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The Tech Bandwagon: Three Reasons Why Mgmt is Slow to Jump on Board

Technology has advanced in all areas of hospitality bringing more data, operational efficiencies and speed to operations. Industry newsletters and corporate press releases announce the implementation of the latest technology on a daily basis. From computer controlled hotel rooms to remote drive-thru ordering centers to laser controlled ventilation hoods, new technology is hot. So why have many operators been slow to jump on the technology bandwagon?

Technological savvy
Many operators remember the frustration they had when trying to program a VCR, and hold on to the belief that you need an engineering degree to operate much of the technology being offered. Operators who have not adopted technology for their operations often say they are "uncomfortable" with technology and do not want a "crash" to occur during service that will leave them unable to do business. Many of these operators and decision makers are from a generation that did not grow up with technology as part of their operations or their recreation. The use of technology is unfamiliar to them and because of this they have less trust of it. This unfamiliarity is readily apparent when you talk about the new marketing tools being used throughout the industry. The terms Twitter, Facebook and mobile-marketing bring blank stares from many hospitality executives.

Today's successful operators cannot afford to lack knowledge of the new technologies available. The last few years have seen sweeping changes in point of sale (POS) systems, online ordering, marketing methods, green appliances and digital information exchange, just to name a few areas. If an operator is not comfortable with the new technologies, they need to designate someone in their organization to evaluate the benefits of implementing the technology.

Operators need to get past their fear of technology and become familiar with the benefits of it. They need to understand that their workforce is probably very comfortable with technology and would welcome it. Operators also need to actively participate in product demos to see the benefits first-hand.

Face time and customer satisfaction
Many organizations in the hospitality business still feel that "face time" with the customer is the key to customer service. These organizations believe that the more time their staff can spend with the customer, the more time that they can service the customer. Their training and operations focus is on being in contact with the customer as a way of satisfying them. The more "moments-of-truth" that they have, the better.

What operators fail to realize is that many customers do not want, or need, that face time to feel as though they have received good service. The airline industry has cut back on the need for visiting the check-in counter by allowing online check-in and the use of airport check-in kiosks. Customers can now proceed directly to the boarding gate without the "face time" with the customer service rep at the check-in counter. Hotels are beginning to see the benefits of this approach with tablet-carrying service reps who meet guests as they enter the hotel and check them in while they sit in a comfortable chair.

Operators also need to better understand their customers' needs and how technology can help them to meet those needs. In some cases, technology should be implemented to increase face time with the customer. Handheld POS units give restaurant servers the ability to stay on the floor longer, and eliminate the need to stand in line waiting for a POS station to open up. This in turn, means that the server can pay more attention to the table.

Associated costs
Many in the hospitality industry have had a long-held belief that purchasing equipment is a necessary expense that will reduce the bottom line. They perceive large cash outlays for equipment of any kind as something to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. They are particularly skeptical of outlays of cash for technology.

Successful operators understand that the use and implementation of new technologies should be looked at as an investment instead. Operators need to look at the new technologies through the lens of a cost-benefit analysis. How much is the new technology going to cost and what will the savings be? Will the new technology make your operation more efficient? Will it help you to deliver better service to your customers? What are all of the costs involved? What other benefits will be gained?

There is a lot of exciting technology being offered in hospitality that can make an operator's life easier, more profitable and more efficient. Before jumping in and making a purchase, operators need a thorough understanding of the benefits of the technology. The final decision should come down to the answer to this important question: how will this technology allow me to better serve my customers. If the technology will help them satisfy their customers and will provide a financial return. then it is an easy decision.

Phil Mott is an assistant professor at Kendall College's School of Hospitality Management in Chicago. Mott is a longtime veteran of the restaurant industry, former proprietor of the French restaurant, Le Francais, and a restaurant consultant.
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