By Terence Ronson
In this cyber era, the nomenclature of room service has shifted away from just delivering breakfast and late-night snacks. Hotels now need a Mr Fix-It to attend to the technical and computer-related needs of their ever-increasing segment of high-yield road-warrior guests.
This state-of-the-art development brings with it the deployment of technology butlers - trouble-shooters on call around the clock and [hopefully] well trained in the art of resolving a slew of problems relating to computers, communications and connectivity. The range of tasks they have to solve is growing almost daily.
There are the usual problems with connecting to the internet, voltage and phone-point conversion, accessing emails and printing documents. Then there are the thorny issues of connecting pcs to plasma screens, organizing conference calls, transferring data from usb memory sticks to pcs, and connecting digital video cameras to in room tv’s.
And increasingly, technology butlers are having to address security concerns among guests. Although many of these issues can be resolved via a quick-fix solution, hoteliers must always remember that guests are often tired, jet-lagged and frustrated at their own inadequacy to resolve the problem. Perhaps they have been unable to get hold of their in house tech-support department located half a world away in a different time zone while trying desperately to meet a deadline.
Technology butlers must, therefore, have boundless patience and great inter-personal skills. As hotels morph into the clichéd “office-away-from-office”, these guests look to them as their own on-the-road tech support. Hoteliers need to have a grasp of not only technological developments, but also the capabilities and limitations of the infrastructure of their properties. They should develop a list of possible problems and their solutions, which should be continuously updated as issues arise - whether from the call centre, housekeeping, front office, business centre or f&b department.
All problems and solutions should be consolidated in a centrally coordinated location. It should then be determined where the first line of support happens, and at what times they are likely to be needed. Guests are usually out during the day and return around 6pm - the same time as most check-ins occur, along with the need to get connected. This same pattern often extends into the early hours of the morning as guests return from dinner in time to work with US time zones. If an escalation process is required, which staff members will be on hand? Problems and their time-to-fix are important in the eyes of guests, especially at 2am when they may have been trying for several hours to send of fan urgent report and are now at their wits’ end. Having someone sympathetic standing by and knowing how to fix the problem is paramount at this critical juncture in delivering excellent customer service.
As these primary guest-contact staff may be called on to make quick decisions at unorthodox hours, they should be empowered accordingly - for example, to loan the guest a computer in his room or to open up the business centre. Remember that a guest’s computer is precious, and should not be tampered with by an inexperienced staff member who may not understand a certain operating system and fumble around blindly. This can instill fear, uncertainty and doubt among guests worrying about losing data - and, if things go wrong, could open the hotel to legal action.
Bear in mind that business travelers are on a mission which they need to accomplish within a limited period of time. Any hotel that acts as their “office-away-from-office” has an implied obligation to make that mission possible, with properly trained staff. It is essential that, before any staff member touches a computer, an indemnity waiver is signed by the guest relinquishing the hotel of any responsibility. You should also have a list of the top-20 computer companies and their local support numbers, as well as global isps (internet service providers) and calling-card service providers. With the incredible advances being made in portable technology, your guests will be arriving with a whole array of gizmos and gadgets that are bound to go wrong at sometime or other. If you can help them out fast and efficiently, they will remember it a lot longer than the welcome bowl of fruit or free drink in the bar.
Terence Ronson started his career as a Chef, and acquired his wealth of practical experience and knowledge whilst holding various management positions with Hilton International in Asia and at several prestigious establishments in the U.K. After developing a personal interest in computers and technology some twenty years ago, Terence has turned his attention on to this exciting and rapidly evolving aspect of the business, working with several prominent IT related companies in the hospitality industry, applying their products and services so as to streamline businesses, improve profitability, and the guest experience. Terence now runs his own business Pertlink Limited, which specializes in helping hospitality companies maximize the use of IT in the pursuit of improved customer service. Email Terence Ronson at: [email protected] Terence Ronson at:[email protected] or visit www.pertlink.net
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