It’s hard to think of an industry feeling more pressure to provide an excellent customer experience than hospitality. After all, welcoming and making people happy is the very definition of hospitality. But the bar for delivering a superior customer experience has risen considerably in recent years, thanks to disruptive technologies that enabled the introduction of a new breed of competitors, such as Airbnb.
You could say hospitality has reached a critical juncture. Traditional hotels and restaurants must keep up with innovations introduced by market disrupters. Guests and diners are more demanding than ever, and have grown accustomed to conveniences such as making restaurant reservations online and having access to fast and reliable WiFi in hotel rooms.
Consumers take these amenities for granted now, so hospitality companies need to step up their game, delivering targeted information and personalized experiences. They also need to manage, analyze and act on the reams of customer data they collect to understand customer preferences, habits and patterns.
A data-driven customer experience enables hotels and restaurants to better compete against new entrants into the market as well as legacy players. But data collection and analysis is expensive and time-consuming, requiring IT investments that not all hospitality organizations have the financial wherewithal to make. That’s why we see an increase in cloud investments among players of all sizes.
Investing in the cloud can accelerate IT deployment strategies at a lower cost. Companies needn’t commit a ton of human and material resources to a project. Instead, they can focus on their core business by allowing cloud and network providers to handle the heavy lifting. Cloud computing solutions save businesses 23 percent in IT costs, and increase profits on average by 22 percent, according to a recent survey.
When leveraging cloud-based software as a service (SaaS), there’s no expensive hardware to purchase and maintain. SaaS solutions such as hotel management systems are available on a pay-as-you-go model. Operational and maintenance fees such as updates and bug fixes are bundled into the service.
Cloud and SaaS foster business growth. This typically isn’t the case with legacy systems, which often hinder growth as scaling a legacy environment can be prohibitively expensive. Cloud-based systems are entirely scalable with virtually unlimited capacity to expand, allowing organizations to add resources to accommodate growth or remove infrastructure to scale down systems that are no longer needed. In many cases, this can be done on the fly, which increases IT agility while saving costs.
Another significant benefit hotels and restaurants can derive from cloud solutions is access to user data on preferences and transactions patterns collected by online and mobile booking services. When guests and diners interact with these services, they provide information companies can use to improve their offerings and design targeted, personalized promotions to keep customers coming back.
Airbnb is using data to recruit landlords in popular destinations at peak times. Furthermore, as reported in a Cloud Tech article, “data is used to determine the appropriate price of a room or apartment, based on a number of variables such as location, time of year, type of accommodation, transport links, etc.”
Airbnb is a disrupter, but legacy players are also getting into the game. According to CIO Dive, McDonald’s, one of the world’s biggest fast food chains, is building a cloud-based data and analytics platform to better manage their business data and empower users through self-service provisioning of applications and infrastructure.
Cloud is usually at the center of these projects. Cloud infrastructures provide access to the computing and analytics power companies need to enhance the customer experience. For instance, data captured in hotels from WiFi and apps to order room service, book visits to the spa and make restaurant reservations provides valuable insights about guest preferences and habits.
Combining that data with restaurant and bar POS (point of sale) figures, reservation management and General Ledger data can provide even deeper insights. Organizations that figure out how to put all the information together, make sense of it and act on it, stand to improve the customer experience and increase competitiveness.
It’s clear cloud investments are the path into the future for hospitality, but adopting cloud strategies takes more than a SaaS application or cloud service. Companies must assess the impact cloud connections will have on network performance and whether their current internet bandwidth can handle increased demand.
There also are concerns about internet security and stability. Downtime and data breaches are to be avoided at all costs because they can significantly impact customer loyalty. Secure links to cloud infrastructures are highly desirable so hotels and restaurants can access and manage their cloud-based data systems efficiently and safely.
Gig-speed broadband and the ability to mix cloud services from different providers, creating a hybrid environment where systems communicate with each other to process and analyze the data that can be transformed into new, better, personalized services is key to delivering customer value.
Direct, private connections are ideally suited to hybrid workloads because they offer reliable, and high-throughput connections so that applications can span on-premises infrastructure and the cloud without compromising privacy or performance. Hospitality companies that leverage direct, private connections to innovate can give their competitors a run for their money by taking a decisive step toward increasing excellence in customer experience.
If you’re in the hospitality business and are considering ways to expand your cloud presence, don’t neglect the fundamentals. And that means making sure you address all aspects, including your networking options.