I have observed hospitality to be a very process-driven industry. For most serious hotels, SOPs on everything are sacred.
If you are an outsider, it may be a little hard to appreciate the complexity. There are so many moving parts: systems, people, vendors, contractors, etc. If you have any experience running a household, just multiply it by the number of rooms a hotel has to get a feel for it.
Processes have served the industry well in standardizing the quality of product and service offerings. However, when you are in the business of digitisation like me, you come in to disrupt. Introducing a new system or process is always hard. It is akin to jumping on to a running train. If you do not pace it and time it right, you will fall flat on your face.
Here is what has served me well over the years.
Set the stage.
If there is a new system or process to be introduced to your hotels or teams, start talking about them to key stakeholders. Some of the ways to do this are by inserting the topic of the new system into a periodic meeting, a regular catch-up call, or a newsletter with updates. I have conducted specialized briefings and calls for significant system implementations.
Communicate the benefits.
This is perhaps the most important part, as everyone needs sound motivation to make a change or addition to their lives. It has to increase revenue; save time; reduce costs; reduce labor; increase efficiency; enhance brand perception; or increase guest satisfaction. You have to get everyone excited about the new direction. The CRM and hotel app implementations were highlights of my experience lately.
Latch on to an existing process.
Human memory works best by associating new information with old ones. A new process or piece of technology that augments an existing process, similarly, has a better chance of adoption. Always try to see if there is an opportunity to make that connection.
For example, a new front office guest communication script was sold as a way to make it easier to know what to say to a guest when they arrive. They have to talk to the guests anyway. When guests were recognized as members, repeat visitors, or had their birthday, both the guests and front office team members were happy.
Appoint a champion.
If a system or strategy does not have an owner, everyone will think it is not their responsibility. A champion who has been carefully chosen will help lead the implementation and get more people involved.
A front office manager can be a champion for the CRM system, or a guest relations manager can look after the loyalty program, for example.
A trial balloon will help you iron out some wrinkles in the implementation strategy. You will be better prepared for FAQs for a wider rollout. This will also allow you to tweak your pace and training style.
Share your preliminary findings.
Most hotels have a habit of sitting on the fence as far as new systems go. If they are not mission-critical, their attitude will be "Here we go again."
The results of the pilot or first phase will do a lot to convince the outliers to join in.
Share reports and data for self-corrections.
The reports and analytics data made available to the users should easily demonstrate what they are doing wrong and what will help them improve their performance.
I have worked with a lot of tech companies to make their reports for hotels easier to find and more useful. The reports should be carefully designed and calibrated so that hotels can keep making improvements on their own. Reports that show them the benefits as well as assure them that they are on track are the best.
Encourage healthy competition.
I have found most GMs to be very competitive by nature. At the very least, they want to match their peers, if not exceed them.
Periodical reports to all properties and teams that identify top-performing properties or team members will keep them at the top of their game. This can also take the shape of case studies or an email summary of results shared with all periodically. This could take the form of inter-team or inter-departmental competition for a standalone property.
Corporate Champions/Vendor Access
When your hotels face challenges concerning a new system or process, they must have someone to reach out to. Many vendors have "Customer Success Teams" now on the top of support teams.
Problem-solving and troubleshooting should be a priority. Any friction you can get rid of quickly helps a system run more smoothly.
When a process breaks down or a system doesn't do what it's supposed to, it's usually because some or all of the above aren't working well. They can be as follows:
- The appointed champion leaves the hotel.
- The benefits are not apparent.
- Reporting breaks down or is not optimal.
- Troubleshooting is tedious.
- No oversight from GM or corporate/brand.
Once identified, these issues are not difficult to address. As long as systems and processes have owners at all levels and they continue to serve hotels’ needs, they will work well.
What additional strategies would you recommend to roll out a new system, process, or change?