Internet Efficiency and Guest Satisfaction Ranked Top Priorities for Hoteliers
Not Your Mama’s Bandwidth
Bylined article on May 3, 2017, in HotelInteractive.com
By Mark Holzberg
EVP and Chief COmmrcial Officer, Cloud5 Communications
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Industrywide studies continue to show that improving bandwidth is a top priority at hotels across the country.
That operational priority is driven directly by consumers, who have been saying for years that bandwidth—or in guest terms “reliable, fast online access”—is a critically important feature that shapes the guest stay and experience.
It’s not like the old days of simply providing connectivity for guests to check email or access the corporate systems. The rise of the always-connected millennial traveler magnifies the trend: from smart phones to tablets, laptops to e-readers, today’s guests are bringing more devices to properties that demand more and more bandwidth.
They want their Netflix—and they want it now.
The demands on the network are compounded further when groups visit for meetings, at larger hotels and resorts. Adding more lines or access points to a hotel may be a reasonable solution in the short-term. But it’s not a cost-effective long-term strategy.
Smart hoteliers know they need to balance guest demands with cost, and implement solutions that provide great experiences and are also flexible enough to permit growth and adaptability for future needs.
Many are already feeling the pinch to adopt upgrades: rapidly evolving technology; retirement of carrier TDM services; “always-on” guest needs; reduced phone system revenue; aging onsite equipment; and complex multi-vendor relationships threaten to reduce revenue and increase costs dramatically.
As in so many areas, innovative technology provides an answer for effective bandwidth management. The key consideration is sourcing and evaluating the best combinations of technology to take care of guests optimally, while cutting costs, promoting efficiencies and flexibility.
For example, today hotels can easily control and manage property-wide bandwidth, aggregating existing circuits in concert with one another for optimal performance. Using a process enabled by the latest Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) management, hotels can control ever-increasing bandwidth costs, while meeting guest expectations at the same time. SD-WAN helps hoteliers get the most value from existing communication lines by consolidating bandwidth (and costs) and routing traffic over the best available circuit.
Beyond that, the right use and mix of technologies can help a hotel’s bottom line and enhance guest service.
For example, technology can provide important data back to the hotel—helping GMs regulate bandwidth usage, and even drive revenue by providing the right tiers of service and applications to the right guests at the right time—the personalization of on-property communications.
And with the rise of Big Data, it’s inevitable that in the future you will be able to present hotels with a holistic view of the optimum bandwidth allocations, on a quarterly, monthly and even daily basis.
Here are some tips for thinking about how to manage bandwidth better and more effectively in the future, as you think about the implementation of a bandwidth strategy over time:
Have a plan. Work with the best minds you can—on property, at your brand, outside consultants—to make sure you have a full picture of what your bandwidth needs, current performance and trends look like at your property—and begin from a holistic approach that takes all cost factors and guest benefits into account. You may need to adhere to brand standards. You should also keep guest satisfaction firmly in mind.
Think about ways to maximize the existing bandwidth and technology you have now. Networking is evolving fast—approaches like SD-WAN or cloud-based functionality that works with existing hardware can help you optimize performance and increase capabilities without a big CapEx hit. For example, hosted features such as auto-attendant and voice mail can elevate operations and guest experience using existing voice systems and on-premises PBX can help you deferring until later the move to a whole new system.
Anticipate bandwidth growth. Be prepared and able to respond effectively to changing guest demands, new applications, messaging, and the other requirements of a fast-evolving on property environment. With guest Internet as the number one required amenity for guests, there is no patience for slow service due to inadequate bandwidth to serve demands on the network. If hotels don’t deliver, they see it in their guest reviews, social posts, and TripAdvisor ratings.
Strive for a “just like home” guest experience. Know that guests expect to connect like they do at home—with one login to access devices and apps—just like they do at home. Plan for auto authentication and other features guests will love to simulate the convenience and ease of communication they are used to.
Above all, never forget that the end user of your hotel’s bandwidth is today’s always-connected guest—with all her needs and interests.
Sooner or later, you will likely turn to an end to end, cloud-based solution that integrates Private LANs, Hotspot 2.0, Seamless In-Room Automation, Bandwidth Orchestration, and Data Mining and Analytics, to accommodate the growing dependency of the connected travelers on their personal devices.
Until that time, plan carefully—and remember, at the end of the day cost savings are important, but it all comes back to guest satisfaction.