Press Release: Cloud5 Teams with Routier for Emerging Guest Engagement Software Solution

Find original press release here: https://cloud5.com/cloud5-partners-routier-add-customized-engagement-software-communications-platform/

Leader in hospitality communications adds innovative guest engagement to its HSIA product suite

HOUSTON, June 18, 2018 (HITEC 2018, Booth #2519)  —  Continuing its evolution as a thought leading provider of hotel communications technology and services, Cloud5 Communications announced today its partnership with Routier, an emerging hospitality software innovator. Routier helps hotel groups and hotels empower their staff and guests with seamless communications solutions that enhance exceptional guest experiences, building high guest loyalty and satisfaction.

This guest engagement innovation allows hotels to communicate with their guests in real-time during their stay without the need for them to download or install anything on their personal devices.  Guests simply need to access the Internet during their stay as they normally would. Hotels can know in real-time if a guest is having a good or poor experience, sense guest sentiment and follow-up immediately with the proper messaging and action.

“Combining Routier’s guest engagement solution with Cloud5’s HSIA platform, scale and operational capability in North America is a winning combination for both of our companies, and, most importantly, for our customers,” said Mark Holzberg, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of Cloud5. “This is an important additional component to our product suite that leverages the power of our guest networks / HSIA with innovative technology to provide value enhancing service to the hotels and guests we collectively serve.”

Routier’s seamless engagement, marketing and operational solutions allow for hotels and hotel groups to proactively respond to and resolve guest issues in real-time, identify and qualify guests for upsells, upgrades and special offers, streamline operations by automating formally manual processes, and deliver effective marketing campaigns.

“As we expand our presence in the North American market, we are very happy to be partnering with Mark and his team at Cloud5,” said Gal Bareket, CEO of Routier. “Our seamless communications solution tackles one of the biggest challenges facing hotels – successfully connecting hotel staff and their guests at all times.  Cloud5 gets hotel communications, and our partnership, both operationally and from a technology integration perspective, will offer hotels in North America terrific benefits.”

Cloud5 will be showcasing its guest engagement solutions, alongside its complete hospitality communications portfolio, at HITEC in Houston, June 19-21, in booth 2519.

 

About Routier
Routier creates disruptive communication technologies for hospitality businesses, including hotels, airlines, and cruises. The company’s solution transforms the way hospitality providers connect, communicate, and share information with their customers and staff to substantially improve customer experience, customer engagement, and staff performance. More information at http://www.routier.io

About Cloud5 Communications

Cloud5 Communications simplifies complex networking and support for the hotel industry. It offers a comprehensive user-friendly platform that brings together advanced data and voice solutions, including end-to-end High-Speed Internet Access (HSIA), converged networks, hosted and on-premise PBX, WAN/LAN management, network design and skilled 24/7 support, as well as contact center services. Cloud5 serves thousands of hotels for leading brands, independents and management companies, and touches millions of guests and staff every day. For more information on Cloud5 Solutions, visit www.cloud5.com, or call 877.241.2516.

5 simple tips that are going to take your hospitality business to the next level

Hospitality is a competitive business and to stay ahead you need to constantly up your game. Every now and then you need to revisit your strategies, get rid of what no longer works, tweak the parts that do work and see where you can introduce something new. There are some underlying truths of course that will never change; the customer is always right and you have to deliver great service. There is absolutely no shortcut for the latter and as for the former; hospitality is the one industry where that has to be a mantra.

Five tips to take your hospitality business to the next level

Once you’ve got the two main points down to an art here are five simple tips that you can inculcate into your practice to elevate your business:

1. Give your product menu a makeover: Whether you run a hotel, restaurant or bar you have a menu of sorts. Be it services, food or drinks, every now and then you need to add something new or ditch something that is just not selling. Even adding deals like happy hours or buy one get one, could give your customers something new to look forward to.

2. Keep with the times: If you’re not promoting your business on social media nor have an app for customers to make reservations then you are going to get left behind. It’s all well and good to not want to jump on the bandwagon and do what everyone else is doing but times are changing. There is a whole new generation of customers out there who live their lives online and if you don’t have a digital presence you won’t get noticed. Hire a professional if you must but give yourself some online exposure to stay relevant.

