Sure, the theory behind one partner providing a single solution for all of your hotel operating needs – inventory management, accounting, check-in, pricing, marketing, distribution, sales RFPs – sounds dreamy. One bill, one point of contact for service, one central storage center for guest and transactional data.
But, as it’s been tested time and time again, we know challenges for one single provider to meet all the needs of a hotel operation are just too great to overcome. What ends up happening with each new “hotel in a box” is that the solution is really good at one or two functions but falls short in all the rest.
Thankfully, hotel systems providers that serve a specific role in the greater tech ecosystem have finally come to understand the appeal of a single provider and geared their businesses to act more like them. The movement to open APIs and share data that was once siloed are first steps in the right direction. While, as an industry, we’re not fully there yet, we’re moving to a point where integrations are happening seamlessly behind the scenes, with no finger-pointing or unnecessary toll on the hotelier. And simpler, cloud-based integrations are driving down what ultimately matters most – cost.
When chosen properly, your carefully cultivated tech stack made up of deeply integrated systems will act as if it’s one single platform, yet each part will provide best-in-class functionality. The most critical integration in a best-of-breed tech stack is with the Property Management System, as this system acts as the main hub in connecting much of the back-of-house and front-of-house applications.
We caught up with Tanya Stallard of SHR and Paul Griffiths of Infor Hospitality to discuss the key factors to consider when building a well-integrated tech stack.
1. Solutions Providers Have Shifted Focus to the Customer
Stallard: We all know the horror stories from the past about technology vendors that wouldn’t work together for the benefit of servicing their clients, and some of these legacy providers are still out there, but for the most part that environment has changed. Now most providers take advantage of our strengths to work closely with specialists in other areas to in the end offer a better solution to the client.
Today at SHR, we’re more choosey about our partners. While we integrate with hundreds of providers, we prefer to work with partners that share the same values: excellent customer service and dedicated team support. We try to solve things without involving the client, that way the client doesn’t feel like they need to deal with two different points of contact.
Griffiths: We accept that partners in the past haven't worked together for the benefit of the hotelier, and that they’ve often been playing “support table tennis” – going back and forth with blame rather than solving the problem. But, if there’s one silver lining that has come out of COVID, it’s that hotel tech providers understand what we need to do better. We’re taking the onus off of the hoteliers and embracing the responsibility of making sure their systems are speaking fluently to one another. We only succeed if they succeed.
2. Integrations are Tighter
Griffiths: The integration between a PMS and a Central Reservations System is critical because the reservation system has connectivity to all the other distribution channels. Proper integrations ensure that hoteliers can build rates in the PMS and have them automatically flow immediately to the CRS, which then publishes them across all channels. Critical to this strategy is ensuring what the customer sees on your website translates over into the booking engine, so that when they hit the booking engine they're not all of a sudden seeing different things.
Stallard: Integration is critical, especially if you want to have a strong book-direct strategy. Guest comments and payment details, as well as data on any add-on services booked – all of that needs shared across systems, otherwise you risk losing the guest with friction at check-in. Having a really strong PMS integration into your CRS and with your booking engine is really key.
3. Data Flows More Freely
Stallard: Many look at data as the new king, but in fact data is the new soil required to nurture relationships hoteliers have with their guests. Integrations are required to share many data points to provide the hotelier with a holistic view of their guest. This is driving new valuable recognition and replacing the traditional points-based loyalty systems, which have less and less value to the guest. When looking to improve the guest journey, having your CRS and Booking Engine truly integrated with your CRM and Recognition Programme – and adding an integration with the PMS with no loss of data – allows you to provide truly unique experiences.
Griffiths: It’s important for the PMS to ingest booking data from partner applications rather than forcing staff to look in multiple systems instead of focusing on the guest. A Customer Relationship Management tool and booking engine will gather guest data pre-arrival, but then it’s up to the PMS to present that information to hotel staff in order for them to execute.
4. More Systems Doesn’t Mean More Work
Stallard: Part of the appeal of an all-in-one solution is time savings, but we’re confident that choosing best-in-class providers that are each focused on automating as much as the process as possible will make you most efficient. We understand there's a staffing crisis and our focus has shifted to saving you as much time and helping you operate as efficiently as possible. Maybe automating part of your distribution or pricing processes can help you eliminate a position that you can’t fill.
Griffiths: When we talk with clients, we find it’s taking them about 90 minutes per day to manage their systems. We want to get rid of the barriers that technology is introducing due to the fact that systems aren’t speaking with each other.
5. Specialization is a Good Thing
Stallard: A “best of breed” approach means you’re choosing to work with partners that have proven to be excellent in their field and provide best-in-class functionality. These providers understand they don’t have the resources to develop, support and evolve solutions across the entire tech stack, rather they choose to do a few things really well.
Griffiths: At Infor Hospitality, we’re really good at what we do, and we understand we can’t be everything to everyone, so we work closely with partners like SHR to complement our products. We think hoteliers are best suited working with partners that are specialists in their field. After all, would you go to a dentist if you sprained your ankle?