The needs of business are always driven by changes in customer demand. Nowhere is that more true than in the service industry, and a more sophisticated clientele is forcing hospitality managers to enlist new technology to help serve client needs.

One area of hospitality and tourism management that has been in sore need of efficiency and flexibility has been communication between staff, management and customers. Many hotels have become tech savvy with their websites and online marketing, but actual hotel operations, building maintenance systems and even housekeeping services are only starting to see the benefits of new technology.

Hospitality Technology Isn’t Just for Show

It’s easy for any business looking to upgrade its systems to get sucked in with flashy gimmick devices and operational solutions just because they look good. Using augmented reality in hospitality communications and operations is a nice dream, but it’s unlikely to really revolutionize the industry any time soon.

What’s really needed by hotel managers are solutions that actually give them leverage on existing processes, to communicate instantly with staff and respond more efficiently to guests’ needs. This means thinking beyond just walkie-talkies and smartphones to the management software that hospitality professionals use to coordinate everything from housekeeping to equipment maintenance.

An effective system for tracking work orders, scheduling housekeeping tasks and automating inventory management helps to streamline every single process in a hotel’s operations. It also creates significant changes for communication at every single level of the organization, the importance of which I’ll talk about in a minute.

Centralizing Hotel Operations

Breakdowns in service happen because of breakdowns in communication, usually at the bottleneck point of a manager overwhelmed by micromanaging too much of their staff. Impromptu changes in the priority of certain tasks, coordinating catering and event hosting services, or just ensuring that housekeeping staff remains on schedule can cannibalize hospitality managers’ time and attention. That’s when things fall through the cracks.

The solution to the problem isn’t necessarily to add more personnel to the management level. It’s much more efficient to simply automate management tasks to free up time. All work orders, maintenance tasks, cleaning schedules and inspections should be managed from a single place, letting you monitor and rearrange the entire lot on the fly. Many properties don’t need more technology; they simply need a solution that brings everything together under one dashboard that’s simple to use and understand.

Fostering Internal Communication

The primary goal for any manager, in my opinion, is to create communication channels that flow more than one way. An organization that is unnecessarily top-down is one that is, by definition, starved of information from the very levels that interact most directly with guests.

Technology, or the lack thereof, can often be the root of a hotel’s communication problems. Paper records, schedules and work orders don’t allow information to flow upward in an organizational hierarchy, and they’re certainly slow. Orders that are updated instantly and wirelessly to communication devices employees can actually use will enable the entire staff to respond quickly to guest requests or complaints, not to mention changes in plans for large-scale events or problems.

When a manager can get instant feedback from individual staff members, they can address issues more quickly, both for individual guests and the organization at large. That type of feedback let’s information flow across departments as well, reducing turnaround time for guest services, maintenance and a myriad of other operational concerns.

This post was contributed by Derek Smith. Since working in the software services industry, Derek has become an expert in hospitality management, facilities maintenance and business operations. He writes about all those subjects and more for ManagerPlus, an asset management and building maintenance software company that specializes in a broad range of industries, from hospitality to mining.