HFTP Connect – Hospitality Blog

A Lesson in Service

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Written By: James LingleUntitled design (8)

I’ve heard it said, in a variety of ways, that the way to see someone’s character is to see how they treat those who have no influence over them. I don’t know how true that might be, but it sounds good when I hear it. In general, I’ve always considered myself a service oriented person. I think it is why I ended up in the hospitality industry, even if it was on the IT side!

Holding doors open for others, taking time to look at a passerby when they speak to you and you respond, looking others in the eye – those are all things that speak to me as being service oriented. This week, HITEC served me up two reminders of what service really means. The first was just an everyday encounter. As I was leaving my hotel for the convention center a member of the hotel staff was mopping the floor, as I approached, she smiled at me and let me know where the dry spot was. I thanked her and as I passed by she saw my HITEC badge, called me by my name and wished me a good day. I stopped, wished her a good day as well and thanked her for using my name.

The second experience, I have to admit, was more memorable for me. I don’t typically get too star struck. Famous people, athletes, etc… are people too. They just happen to be good at/famous for something that the general public values highly. I had the opportunity to meet Chef Robert Irvine at the Comcast Business both on Monday. I admit to being a fan of his. I thought the opportunity to meet him would be the simple shake of hands, nice to meet you and move on. After all, who am I to him? Instead I got nearly 20 minutes with someone whose work I admire and who didn’t need to spend more than 30 seconds with me. I walked away from the meeting practically giddy with excitement.

I think I know what you are probably wondering – why does this belong in a blog about HITEC? The truth is in hospitality technology we are barreling down on the concept that we are a critical component of the business. And that is true – we are. But I think sometimes we forget that we are a service component of a service industry. The person mopping the floor at the hotel has no influence over me, but she went out of her way to create an experience for me that I remember. I have no influence over a celebrity chef, yet he made me feel for 20 minutes like I was the only person that mattered. We need, as IT people, service providers, and vendors/partners to not forget ultimately what it is we are trying to do and try to create an experience that our customers will remember long after the transaction is over.

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James Lingle is an official 2016 HITEC Guest Blogger and professional consultant. In addition to Interim CIO and CIO advisory service, he also does project management and information security work for his clients. Follow him on LinkedIn and visit his page: www.jameslingle.com

Robotics in Hospitality: Are we asking the right questions?

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Written By: Katerina Berezina, Ph.D., CHTP, CRME

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Even though robotic technologies have recently made their way into the hospitality industry, we can already see robots working at the front desk, concierge, housekeeping, restaurants and bars. Robots employed by the hospitality industry come in different shapes and forms. For example, HITEC attendees had a chance to interact with Botlr, a robot that is currently being used in different hotels to assist front desk agents in fulfilling guest requests by running deliveries. We also have seen Hilton’s robot Connie that works as a concierge and helps hotel guests with giving recommendations for places to explore in the area, and finding answers to other questions. There are also examples of employing robot chefs and waiters in restaurants, as well as robotic bartenders.

As a new and exciting technology, the use of robots in the hospitality industry is also surrounded by numerous questions. Are robots the right choice for the hospitality industry? Can robots deliver the same level of service that we expect from front line employees? Are we losing the personal touch? Are guests ready for interactions with robots? Are operators ready for employing them? Will robots take away our jobs? These and many other questions were tackled during the panel discussion “Robotics in Hospitality: the Future or just a Gimmick?” at HITEC 2016.

Robots have already proven themselves useful in many different industries including manufacturing, military, marine and space exploration, healthcare, and agriculture. However, as you introduce a question of robotic technologies to hospitality industry professionals very often you would hear a concern about the service quality delivered by robots and the loss of personal touch. The debate about high tech versus high touch has been going on for years. But are we asking this question right? Is the only way to use a robot is by replacing a human?

Another way to look at this issue is to ask whether robotic technologies may co-exist with humans, assist them, change the process, and enhance customer service instead of ruining it. We have already seen an example of Botlr working side by side with front desk agents. Botlr can run a delivery, but a human front desk agent needs to receive the order and load it into the robot. Similarly, we may imagine a robotic vacuum cleaner assisting a housekeeper with cleaning rooms. In these scenarios, robots are not replacing humans, but saving time and adding efficiency to the process. By robot participation in the service delivery front desk agents may receive more time for personal interaction with guests, while housekeepers may gain more time for adding personal touches to the guest room.

