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LS Retail | 31 January 2023

4 ways hotels can use technology for labor shortages

4 ways hotels can use technology for labor shortages

While vacationers are back making up for lost time, eating out and booking holidays, hospitality businesses around the globe are all facing the same challenge: they just don’t have enough staff to keep up with demand.

One recent study by the American Hotel and Lodging Association reported that a staggering 97% percent of hotel owners and managers face staffing shortages. Almost half said they were severely understaffed, with housekeeping roles the hardest to fill.

While some hotels are trying to tackle the issue by coming up with new rewards and incentives to attract and, critically, retain staff, filling positions remains an ongoing challenge as workers increasingly look for better employment opportunities elsewhere.

“Many have moved into deliveries, ride-sharing, construction, warehousing and other areas less affected by seasonality or the risk of another wave of Covid-19,” Cristina Siza Vieira, executive vice-president of the Portuguese Hoteliers Association, told the Financial Times.

It’s time, then, for hoteliers to consider other ways of tackling the ongoing shortage. Some have gone for a fully automated approach. One reporter for Protocol shared her experience of staying at a hotel in New Orleans, US, where she could do everything from checking in, ordering mid-stay cleaning services and buying a drink at the hotel bar without interacting with a physical person. But it’s an approach that’s not without its flaws. When things go wrong, such as a faulty room code, the hotel still needs humans on standby.

Most hotels are taking a more balanced approach and working to figure out where exactly digital technology can really make a difference without changing the essence of the personal, human touch that most of their guests associate with a hotel stay. We’re talking about intuitive task management dashboards for staff, mobile platforms, in-room devices and self-service check in.

Here, we’ve put together four ideas for how technology can step in to give a helping hand – allowing you to keep your business running without compromising the guest experience:

1. Embrace a centralized, easy-to-use system

If you currently run your business using different pieces of software to manage your room bookings from your restaurant from your spa from your events, then you’re missing out on a trick.

Hotels like hospitality and wellness resort Blue Lagoon Iceland are increasingly turning to unified platforms to manage their entire operation – and for good reason. Having the functionality to handle room bookings, restaurants, activities, and all other services from one place not only avoids challenges like data errors, double bookings and lack of visibility between departments, but it makes life a lot easier for your staff too. There’s no need for them to waste time calling around to different departments in the hotel to book customers in for certain services and, critically, they only have to learn to use one system.

An intuitive, easy to use hotel management solution not only requires less training in the first place, but it opens up staff to be able to perform multiple roles across the property. Why have employees sitting bored at a quiet check-in desk while your restaurant staff are running around handling dinner service? If everyone knows how to use the same interface – whether it’s for checking out guests or taking their table order – staff can step in to support each other and mix up their day-to-day tasks. Not only will this improve the guest experience, but it’s likely to boost team morale. And a happy team is usually a more productive team.

2. Go mobileIN-Blog-waoman-on-mobile

A recent survey by Skift found that almost three-quarters of guests want to use their mobile device to manage their hotel experience, including checking in and out, paying, ordering food, and more. As staffing shortages continue to strain the smooth running of daily operations, embracing a mobile service strategy is a great way of keeping up with your customers’ needs and giving them control over the experience they have during their stay.

But it’s not just your customers that should benefit from being able to use their mobile devices. Staff also want to be able to assist guests, check their duties and manage their shifts on the go. If more of your guests are checking in online before arrival and using self-service kiosks, you don’t need your staff to be sat behind the front desk at all times. Equipping workers with mobile devices frees them up to perform different functions and deliver high service standards. Hotel receptionists can double as concierges, available to answer guests’ needs from wherever they are in the property.

Mobile alerts can keep services running more smoothly too. If a guest suddenly requests housekeeping, all on-duty staff can be notified of the pending task on their mobile device until an available staff member accepts the alert. Not only could this mean that guests are tended to faster, but staff are empowered to manage their daily duties and ensure the workload is more evenly divided.

3. Automate manual tasks

According to Hotel Tech Report, “automation, when thoughtfully applied to a hotel operation, can unlock more revenue, increase guest satisfaction, boost staff productivity and happiness, and generally make an operation run more smoothly and profitably.”

At a time when hotels are being expected to do more with less, technology can help you simplify time-consuming tasks. We’re not talking about introducing robots here; we mean freeing up staff from having to do unnecessary manual jobs such as re-typing customer details, managing individual reservations across different systems, and updating staff rosters and shifts on spreadsheets.

This is where a unified hotel and property management system can make a real difference, seamlessly integrating all the tools needed to manage reservations, payments, revenue and staff management, marketing, and guest experience in one place. Staff must no longer spend their time doing mundane tasks, while guests benefit from consistent, efficient and personalized service.

4. Embrace self-service technology

Whether you offer self-service capabilities to your guests via kiosks in the lobby or a mobile app, this is a sure-fire way of improving customer satisfaction and taking the pressure off busy staff. A survey by Skift found that almost three-quarters of consumers are more likely to stay at a hotel that offers self-service technology, while over half of hotel owners said their highest priority is to adopt technology that improves or eliminates the need for the front desk experience between now and 2025.

IN-Blog-woman-self-service-hotelFrom self-check-in to booking services and ordering food online – guests increasingly prefer to use self-service technologies during their stay. Online and self-check-in/out kiosks are an effective solution to reducing crowding in the lobby, and can take the pressure off your staff during busy times. It’s why large hotel chains like Hilton have introduced mobile check in across their property portfolio, allowing guests to choose their room and unlock the door through an app.

As hotels focus on streamlining their services and getting the most from their staff, many recognize the value of implementing centralized software to run their business. This technology is designed to empower rather than replace the people that make your business tick and, in turn, will transform your guest experience for the better. Need some help getting started? Contact us.

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