THOSE OTHER SCREENS – THE ONES OUR STAFF USE
When the editor told me that the issue’s theme was user experience, I was pleased. If the hotel industry is to boost the proportion of reservations made on our own websites, we must be as smart and as competent as the online travel agencies at presenting our hotels to our website visitors as their very best choice.
We must offer reasons for them to book us, and to do so on our sites – appealing descriptions and persuasive photos of the amenities that they will enjoy, readily understood pricing, proof of the high value delivered by our hotel (sometimes communicated by including guest reviews), a subtly-conveyed sense of urgency, and an easy-to-use booking process. Yes, the user experience is a timely and vitally important topic for this issue of Hospitality Upgrade.
But the consumer experience on our websites, or when viewing our material on Facebook and on other social media sites, is not the only important user experience. Equally significant, but less often considered, is the user experience enjoyed (or endured) by our staff as they use our administration systems – our property management systems, point of sale systems, CRS and others. The pattern in this industry of keeping systems for a decade (and sometimes much longer) means that their user displays are far removed from the screen design styles and system interaction techniques that our staff are accustomed to and fully comfortable with on their own personal electronics. This is a problem.
It is increasingly difficult to position our hotels as modern, exciting places to work when the tool kit we give to our staff includes systems that are reminiscent of their parents’ (or grandparents’) era of electronics. We joke about seeing hotel systems that require use of “green screens”, user displays that are lines of capital letter field names, underlined data entry locations and a flashing cursor. These decades-old screen styles are still alive and well at many front desks, reservation offices and accounting departments.
If we are burdened in too many cases by legacy systems and their outmoded user screens, the news is encouraging. First, there is a pronounced migration underway in the lodging industry to a new generation of cloud-based (as opposed to in-hotel installed) systems. By virtue of their more recent development, these systems incorporate much more contemporary user experiences for our staff.
Next, the developers of these new systems have, for the first time in hotel system design and development history, made the user experience a top priority. No, they are not the match of our 2016 smartphones, but they are light-years ahead of the green screens in data presentation, intuitiveness and ease of use. They show more information, do so in manner that is less intrusive in our communication with our guests, and suggest to our staff that the hotel company that installed them is in touch with and understands the benefits of modern technology.
Staff recruiting, retention and productivity are core issue for us as hoteliers. To achieve top performance in these areas, we must not lose sight of the tools with which we equip our staff, including the modernity (or not) of our systems and their user experience.