Industry Update
Opinion Article20 August 2019

Rethinking Hospitality Technology: How a Focus On Exemplary Service & Support Drives Customer Retention

By Binu Mathews, CEO at IDS Next

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Service is king across all industries. Those brands which establish and maintain top-tier service will not only survive but, more importantly, thrive in today's market. Hoteliers around the globe are investing an increasing amount of capital into the implementation of guest-centric technology. However, it's important to remember that while hoteliers focus on the provision of exceptional service to their guests, hospitality technology vendors assume a similar responsibility to that hotel. Just as a hotel's relationship with a guest doesn't end when they select "book now," a vendor's relationship with a hotel doesn't end when they choose to purchase their product. That's merely the first step of, ideally, a long-term, mutually beneficial customer-vendor relationship.

In the world of hospitality technology, next-generation platforms (big or small) that demonstrate real staying power and industry-wide influence are those who understand that the customer, in this case, the hotelier, is king. Just as guest loyalty defines the long-term success of a hotel, customer retention will determine the continued success of technology vendors. Because when it comes to the purchase of technology, on-going exemplary service is everything. And yet, reports of poor service commonly plague industries around the globe, with studies indicating that 58% of people felt under-appreciated by companies they conducted business with in 2016. If anything, plights with customer service have become something of a bad punchline, as companies frequently undermine consumer expectations in the realm of on-going support. NewVoiceMedia's 2018 "Serial Switchers" report reveals that poor customer service is costing businesses more than $75 billion a year. That's up $13 billion since its last report in 2016.

The stakes are higher than ever before, so why aren't businesses delivering? What can hospitality technology companies learn from this?

Identifying a Successful Service Model

Hotel technology today is all about innovation. Hospitality leaders are eager to invest in services and platforms which pave the way to a more streamlined, intuitive operational model that brings them closer to guests — with ease. With the right tools in place, properties can offer their guests enhanced connectivity, personalization, and convenience across every touch-point. At least, that's the goal. However, without a service model that genuinely supports a clients' immediate and future needs, hotel tech companies cannot truly drive innovation. After all, if a product can't adapt and evolve with the needs of the client, how can it truly be considered innovative? How can it help keep hotels a step ahead of guest trends, if it doesn't offer an agile infrastructure that's receptive to long-term growth?

Let's consider a popular example. Apple is commonly regarded as one of the top customer service providers in America. In addition to its widely accessible service and repair centers, Apple also operates 28 service call centers in America that are positioned strategically to maintain quality service across the globe. However, this was not always the case. In the mid-1990s, Apple was struggling. Realizing the company was at a pivotal make-or-break impasse, interim CEO Steve Jobs decided it was time to shift their focus away from defeating rival companies, to providing better customer-oriented products and services. His envisioned Apple as a company that would 'serve the people,' developing innovative products and services that truly catered to the needs and desires of those who had been buying Apple's products since day one. Since then, Apple has dominated the market share as a leading, world-class provider in technological innovation and hands-on customer service.

Another example of an exceptional customer-centric model at work can be observed via JetBlue airlines. While airlines commonly come under fire, especially across social platforms, for negative customer experiences, JetBlue has a reputation for attentive and responsive, personalized customer service. For example, in December of 2013, Paul Brown was flying JetBlue airlines when he casually tweeted that he couldn't grab his Starbucks coffee before boarding the plane because he was flying out of the smaller terminal at Boston's Logan airport. Within seconds of seeing the tweet, JetBlue sprang to action, and the airport customer service team delivered a Starbucks venti mocha to his seat on the plane. Brown was elated and raved about JetBlue on Twitter. While this is a rather specific example, it's essential to consider the underlying theme — the customer and the service a company provides them should always be top of mind.

Great Service is a Self-Fulfilling Ecosystem

If a brand fails to create positive experiences that drive customer loyalty, they can't expect to retain customers. Hospitality technology is no exception — delivering exemplary customer-oriented service is the Ace in every vendor's hand. How can this be achieved? We're glad you asked.

1. Ensure the product offers easy implementation, and provides the appropriate support and training during the initial install and beyond (with training tools like videos and webinars)
2. Ensure the customer (hotel) feels appreciated and provide excellent product support at every stage of the customer journey, just like hotels do with their guests
3. Implement client and market-focused product enhancements and upgrades
4. Provide multi-modes of support including voice, email, knowledgebase, and live chat
5. Remember that hospitality is 24/7 industry and, as such, vendors must offer 24/7 support (including Disaster Recovery Plans that involve different locations)
6. Continuously encourage customers to provide feedback, speak to their evolving needs or growing pains, and seek out opportunities for increased product innovation
7. As a technology provider, ask yourself: Do you help clients to excel at being a better hotelier for their guests? Does your product or service act as a strategic differentiator for a hotel?

Remember when it comes to business, customers may not remember what you did, but they'll remember how you made them feel. Utilizing this framework, hospitality tech companies can establish a self-fulfilling ecosystem that prioritizes the customer, and in turn, breeds happy, long-term clients. Ultimately, exemplary service rooted in the desire to provide a positive experience for customers lays the foundation for vendor success, both now and in the future.

Binu Mathews

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    About IDS Next

    IDS Next is a globally leading Hotel Technology Solutions provider with decades of unmatched domain expertise. Being pioneers in Hotel ERP architecture, our forte lies in providing unparalleled technology solutions for hospitality properties across categories. With unrivalled domain expertise, our USP lies in creating solutions that help hotels increase revenues, optimize costs and above all provide enhanced guest experience.

    We are a dynamic company, which fully understands emerging markets, and its high growth needs. We provide efficient solutions across categories such as large independent hotels, chain hotels, boutique or resort hotels and even small budget hotels. Our offerings include integrated hotel management software, restaurant management software, mobile apps and mobile analytic solutions etc.

    Armed with industry-leading technology and overwhelming TCO, we command large market share in the markets we operate, and growing at an enviable speed. Our software and technology solutions have also earned the trust of over 5000+ hotels in 40 countries spread across South Asia, South-East Asia, Africa, Middle East, Sri Lanka & Maldives and Oceania. A truly dedicated 24/7-support centre ensures 98% retention of customers and unmatched customer satisfaction.

    Senthil Kumar
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