3. Stand out from the crowd: If you want to get noticed and continue to stay noticed you need to give people something to talk about. You don’t have to be the best at everything but find one or two things that you can really flaunt. If your location is not the best then try and make your décor fun and inviting. If you are a restaurant, nothing beats providing excellent quality food in hygienic conditions to your customers. A clean setting puts customers at ease and has them coming back for more.

4. Take care of your staff: Overworked and underpaid staff are not only going to underperform but will eventually quit. If you want to provide quality service with staff that sticks around for the long haul you need to take care of them. Give them good incentives, realistic working hours, and days off. Once they are loyal to you they will pitch in on their own when you are a few hands short or it’s a busy weekend.

5. Know the competition: As mentioned earlier, hospitality is a highly competitive business, with new establishments springing up every day. It wouldn’t hurt to keep up to date with who your competitors are and if any of them are doing exceptionally well you could learn a thing or two from them.

Hotels Investing in Technology to Protect Credit Card Data

Data breaches are everywhere – and hotels are particularly vulnerable to such theft! After all, a hotel sees a number of massive transactions each day (and night as well!), and many of these transactions happen between the hotel and high-end clients. Needless to say, there will be plenty of entities out there waiting for an opportunity to breach the existing security systems and hack the credit cards.

Even big hotels have not escaped the scourge of a payment card hack. Hyatt Hotels Corp, for example, experienced a major breach in payment security between March and July this year. 41 properties across 11 countries experienced what can be called as one of the most massive payment security breaches in the history of the hospitality industry. Similar incidents affected Trump hotels and Hilton as well, showing that nobody is safe from such breaches.

Payment card breaches can cause a huge dent in the reputation of a hotel’s brand image, no matter how well they have established themselves in the market and no matter how great their services are. After all, we are talking about the hard-earned money of the guests, and it is no light matter that their credit cards have a chance of getting hacked due to a lack of proper security systems in the hotel!

And yet, despite such huge cases of data theft making rounds on the news, payment card hacks are still on the rise! Whether it is a matter of outdated security systems or simply due to negligence, at a critical time like this, when the hotels across the world are finding it harder to make profits than ever before, it is required that drastic and urgent measures be taken by all hotels to update their systems and increase payment security.

The way forward – the pre-requisites for better security systems

The preliminary steps that hotels need to take before actually investing in sophisticated systems involve creating an environment that makes payments safer. Now this involves a holistic approach to the matter, and should not be something that is simply left to those responsible for the technology employed by the hotel – this is just one aspect of the measures that the hotels must take up. To create a safe environment, the management needs to transform every aspect of the hotel – be it the payment systems, the executives or even the policies of the hotel – towards being involved in some or the other.

  • A prepared workforce: Is your workforce (especially the front-office executives) well-trained to understand card payments and potential threats to security? Whether or not your answer is yes, the fact remains that training should be an ongoing process as new kinds of threats emerge every day. Needless to say, you need to have frequent training sessions to develop your team into one that understands threats to credit cards better so that they can deal with such issues more effectively and reduce the chances of such events from happening.
  • Having specialists on board: Needless to say, there needs to be someone on board your team who can help educate your executives and who can play a pivotal role in such matters. Having a specialist on your team full-time or even as an honorary member can prove to be of great help.
  • Constant anticipation of the worst: There is a popular saying which goes “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”. Hackers attack the moment they find a weak link in the chain. As such, you will risk much by letting your guard down. Always expect the worst to happen, and keep your hotel prepared for such events at all times.

Successful upgrading of security systems are not only about software and equipment but making sure the entire culture and setup of your hotel are driven towards preventing payment security-breaches from occurring again in the future as well. This is also the area that is most hard to work on because change is not always easy. However, upgrading your software without paying equal attention to the prerequisites will give you poor results – if any at all!

At the same time, not investing enough into upgrading your machines and software will not solve the problem of payment card hacks, even if your executives have received the best training possible. Compromising with one will definitely lead to the failure of the other, and it is only when equal attention and importance is given to the two that you can make payments in your hotels safe and secure for your guests.