These are just some examples of robots assisting humans with different physical tasks. But what about the artificial intelligence? Robots may have access to incredibly vast knowledge, such as facts, locations, weather, languages, and many more. The hospitality industry may benefit from robots that in addition to other functions may also provide translation services into any language in the world. Would not that be an asset to a hotel and a great help to front desk agents? Taking this a step further we may also think about the continued development of cognitive computing power and analytics. The recent developments in this area introduced such systems that may analyze data and build strategies. An example of such technology may be Lucy, powered by IBM Watson. Can you imagine a robotic concierge that may provide recommendations for choosing between two events happening in the area at the same time based on the analysis of online reviews, ticket availability and traffic on the way from the hotel to each of the places?

All of these examples lead us to a concept of a cobot, or a collaborative robot. Maybe robots will not replace a human in the hospitality industry, but augment the human; not just be added to the process, but change the process? We do not shy away from the assistance of mobile technologies, and embrace the convenience and intelligence that they bring to our lives. Probably, we should give a chance to robots too. Just like the adoption of mobile technologies gave a great push to the development of location-based services, reputation management, pricing strategies, and many other aspects of the industry, robots may open the door to new developments as well. But for this to happen, we also may want to think differently, see things differently, and ask questions differently.

KaterinaBerezina150 H16OffBloggerKaterina Berezina, Ph.D., CHTP, CRME is an official 2016 HITEC Guest Blogger, and an Assistant Professor in the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership (CHTL) at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM). She also serves as a Coordinator of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation. Her industry experience includes working in travel agencies and hotels in Russia and the United States. Follow her on Twitter at @KateBerezina.

A Token For My Thoughts….

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EMV-Swipe

Written By: Jennifer Jones

While at HITEC, most of us have had at least one conversation about EMV during the conference. People know it’s important and that they should do something about it.  But it’s confusing.  And you may have been misinformed once or twice. Who is certified with who?  What hardware is certified and where do I have to get it from? Your software application may be certified with your gateway, but until your processor is certified also, you won’t be able to accept a chip transaction at the front desk or point of sale terminal.  So if your head is spinning like a crazy person, it’s ok. We all have been there.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a magical list that named software vendors down one side, and then gateway/processor combinations up across the top? It would simply state if they are currently supporting EMV transactions or publish a date that advises when they plan on being certified.  Most importantly, if I’m told you are EMV certified, I’d like you to tell me the name of at least one property where it’s working.  I think I’m going to create this magical list because it’s hard to keep up with the Joneses and know who is doing what.

Purchasing the right hardware can also be daunting.  There are different models of devices and brands you can choose from.  Will you implement them with a USB connection or will you have open network drops available to connect via Ethernet?  Depending on your gateway provider you may have to order these from a reseller and make sure that the correct keys get injected onto them.  And if you do connect them via Ethernet, someone will have the fun task of assigning IP addresses to all of them.  I suggest that someone keeps track of each terminal’s serial number, model number and location of its placement in your hotel with the corresponding IP address.  It makes supporting these devices easier.

Be prepared that it’s going to cost you money to implement EMV. There’s no way around it.  There will be hardware charges, there will gateway charges and there will be charges from your software providers for someone to configure the system properly.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch so budget accordingly when venturing into this transition.

But hands down, I believe the most frequently forgotten part of implementing EMV that is as important as everything else is training. Just implementing tokenization and point-to-point encryption will introduce procedural changes for your staff.  If they accidentally close a check with a wrong tip amount, it’s not as easy as voiding the payment and correcting the amount.  That credit card number isn’t stored in the system anymore and they will be unable to reprocess the card. Documenting all of these scenarios for your staff is completely helpful and will help allow them to adopt the new payment process.

So while at HITEC, make sure to sit down with your vendors and find out where they are in the EMV process and talk with them on their approach to implementing it.  There’s a lot of planning you should prepare for as well as time for configuration and training.

JenniferJones H16OffBloggerJennifer Jones is president at J2 Hospitality Solutions, a technology consulting firm. She is an active member in the HFTP Rocky Mountain chapter, and she has spent her entire career in the hospitality technology space on both vendor and property sides of the spectrum. Jones is a 1997 graduate of Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management.

Weekly Connect from PineappleSearch 6/24/16

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Weekly Connect from Pineapplesearch.com. This week’s tour of news and information from Pineapplesearch.com. Here is what happened in hospitality this week:

Visit and register at Pineapplesearch.com – the hospitality-specific search engine – for the latest news and information. When you register you can customize your experience, bringing the topics of interest to you front and center; as well as elect to receive a weekly news digest delivered via email.

A New Look for IT: What Skills Are Needed for Tomorrow’s IT Staff?

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By James Lingle

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Much of my career has been spent leading teams. Whether it has been single focus teams (e.g. support) or teams that have mixed focuses (support, database, security, etc…). For the longest time the focus was topically customer service. That is to say, what can we do to react to a guest’s needs?

Several years ago, my philosophy began to change. I began to wonder: What can my teams do to add value to the organization rather than to simply react? So when I looked at the schedule of this year’s Super Sessions, I was immediately interested in a session about the changing IT staff requirements.

