The year 2020 has been a rough one for the hotel industry. The COVID-19 pandemic completely upended the hospitality industry, cutting down on travel and disposable income while disincentivizing customers from mingling in public. During an economic downturn, it’s entirely natural for business owners to put a freeze on spending in an attempt to weather the storm, but that’s not always the best approach.
Rather than focusing on pure cost cutting, hoteliers should be looking for ways to increase efficiency. We don’t know how long the effects of this downturn will last or what the hospitality industry will look like when it’s over, so hotel owners should be thinking about ways to stretch their dollar however they can. One of the best ways to do that is to transition from an analog phone system to a VoIP system. Here’s why.
Phones Aren’t Profit Centers
A few decades ago, hotel phones paid for themselves. Anyone staying in a hotel who wanted to reach the outside world (or be reached) had to use the hotel phone, and hotels charged for those calls. Those charges covered the cost of maintaining the phone system and made for a nice revenue stream, like room service or pay-per-view movies.
Now, that revenue stream is gone. Virtually everyone who stays in your hotel will bring a mobile phone with them, and if you try to charge for your phone system, they simply won’t use it.
This means that the way you think about your phone system needs to change. If your hotel phones aren’t a source of revenue any more, they need to serve a different purpose instead. Specifically, your hotel phones should help you comply with regulations, run your hotel more efficiently, and add value to your guests.
Compliance with Regulation
While it’s true that most guests will have their own devices with them, you can’t count on that in 100 percent of cases. Most hotels still provide room phones, even though they’re not required, and those that do are required to comply with federal and state laws for how those phones are used.
The two biggest changes in hotel phone regulation are Kari’s Law and the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018, both of which take effect between February of 2020 and January of 2022. Kari’s Law requires that guests be able to dial 911 without pressing an extra button to reach an outside line, while RAY BAUM’S Act requires that all calls pass on a “dispatchable location” to emergency services — usually the room number, in the case of hotels — when an emergency call is made.
If you’re still using an analog system, changing the functionality of your phones to comply with these laws is nearly impossible. With a VoIP system, it’s a simple software adjustment. These won’t be the last laws you’re required to comply with, and the flexibility of a digital PBX is your best bet at keeping up.
More Efficient Hotel Systems
Unfortunately, a lot of time and effort is wasted by hotel staff in the course of day-to-day operations. Any reduction you can make to that wasted time will mean a more efficient, more profitable hotel — and that starts with integrating your hotel systems.
For example, a VoIP system can be integrated with an offsite call center so that reservations can be made without disturbing front desk staff or keeping guests waiting. You can forward numbers to a cell phone so that the manager on duty can walk around and visit with guests personally without being tied to a desk. You can even automate check-in and check-out so that guests don’t have to wait in line just to be handed a plastic keycard.
A VoIP system can also help with your maintenance and housekeeping staff. Rather than walking the halls knocking on doors, maintenance and housekeeping personnel can simply be updated the moment a room has been vacated, then update the system as soon as the work is done and the room is ready for guests again. Guests can even set a virtual “do not disturb” sign if you want, so that housekeeping won’t waste any time cleaning a room that doesn’t need to be cleaned.
Keeping Guests Happy
The efficiency and advanced features of your hotel communications system will directly translate to a better guest experience. They won’t have to wait in line to check in or check out when they might be in a hurry. They won’t have to call a busy restaurant to order room service, only to be put on hold. They’ll be able to request special accommodations, housekeeping, maintenance, wake-up calls, and more through an automated system, without needing to occupy the time of your front desk staff.
Today’s customers are used to convenience — if your hotel is still running on slow or antiquated systems, you’ll lose out to the more advanced competition. When guest stays are down, it’s more important than ever that you keep guest satisfaction high, and a modern, high-tech hotel is a great place to start.