to me that my passion lay in serving others, making them feel valued, and enhancing their overall well-being.”

Can you pinpoint the moment when you decided to become an IT professional for the hotel industry?

Shell:   “With over 30 years in the IT field, even before attending college, and as an avid traveler who often stays in rental homes, I’ve identified numerous ways to streamline processes for guests using technology. This was especially crucial during the pandemic when guests prefer avoiding physical guidebooks and house instruction paperwork.”

What type of professional goals have you set for yourself recently?

Shell:  “My vision for Hello Guest Screen is to make it a standard feature in every short-term rental, from Airbnb to VRBO. Even then it may be called a 'standard amenity,' it’s anything but standard. The feature and functions are so intuitive and feedback from my properties and those of other property management companies using it has been overwhelmingly positive, with guests expressing genuine adoration for the thoughtfulness of seeing their personalized messages.”

Have there been any specific hurdles you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are now in your career?

Shell:  “There aren't enough trees to write this all down! Starting my IT career so long ago, in a predominantly male industry, made advancing difficult, which is one of the reasons I was motivated to start my own company 24 years ago.”

What is one piece of advice would you give to women who are looking to advance their IT careers within the hospitality industry?

Shell:  “Research thoroughly — numerous resources offer insights into your IT career. Pursue advanced certifications and clarify your career path, be it management or hands-on programming. Continuously enhance your resume to showcase updated skills and knowledge, positioning yourself for promotions aligned with the ever-changing IT landscape.”

Tell us about the mentor who has helped guide your career development? 

Shell:  “I've been fortunate to have a wonderful female mentor who has been a tremendous help to me. When starting a business or launching a new product, you often have a sense of what needs to be done. While, no one can sell it quite like you can, in my experience, understanding ‘what NOT to do’ is even more critical. These are the pitfalls that can consume time, drain finances, and damage your reputation. Therefore, when you have the opportunity to learn from someone experienced, focus first on what to avoid.”

Are you a mentor? What is involved with being one?

Shell:  “As I mentioned earlier, I've always felt a calling to ‘serve’. Now, I have several proteges reaching out to discuss their journeys into the IT world and entrepreneurial ventures. Our partnership with the nonprofit CNI-Solution allows us to support new entrepreneurs and startups in neighboring communities through year-round classes and mentorship. By collaborating with CNI, we contribute to their mission of serving the community. It’s a great feeling when you know you are assisting others with their dream.”

Hello Guest Screen tv screen
Hello Guest Screen is designed to uplevel the guest experience in short-term rental,s from Airbnb to VRBO.
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Women are typically underrepresented in IT jobs, especially at leadership levels. What are your thoughts on how men can help women achieve higher levels of responsibility within their company?

Shell:  “Men in leadership roles should prioritize company guidelines regarding experience, education, and performance. Additionally, recognizing that many women’s natural ability to multitask can further inform their decisions. (I’m smiling as I say it, but we all know it’s true).”

What is one IT accomplishment you are most proud of and why?

Shell:  “Hello Guest Screen is my proudest achievement. It allows me to continue enhancing guest experiences and making them feel special. It has been a true labor of love, envisioning features that go beyond displaying just their name to celebrating special occasions the moment they turn on the TV. The idea sparked when I encountered a basic screen in a rental showing only the city, date, and time. I aimed to create a luxury display akin to what you find in high-end hotels and resorts, catering to hosts with anywhere from 1 to 100 properties.”

What is one problem or issue facing specifically the hospitality IT industry that you’re most interested in fixing or finding solutions for?

Shell:  “There were several challenges, but we've addressed a few. The primary issue for me was reducing the clutter of notes, paperwork, and instructions in properties—often stained or written on by guests—to a single QR code on the display screen. This solution enhances elegance, simplicity, and most importantly, environmental friendliness.”

What is one reason why you love working in the hospitality IT industry?

Shell:  “I’m a natural-born problem solver.  My brain starts at the end and works backward –though it doesn’t sound good when I read or say it out loud, it works for me.  I enjoy visualizing the end result in my mind and then programming, planning, or developing the solution to achieve that outcome. Whether it’s observing someone’s positive response or simply knowing I've resolved the issue, the feeling of success is truly exhilarating.”

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