How The Internet Of Things Will Change The Hospitality Industry

Closing and opening drapes, controlling room temperature, turn the lights on or off with voice commands in a hotel room? Marriott International, a giant in the hospitality industry is all set to bring in these and more such tech driven changes in their hotels. Marriott already has Netflix ready TVs which allow guests to gain access to personalized accounts and view movies of choice. The technology that makes it all happen is the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT In Hospitality

 First coined in 2004, IoT gained popularity at the end of 2013.  According to Intel, there would be 200 billion connected devices by 2020, up from 2 billion in 2006. Each individual would be connected to at least 26 smart devices, as per Intel’s estimate!  Also termed “internet of everything” or “machine to machine” the concept is that everyday objects would talk to each other to provide a smoother, richer experience.

The hospitality industry is one of the biggest spenders as far as IoT is concerned.   Close to $128 million was spent in 2015 per company across the world which is much more than what other sectors like manufacturing, banking or utilities spend.

Rooms Of The Future

 The next logical step for Marriott is to make the voice controlled actions in the hotel rooms a reality. The hospitality leader is testing Amazon and Apple devices at the Aloft Hotel in Boston and once the right device is chosen, guests at Marriott will experience the convenience of the Internet of things (IoT).

In collaboration with tech partners such as Samsung and Legrand, Marriott is testing another concept at its innovation lab to bring about “connected hotel rooms.”  Samsung’s IoT in the form of ARTIK and smart lighting systems from Legrand will help Marriott bring in the most advanced IoT technology to its rooms to enhance guest experience.

According to Samsung, the IoT will help provide the “ultimate relaxation” and bring in personalized and intelligent experiences for guests. Business travelers could enjoy increased productivity while helping the hotel be more energy efficient.

Some possible experiences include asking a virtual assistant to sound a wake up alarm, taking yoga classes on the full length mirror or setting the required temperature for shower – all with voice or app based commands.

While the three-month project testing is on at Marriott, the “room of the future” could be all about smart technology from IoT. While technology enabled smart rooms would become a reality at Marriott five years from now, other big brands too are increasingly interested in leveraging smart technology to enhance guest experience.

At a recently concluded Revenue Strategy Forum event at London, the key message for hotels was to invest in and adapt the digital age technologies in order to improve market share, guest engagement and the bottom-lines.

Predictive Behavior

 The changes that IoT will bring in the hospitality industry are not restricted to providing seamless experiences during their stay. Hotels could benefit in many ways including improved efficiency, energy saving and reduced manpower. Another crucial aspect that IoT would help in is to do with data related to consumer behavior.

IBM Watson which has already made headlines with predictive intelligence in other domains – particularly healthcare – is set to foray into the hospitality industry with connected devices such as Panasonic digital mirror, Softbank Robotic lobby concierge and the Harman JBL intelligent speaker. These IoT devices would also help hotels gain valuable insights into guest behavior including their preferences, complaints or requests. Retrofitting these would also be possible, according to Bret Greenstein, Vice President of consumer business at IBM.

Telkonet’s EcoSmart and Samsung’s Hospitality Business went a step ahead with a welcome sign with the guest’s name in the smart room that also showed the controls of lights, temperature and shades.

For a returning guest, the EcoSmart can remember the guest’s previous preferences and adjust the light and thermostat accordingly.

IoT will make it possible for hotels to know the dining preferences of guests, which means there is no need for elaborate surveys and feedbacks.

Super Wi-Fi

 Experts predict that the coming years will see smart phones being capable of handling Super Wi-Fi, that uses TV broadcast frequencies.  Not only is Super Wi-Fi more affordable, but has a bigger bandwidth and coverage area which is of critical importance to the hotel industry. Such Super Wi-Fi could change the way hotels collect user data to create better experiences. The Super Wi-Fi platform would make it possible to have a seamless network of all IoT connected devices.

Improved Operations

 IoT can help probably eliminate the need for elaborate check in which also is one of the most often negatively rated services in hotels.

The Hilton Group and Starwood Hotels are set to introduce ‘Digital Keys’ that are sent to guests before they check in once the rooms are ready.

Location finding technology will in the future also help do away with check in with an automatic check in becoming a reality. This would also reduce the need for front staff personnel.

