Technology holds the key to the challenges of hospitality

By Guest on 21 May 2014
Technology holds the key to the challenges of hospitality

The Help Desk’s Dan Smith explains how the right technology, backed up by a good IT help desk, can help a hospitality business to address its challenges, deliver better customer service and generate improved trading margins

There are five significant themes to address here: open all hours; more demanding customers; building loyalty; knowing your business; and pressure on costs and margins.

Challenge number one – open all hours

The longer trading day is here to stay. Hospitality businesses no longer shut down after service. Instead, they flex their identity as the day progresses and become multi-purpose venues to maximise their cost effectiveness, serving snacks, meals and drinks from pre-work coffee to late-night cocktails, not to mention playing host to meetings and catered functions.

With pressure such as this, there is no scope for downtime and technology must run reliably and with unchanging performance throughout the day. Today’s POS terminals, for example, are more resilient than ever, with certain components now user-swappable in minutes in case of malfunction. A better outcome than waiting for an engineer to call, but even better if the process can be talked through by a good help desk person, available every hour of every day.

Challenge number two – more demanding customers

We’ve moved from ‘provider push’ to ‘consumer pull’ in hospitality. Today’s customers ask more of their food and beverage suppliers. Slick service is a given and drinkers and diners are unforgiving of delays. Which brings us back to that reliance on technology. It’s unacceptable for systems to fail and for queues to build.

Another interesting dimension is the increased use of personal technologies such as tablets and smartphones to order and pay. Take hotel guests for example. Many now expect to use their devices (or the hotel’s) to order room service and restaurant food from their bedroom via online menu selection. All this makes for more complex hardware and software scenarios than in the past. Every hospitality business needs a reliable POS hub, infallible internet connectivity up at all times and software functionality to perform key tasks. Having an expert 24/7 help desk behind this will keep staff confident and systems running at peak performance.

Challenge number three – building loyalty

Hospitality must be THE most competitive of industries. While individuality of location and food abounds, it’s hard to provide a truly unique product and ring-fence customers. As establishments chase largely the same customers, differentiation becomes more challenging and competition for the customer’s spend is tough.

It therefore becomes vital for a hospitality business to protect its customer base and build loyalty. That includes capturing and storing details when customers pay or use devices, rewarding loyalty with smartphone or online coupons and via QR codes, and issuing alerts of offers and promotions. Again, this makes for a scenario of complex technologies and communications, that needs support to keep open those channels of customer communication.

Challenge number four – knowing your business

Technology is the key to knowing and analysing trading. Today’s EPOS and property management systems shine a spotlight on a hospitality business, revealing trends and anomalies, to a greater degree than even the most experienced industry practitioner. Using the business intelligence functions provided with these solutions, managers and owners can analyse what is sold, when and to whom.

Real-time, accurate reporting is the only way to know a business, especially when hundreds of dishes and beverages are sold. Some systems allow the user to derive even more detailed analysis of the ingredients making up each dish, so comparisons can be made with purchasing and stock systems to ensure that all ingredients are accounted for and matched up with items sold. This helps reduce wastage. This is yet another dimension of reliance upon technology and yet another reason to ensure system hiccups are kept to a minimum and speedily addressed by skilled technicians.

Challenge number five – pressure on costs and margins

Impeccable service and good trading margins demand faultless IT and staff performance. In hospitality, even with the best of intentions and training programmes, it’s not always easy to make all staff confident and competent. Especially at peak trading times, casual staff will be used; they may be young, with little training and experience, and unfamiliar with the business.

The answer is to establish a central point of contact for all the hardware and software that is in use within the business (there are likely to be a number of systems from different vendors). A centralised help desk has a helicopter view across the business and can see patterns and vulnerabilities that an individual venue can’t see.

Help desk staff will log faults and exchange trend analysis with their clients. Most importantly, by analysing what has caused issues in the past, they’ll be able to predict when problems could occur again, and head them off. In short, an IT help desk can help a hospitality business to learn and be slicker, to address its challenges, to deliver better customer service and to generate improved trading margins.

Dan Smith is CEO of managed services at The Help Desk

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