The session started with the panel sharing with us some of what they see as the drivers for that change. While some of those changes were internal (organization and process, for example); many of the real influencers are external to the organization. Things like: mobility, PCI and PII security concerns and vendor community changes were some of the examples. I think I would add commoditization of IT jobs, the giant leaps forward in distributed (yes, you can say cloud!) computing and the significant advancements in APIs.

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Revenue Management Meets Big Data

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Written By: Katerina Berezina, Ph.D., CHTP, CRME20160620_121342

HFTP and HITEC are known not only for the world’s largest hospitality technology show, but also for the cutting-edge education and professional development. In order to deliver the highest quality of education, HITEC brings together dozens of sessions that discuss the recent developments and trends in the field of hospitality technology. HITEC 2016 presents its attendees with educational sessions on a variety of topics, including information security, entrepreneurship, sustainability, big data, robotics in the hospitality industry, and many more. In addition to these topics HITEC also partners with other associations to broaden the horizons and bring additional educational components to the conference.

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Airbnb…the new Kale

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By Jennifer Jones

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We’ve all been watching how Airbnb is disrupting the lodging industry. While it’s already encroached into the hotelier space of leisure travelers, it’s beginning to make its mark on the corporate traveler as well. On June 8, Airbnb announced a revolutionary new product for the business traveler – Airbnb for Business. It’s pretty slick. Hoteliers, take note, and make sure you are doing everything you can to provide your corporate guests the comforts of home, because last week, they procured $1B in financing to grow the company and that’s a lot of kale.

Many of us have been sitting at home and have seen the new TV advertisement reaching out to millions of people who may have not even known what Airbnb is. Think about how many times you see a commercial for your favorite hotel brand? Up until now, most of us only thought of Airbnb when we were vacationing. We usually never considered Airbnb or even VRBO.com when traveling for business because of things like limited check-in times, lack of amenities, or like Forest Gump says, “you never know what you’re gonna get.”

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I Lost my Privacy. Can you help me Find It?

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Written by: Jennifer Jones

Hello Sticker

I Lost my Privacy. Can you help me Find It?

I’m a savvy business traveler.  And as frequently as I travel, I almost always encounter an issue with my privacy.  Hotels do not even seem to even realize that they are putting me, their guest, at risk when they are doing it.  It does not have to do with the fact that I have one of the most common surnames in the world, Jones (not to mention one of the most popular first names as well).  It does not even have to do that I am a female traveler either, as men are just as much exposed to this risk as well.  Being in the hospitality technology industry for almost 20 years, I am still baffled why this continues to be an issue that has not been standardized by technology.

I am talking about charging at hotel or resort outlets back to my guest room.

Let me share a recent experience I had staying at a premier resort in Las Vegas.

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Tuning In to Station HITEC

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Written By: James Lingle

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I love HITEC — I’ve been to more HITECs than I can remember (though not nearly as many as some others!). It seems like I should be able to keep count of them, but after a while, I’ve just lost count. Last year, however, was an unusual year for me. Due to some family commitments, it was the first year in a long time that I didn’t attend HITEC.

After being accepted as a return blogger this year, I began thinking almost immediately about what I was going to write for my pre-HITEC blog. The answer came pretty quickly. I’ve told people over the years that you are sometimes more conspicuous by your absence from HITEC than by your presence. In other words – even if you aren’t launching a new product or service, it’s better to be there to reach current and new customers than it is to step back for a year and not be there. Then I thought – having missed a year – what am I going to look for when I go to HITEC this year and how can I share that in a way that might be helpful to those who haven’t been recently or maybe even the first timers? So here we go (p.s. See if you can find the theme — there is a hint at the end)!

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Hospitality Attacks: Tips for Guest Safety and Protection

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After the horrific, recent mass shootings and terror attacks across the globe in public spaces: outside restaurants and bars and others, there has been a rise in concern about the security at hospitality venues. The attacks garner worldwide publicity and comment, part of the strategy behind the perpetrators.

In January 2016, HFTP published a full report “Hospitality Attacks: Tips for Guest Safety and Protection” to offer the industry a guide on preparing their properties for such an unfortunate, but possible eventuality. In light of continued attacks, including the senseless mass shooting in Orlando this past weekend, I present some key points from the report in hope to push your establishment to create a response plan and train staff.

So how does an industry that is required to offer a relaxed, discreet, unobtrusive and unencumbered experience for guests, reconcile those goals with offering guests a secure environment? Understanding that there is potential for danger, hospitality properties need to counter it with preemptive response planning. It is imperative for organizations to implement appropriate security measures, including installing supportive technology to help with monitoring (and potentially post incident response).

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