Smart sensors in the room can help hotels manage their assets also better.  The smart sensors can alert the administration personnel when there is a maintenance schedule or when in distress.  Correcting leaky pipes and tubs well before they become expensive problems is one of the advantages of having connected devices and sensors.

Starwood Hotels also use smart technology to control indoor lighting based on the amount of natural light that is entering the hotel.

Smart sensors can also help hotels know when a room is empty. While knocking is an invasion of privacy and can be rude, smart sensors can help personnel know if the room is occupied.

While personalization can get technical, too much automation could also be detrimental. Server bots for room service and absence of front desk personnel could deprive the guest of the valuable human interaction that can still make all the difference.

While hotels embrace technology, the guest’s comfort and personalization will always be at the heart of hospitality. Big data, IoT and automation can be intelligently used to add to the guest’s experience and improve operational efficiency.

 

Understanding the Four Essentials of Hospitality Industry

Success in hospitality industry revolves around meeting the ever increasing customer expectations around personalized experiences, improved functionality and authenticity. As expectations continue to evolve in tandem with technological advances, companies that can adapt swiftly will be able to stay in business.

What do hotels spend on?

Technology spending is on the rise with more and more hotels investing to enhance customer experience and meet their high expectations. The top priority in terms of spending was payment gateway security which saw an allocation of 62% of total spending in 2016 according to Insight report. In-room technology was the second priority at 56% while bandwidth and mobile engagement were the third.

According to a study published in the Hospitality Technology magazine, 52% of the hotels surveyed mentioned their top priority as digital customer engagement. Direct reservations were mentioned by 56% of hotels as the leading “omni-experience” goal. More than half the hotels surveyed indicated they would spend more on technology in the coming year as compared to previous years. Improving data analysis and increased mobile engagement are some of the other priorities for hotels.

With Internet of Things, automation, artificial intelligence adding to the technological milieu, it is all too easy for hotels to lose focus on the core priorities and financials. Breaking them down into four segments will help prioritize strategies.

The four essentials in hospitality

Infrastructure:  Physical properties required to operate the business including electric and electronic equipment, Wi-Fi routers, phones, in room furniture, appliances and treatment plants. Servers and routers also form part of the infrastructure.  It can be challenging for business owners to upgrade and install expensive new hardware or integrated automation. The focus should be on reducing expenditure with smart energy solutions, reducing carbon footprints and building a more sustainable eco-friendly structure.  Moving over to cloud based solutions will help ward off huge costs involved in maintaining a server.

Cloud based systems offer the advantages of lowered cost and minimum resources, faster time for deployment, better security and better data access.

The millennial who are well versed with technological advances are likely to demand and prefer hotels which have smarter in room technology than others. More than 20% of hotels, according to a study, plan on increasing spending on in room technology including smart drapes, charging pads and virtual reality.  Integrating such smart solutions may be easier in a new construction than upgrading an old one.

Management systems:  Integrated customer relationship management (CRM) systems are the mainstay of the hospitality industry.  An effective customer relationship management (CRM) system helps businesses gain valuable insights into consumer behavior. Future business and marketing strategies are shaped based on these insights to meet the high expectations and improve profit margins.

CRM systems help hotels

  • Gather details about the customers’ preferences, opinions and purchasing habits
  • Profiling and segmentation of customers to develop better marketing strategies
  • Modify and adapt business strategies to improve customer experience

Guest profiles are what drive the hospitality industry’s strategies and are therefore sacrosanct. Integrated CRM tools are now available that seamlessly connect various functions including property management, automated marketing, reservation and feedback.

Hotels investing in intelligent CRM tools can reap benefits such as

  • Better sales with better anticipation of customer’s needs based on data
  • Improved personalization of services
  • Enhanced referrals
  • Upsell and cross-sell to existing customer
  • Better segmentation to find out which customers are more profitable

CRM tools help boost sales but selecting and investing in the right one for your business is challenging. The ideal CRM tool depends on many factors including the size of the business, the technology and automation that already exists in the hotel, what type of data you want to collect and so on.  Attending webinars and seminars to find out which CRM software is better suited for your business would be prudent to make the right decisions.

