Donna Cobb, executive director of enterprise marketing at Comcast Business, was recently interviewed by HT Magazine on the importance of connectivity in the hospitality space. Below is a reprint of that conversation, originally published in the June 2018 issue of the publication.
Why does connectivity play such an important role in satisfying today’s heightened guest expectations?
DONNA COBB: Just five years ago, food and the comfort of beds drove hotels’ value proposition. Today’s guests care about being able to connect anywhere, any time. Access to free WiFi is expected. They also expect a mobile experience such as an app that allows the guest to check in online, bypass the front desk and get a mobile key. For hotels the loyalty apps provide them the opportunity to positively impact the guest experience, provide added value by serving customized content based on guest profiles and drive customer retention. Reliable, robust connectivity across-property is essential to make all that happen.
How are new bandwidth needs impacting hotels?
COBB: Guests want enough bandwidth to work, answer e-mails, do research, surf the web, play games and watch TV on their own devices, whether in the restaurant, up in their rooms or common areas; it needs to be seamless. They don’t want to have to log in each time they move to a different part of the hotel.
Hotels’ back-office bandwidth needs are evolving too. No one wants to gather staff for video training and have it keep buffering. We’ve also heard about unique bandwidth needs that aren’t directly tied to the core functions of the hotel. As an example, a chef trying to stream Pandora while they work, or guests wanting to stream their workouts to treadmills. If you’re on traditional T1 lines, those activities will bring your network to its knees.
How does gig-speed Internet change the narrative when it comes to hotel connectivity?
COBB: Cost-effective gig-speed broadband service is becoming more widely available across the U.S. Instead of trying to extend the bandwidth of antiquated technologies, many companies are building to the new technology. That means hoteliers no longer have to think about how much bandwidth they need or make incremental investments in more T1 lines. You can’t build the business of the future on yesterday’s T-1 networks. When you eliminate bandwidth concerns, hotel operators can think about what they could do differently to improve and create new brand experiences, how they can better engage with guests. They can pivot from managing bandwidth to just managing the business, because the bandwidth is going to be there.
How does the shift from set-top boxes to software-based in-room entertainment solutions changed what’s possible for hoteliers to offer?
COBB: Software rather than hardware-enabled solutions, like Comcast’s X1 Platform for Hospitality with Voice Control, has fundamentally changed the way people watch TV and the content hotels are able to serve. X1 is a cloud-based platform that lets users search and navigate live TV as well as select free on-demand movies and TV shows in a simple, fast and intuitive way. The X1 platform not only enables guests to choose the programming using voice remote by saying, “Watch women’s snowboarding,” but also allows them to say, “Show me Jamie Anderson,” and then find all related content related to her. Anderson represented Team USA to become the first female snowboarder to win more than one Olympic gold medal. Comcast Business has been able to bring new offerings like these to the market quickly, without having to protect legacy technologies. Providing hotels of every size with next generation technologies and connectivity helps to deliver the modern experiences guests desire.