The Death of Yesterday’s PMS: Embracing the New Normal
The PMS' role as the center of a hotel's technology ecosystem is coming to an end. Crucial guest data sits locked up in today's disconnected data silos, making it very difficult for hotels/brands to optimize and bank in on the 'digital guest journey'. True? If so, how could a future application/data infrastructure or migration path look like? What's your take?
Hospitality Professional, Technology Consultant, Public Speaker and Inventor
The idea of providing a [digital] personalized experience to a guest has been the Holy Grail of the Hotelier since I don’t know when – it’s just been so long. Computers were supposed to “at the press of the proverbial button” do it all – but that as we know far too well, has not been the case. Until now, they’ve been siloed in their approach to process handling – and the industry has very much revolved around the best-of-breed and interfaced approach versus integrated. Simply because, one-size does not fit all.
Having said that, hotels were [originally] of the belief that all guests should be treated equally – but again as we know – some are more equal than others, and their spend per head quickly dictated as to what colour would be the carpet that awaits their arrival…and how many associates are rostered to cater to your every whim.
There is also the argument as to how personal does a hotel – or guest need their stay to be? After all, some people are very happy with plain vanilla ice cream, and yet some seek out more exotic flavours with lots and lots of toppings. You can experience that 1sthand when you go into your local ice cream parlour – or barista manned coffee shop. So how will a hotel cope with that level of personalization?
For some, giving you a Pillow Menu, a Bath Menu, and a daily newspaper of your choice is their absolute limit. Add a few more items like selecting the fruit in your fruit basket to say only bananas or berries [if you are fortunate enough to receive one], or the type of amenities in the bathroom, a special TV line up of your favourites, room temperature or lighting levels – whilst do-able – will no doubt prove a fork lift type challenge to several hotel categories – both logistically, and cost wise.
But sharing meaningful data between systems should be of paramount importance to better understand the guest and where practical and possible, make them feel even more welcome, and to depart with a positive memorable experience – so they blog about it on social media.
To do this, we need to move away from the PMS [an inventory and accounting-based system] to one that is customer or CRM [customers really matter] focussed where data collected from various touchpoints is parsed using either API’s or a middleware such as an Enterprise Service Bus [ESB].
There is little doubt that most guest’s experience begins digitally – either emanating from a social media post, a spammed promotion or a web search. That point of entry is critical as to how sticky the future relationship can be between customer and supplier, and ultimately whether a transaction will take place - and the actual journey begin.
However, since many journeys begin at an OTA portal – unfortunately, you really don’t have much opportunity to begin cementing that relationship until arrival because the guest is all but hidden from sight by the OTA, for fear of your stealing them away. So, the only thing left at your disposal is to hope they like the vanilla service you provide as a baseline. This situation is unfortunately a by product of handing over the sales role to OTA’s – versus doing it yourself – but now they [the OTA’s] are so powerful, getting bookers back to your own portal is a huge challenge and yet it’s one of the ways you can begin their personalized digital journey.
ICYMI Google has an app called TRIPS which intelligently reads emails [it’s actually been doing that since 1stApril 2004] and when it sees a trip/travel related message [flight, hotel] – it intelligently parses it into the app – classifying it as a journey. In addition to which it adds info such as a city guide, events, restaurants and weather. Now, when you link that to Google’s ability to promote and sell hotel rooms [maybe soon also Airbnb] – how long will it be until this becomes a fully-fledged travel platform – managing inventory like some CRS already does – and of course, integrating it with Google Pay.
So, in summary, I agree that having a digital and personalized guest experience is great, but how will this practically and logistically be accomplished, who will do it, and will the guest be willing to pay [more] for it – by cost, or sharing even more information?