iPads Break Inn at Penn's Paper Trail
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While being socially and environmentally conscientious has been at the forefront of important hospitality initiatives for the past few years, as a hotel manager, one has to wonder how you can achieve both of these goals without infringing on the guest experience.
The Inn at Penn began a major overhaul in redefining the guest experience by focusing heavily on socially and environmentally-friendly programs. When the hotel began planning a multi-million dollar renovation in late 2009, the main focus was redefining the guestroom experience, and on leveraging technology to communicate, advertise and offer services, all while changing a traditionally paper driven culture.
At first, The Inn at Penn sought technology that would allow us to engage guests via their in-room television. However, upon the belief that guests would prefer to have an uninterrupted television experience, management decided to continue its search for the right solution to fit the hotel’s needs. During the research phase, hotel management had heard some buzz surrounding a company that offers guest services using the Apple iPad. The company, called Intelity, is the creator of ICE (Interactive Customer Experience), a guest portal that allows travelers to access hotel services, make reservations and obtain information (such as the weather). This seemed like a brilliant way to engage guests, eliminate volumes of printed material and offer a service including problem resolution.
Although The Inn at Penn is able to resolve one-third of guests’ problems, the reality is that we may only be getting to about half of the real problems. The Inn at Penn maintains some of the highest scores within the Hilton Worldwide community in regard to its service scores and responsiveness to guest issues. However, no matter how good you may think that you are, you can always improve.
This project alone was a tremendous undertaking. In partnership with the University of Pennsylvania The Inn at Penn embarked on this journey and committed to being the flagship hotel for this particular system, not only within Hilton, but as the first hotel in the city of Philadelphia.
After a several months of research and development, The Inn at Penn installed the iPads in every guestroom with the Intelity ICE software. Hotel management found that during the planning and development of the installation, it was important to ask a lot of questions; when you think you have no questions left to ask, include others in the dialogue so that you know all of your bases have been covered. Although The Inn at Penn had a project manager, management found it invaluable to involve all of its operations and IT teams. It is a best practice to involve all who are going to implement and work on an initiative. When you are trying to get everyone “on board” with a venture like this, it is absolutely imperative that everyone has the opportunity to provide their input.
The guests have been extraordinarily responsive and engaged with the system. Within the first week of deployment alone, the system experienced a 91% usage rate. Because The Inn at Penn is located on the campus of an Ivy League institution (The University of Pennsylvania), the clientele base tends to be very progressive and expects the latest and greatest in technological advances. Technology continues to change the way that we get and receive information. Gone are the days of static information that only allows a single dimensional view.
The Inn at Penn is proud to be the flagship for Hilton and to have partnered with University of Pennsylvania on this project. The hotel is breaking the paper mold and serving guest dynamically and efficiently with the touch of their fingertips.
Greg Stafford was appointed general manager of The Inn at Penn in 2009. A hospitality industry veteran with more than 25 years of hotel management experience, Stafford has served in a multitude of both general manager and opening general manager roles with distinctive hotels in various parts of the country, including such major urban markets as Washington, DC, Chicago, Atlanta and Orlando.