Technology checks in as game changer for the hospitality sector

Corporate January 24, 2019 01:00

By JINTANA PANYAARVUDH
THE NATION

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HOSPITALITY is among those industries that have turned to advanced technologies to play a vital role in improving services while saving on costs and time.



Early movers in the take-up of these technologies also count the increased skills of employees, and their overall higher performance, as flow-on benefits.

Take The Continent Hotel Bangkok in Sukhumvit. Its executives started putting technology in place several years ago as a means of enhancing the services provided by its staff while upgrading their skills. It plans to introduce a concierge robot soon.

 “We are engaging in the process of getting a concierge robot, but it is in the feasibility phase. I hope to introduce it soon,” Jay Jhingran, general manager of The Continent Hotel Bangkok, told The Nation, while declining to pin down a time.

Jay Jhingran, general manager of The Continent Hotel Bangkok

The hotel employs a number of technologies such as virtual reality (VR), which allows business-to-business (B2B) partners and guests to view the rooms before making a reservation, a mobile learning application for staff to boost their skills, and the use of Big Data to manage revenue.

Each item of technology brings its own unique benefit to the hotel, said Jhingran.

In the case of Big Data, it can be used to extract insights into revenue flows that enable the hotel to manage its room inventory more efficiently and to provide more rooms at more flexible price points with its travel agent partners, he said.

He likes to highlight the mobile learning solution, which teaches the staff language and selling skills and has already brought benefits to them and the hotel.

With the growth of social media and new tourism markets emerging, it has become more critical than ever to provide consistently high levels of service in the language of each guest, Jhingran said.

“The hotel uses the Boost solution, which allows us to bypass costly classroom-based learning and lets our employees learn at a time and place of their choosing,” he said.

Since the hotel started using the app it has seen a 5 per cent year-on-year increase in upselling revenue and has received positive online reviews on the quality of employees’ English-language skills, according to Jhingran.

 “This has yielded a number of flow-on benefits as our employees are able to understand and communicate better with the guests, as you cannot separate guest service from the language they speak,” he said.

“Importantly, though, our employees’ confidence levels have risen as they can immediately see the results of their studies, resulting in happier employees and genuine service.”

The employees can also attest to the benefits of device-based learning.

“It's very convenient as I can learn it at my own convenient time and place - on the train, during my lunch break, or before bed,” Phatsuda Boonlum, the hotel's front office supervisor, said.

She spends 30 minutes a day on the “Boost Upsell” app to enhance her selling and communication skills with guests. A course takes around four months to finish.

Learning with the app has helped her to improve her commission fees from more selling of hotel services, she said.

Supattra Pakthong, a hostess F&B at the hotel, uses the “Boost Voice” app to learn from conversations with guests as well as how to set a table and how to solve problems that may arise in the restaurant. In the app, there are gamification elements that make learning fun, she said.

Kochakorn Panwatcharakom, the hotel's assistant human resources manager, said the enthusiasm that this produces in the workers and in their use of other technologies also has bearings on the hotel's staff evaluation system.

Previously, when the managers sent staff to attend classroom-based training they had to swap in other workers to fill in for them and this would sometimes stretch the manpower resources, she said, adding that the app-based leaning saved on costs, too.

However, the hotel’s embrace of technology does not mean people would be replaced one day, said Jhingran, as the industry still needs human to human contact.

 “Technology can enhance services provided by people, not replace them. At the end of the day guests prefer human interaction, especially in Thailand, where the Thai people are naturally friendly and hospitable," he said.

“If technology can be put to work behind the scenes to make life easier for our employees, perhaps improving their skills, monitoring social media or generating insights from anonymous Big Data, then this will allow the employees to go out and provide an even better level of service.”