Digital marketing:  The digital era has led to a phenomenal growth in smartphone usage. Three in five people use smartphones to browse hotels and make reservations online.  The hotel website is the primary opportunity to sell your business. Investing in attractive and clutter free website with clear content and a booking engine that is hassle free should be your top priorities in digital marketing. Guests on an average spend six minutes on a hotel website during which the best first impression needs to be created. Ratings and reviews are another major part of digital marketing. More than 60% of travelers use social media platforms when they shop, search or visit.

Search engine optimization, blogs, newsletters and mobile apps are other areas to focus on to evolve a better digital marketing strategy. Automation and intelligence are key drivers of technology in digital marketing.

Tools that can automate posts to different social media platforms are available.  You can also get an instant update on guests’ feedback on third party review sites or on other platforms.  Such automated tools can help you take the necessary remedial action to prevent future concerns.

Facebook and Google analytics help you in narrowing down your customer base to the desired level or targeting a broader group.  Creating marketing funnels, segmenting the audience, split testing posts and ads and remarketing strategies are possible with Facebook advertising.

Employees: Even in the age of machines, people are always going to be central to driving customer engagement. Smart integration of technology and soft skills of staff are key to sustaining profitability in the hospitality industry. Investing in training staff as an ongoing process is crucial to keep them motivated and engaged. Online short courses and training modules can be a better option to refresh the skills of on boarded employees.

Language skills, guest service, communication skills, SOPs are some of the training modules offered by both private and public universities. Artificial intelligence can be used to train personnel to respond to irritated and angry customers.

Before acquiring any technology, hoteliers need to ask if the new system will reduce the operational cost significantly and how it can help enhance guest experience. Finding out also if the new technology will streamline the efficiency of the staff and integrate well into the current management systems are key to making the right investments.

 

Hotel Technology Trends for 2017

The next is already here – technology wise, that is. From collecting oceans of data from all channels of social media, hotels are now on the threshold of making intelligent use of that data to enhance customer engagement and drive revenues.

Most of the technology is to do with digitalization and particularly, mobile based. With the ongoing evolution of smartphones that are getting smarter by the second, technology innovations in hotels are striving to keep in step with this trend.

Smartphone and internet are ubiquitous. More than 92 % of guests at hotels use a smartphone and more than 9 billion use Wi-Fi, a number that is only going to increase. A study by Zebra found 40% of guests use hotel apps on their smart devices.

More than 70% of guests would prefer to use smart technology to hasten up the checking in and out processes. Here are some technology trends that will shape 2017.

Smartphone is the key: Use of smartphones as keys is a trend which has already begun and is obviously going to grow phenomenally in 2017. Using Bluetooth and an app, guests can not only unlock the doors of rooms, spa, and gym but also control the TV and audio, and access room service.  Guests can control lighting, temperature and TV channels currently at Virgin Hotel in Chicago. Hilton has already made it possible for guests to unlock doors using smartphone and Marriott is not far behind.

Smart energy management: Going green is the clarion call for 2017 and no doubt, in the coming years. More hotels are taking up the challenge by going in for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. More than 400 hotels are LEED certified, and more will follow suit in 2017.  Going green entails improving air quality in the hotel, besides investing in smart energy management systems. A 2016 survey showed that more than 50% of bigger chains of hotels have already implemented energy management systems, including hotels like Hilton. Smart energy systems efficiently manage usage of water, power, heat and air conditioning by turning off when not in use.  Sensors placed in rooms can detect whether guests are in or out, and turn off lights and power accordingly. Water saving and recycling will become a growing trend this year. Sourcing energy from renewable and sustainable sources will also gain importance as more customers expect and appreciate environmental responsibilities of hotels. Solar, wind and other energy sources will be the trend to watch out for.

Artificial Intelligence: With the advent of Internet of Things (IoT), there will be enhanced connectivity which can improve and personalize the hotel experience for guests. Using artificial intelligence it will become possible to anticipate what the customer needs based on his or her behavior. Cloud based food ordering system is also an increasing trend that will catch up in 2017.

Chatbots are another use of AI that has become the buzz word already in 2017.

Virtual Reality:  VR is already a game changer in many businesses and will eventually make a foray into the hotel industry in a big way. Marriott has already introduced VR experience for guests and possible trends to look out for are the use of virtual reality to access concierge, view locations or participate in conferences.