Most of us don’t want to think about our business phone system. If you are a hotelier, whether owner, operator, management company, or brand franchisee, it is likely the last thing you are considering in the new year is a phone system unless you are forced to do so. However, an effective and reliable method of communication is a cornerstone of any successful business, but even more so in hospitality. It is the lifeline to your customers and staff, both onsite and off-property.
If you are new to your property, you may only have been given a cursory overview of the existing phone system. Some PBX equipment is so old that staffing has likely changed many times since the system was installed. If that is the case, you may be heading towards an uncomfortable awakening since most PBX equipment is nearing the end of its lifecycle. While leasing business equipment has been a standard practice for years, many hotels purchased their PBX system 10-15 years ago. Like any aging technology, it requires ongoing maintenance, often an average of 25 hours of service a month.
As the expense of maintaining an ongoing service contract continues to grow, this aging technology is fading fast. Many hoteliers are finding it more and more expensive to repair existing equipment as parts become difficult to obtain. It’s like keeping grandma’s old black-and-white television going or using a modem and dial-up to communicate with the outside world.
Free Isn’t Free – The Devil Is in the Details
Cloud technology has changed everything, including the way we do business. In the past 10-15 years, the ability to communicate via the cloud is as ubiquitous as the cell phone in your pocket.
A cloud-based phone system is not only a less expensive platform but also the communication vehicle of the future. Today’s advanced cloud communication systems allow for calls to be made over the internet rather than over traditional analog phone lines that use copper wires. Even more important is that, typically, cloud-based voice services are less expensive than traditional phone lines because they are bundled with additional cloud services such as 24/7 support and ongoing updates.
Cloud communication systems can be used with various devices, including traditional analog phones, smartphone apps, computer software, or VoIP-enabled phones. Rather than maintaining software via an on-premise server, all information and data are stored in the cloud. This helps you save on costly maintenance and updates since everything can be easily updated remotely.
While many hotels are turning to internet providers to update their communication needs, they may be tempted to take advantage of some of the “calling included” offers being made to the hospitality industry. These “deals” are being bundled if you purchase their other services however these offers only fracture a communication system, leaving the hotelier or, worse, onsite property staff to wonder who to call for service.
Look for a company that isn’t selling you bits and pieces. It is time to look behind the sales and marketing curtain to ensure you partner with a vendor that continuously updates custom features and services and provides a unified front for equipment, software, maintenance, and support.
Five Advantages of a Cloud Communications Platform
Here’s a list of advantages for moving from your old PBX or analog phone system to the cloud. Remember, you are buying a communication platform, not a phone system.
- One call should fix it all – Does your staff know who to call if your phones go down? If you are still managing an old PBX system, you are likely dealing with multiple vendors for maintenance and support. These include your local phone company, the PBX hardware vendor, a phone hardware vendor, onsite support technicians, and an internet provider. Does the vendor selling you your phone system also provide ongoing updates? Which vendor do you call when something goes wrong? Fewer vendors mean more efficiency.
- Understand the focus of your phone vendor – Does the potential vendor only work with hotels? Having the expertise to understand the needs of your staff and customers can be a game changer. If you are dealing with a large PBX manufacturer or internet service provider, you may be dealing with sales and support teams unfamiliar with your needs. The bigger the company, the more calls you need to make. Simplicity should be a key factor when determining your communication system.
- Upfront cost savings, consolidated billing, fixed costs – How many bills are you paying related to your phone system? You are paying too much if you pay more than a single invoice for phone-related services and support. Cloud communication systems work over the internet, making it easy to centralize your business communications in a single platform and do so without meddling with the infrastructure and telecommuting technology. Additionally, costs should be fixed and without ongoing annual increases.
- Ongoing updates and a consolidated dashboard – Communication systems are more efficient in the cloud. Think about software-as-a-service; no one buys a physical piece of software. Not only is the original software downloaded from the cloud, but it is also updated seamlessly with new features and functionality. And it is all done remotely. Does your phone vendor provide an easy-to-use system management dashboard for front and back offices? Ask for a demo to ensure you are getting what you pay for.
- Easily interfaces with your property management system (PMS) and is continuously updated to meet FCC compliance – While it may seem like a no-brainer, you may find out your phone system doesn’t interface with your PMS. Make sure you ask before you move ahead. Also, the FCC often regulates nationwide updates to our phone services. As Congress continues to pass legislation designed to prevent spam or initiate a unique emergency service number such as the Suicide Hotline, your phone system provider should be able to immediately update your system with the necessary changes.
When buying any new technology, it is essential to commit time to research the proper components, including the hardware, software, maintenance, support, and integration with your existing platforms. But changing your phone system doesn’t need to be complicated and expensive. Today’s savvy cloud communications providers have worked tirelessly for years to ensure your phone system is one less thing you need to worry about.
While it can seem intimidating, with a little planning, moving your hotel’s phone system to the cloud will bring you benefits that a traditional PBX can never match. The pros definitely outweigh the cons.