How many networked devices can you see, right now? Take a look around and look for anything with a network cable or a wireless connection. Most of us will probably get to half a dozen before we even start thinking about it. Technology has become such a persistent part of our lives and our society that we are very rarely more than a few feet away from the nearest portal to the world. An IDC Research study showed that 79% of people keep their phone on them 22 hours per day, 42% of American adults own a tablet, 61% own a laptop, and a whopping 91% own a cell phone. Half of those are smartphones. (Source: Pew Research)
Clearly we have reached a point where the hotelier, general manager, or service provider can expect guests to own and carry at least one networked device everywhere they go. So what should we do about it? What does that mean?
It’s not just a computer, it’s your personal identity. Ask to borrow someone’s phone and watch their facial expressions. Your phone is a part of who you are. The hospitality industry should take advantage of this by communicating with people the same way they talk to their friends and family.
We expect to be tracked and analyzed, but also expect data to be safeguarded. The consistent talking point behind recent data breaches at JP Morgan Chase, Ebay, Target, Apple, and others has not necessarily been the amount of data being collected, but what measures are being taken to keep it safe. Companies looking to start data collection would be wise to make security a critical priority.
The next big thing will always blindside everyone. Who would have expected Twitter to have over 300 million active users? Did anyone really see 35 million guests dropping hotels in favor of Airbnb? Where did Foursquare find 45 million users with a team of less than 200? The best thing anyone can do is remain flexible. Keep your eyes open, watch the trends, and most of all, stay adaptable.
Like it or not, technology is everywhere, and it will continue to expand into areas we don’t even think about as time goes on. There is so much data available on every conceivable topic that the hospitality industry can (and should) take advantage of it at every opportunity to provide the best possible service to our guests. There are so many skilled service providers today that “we haven’t found the right one” is much less of a reason than an excuse, and guests are beginning to realize it. When I can pick up a car, fill the tank, check into an airport, let my loved ones know I landed, and call a ride to the hotel all from my handy pocket supercomputer, do we really want to be known as the industry that still won’t let me open the door?
Josh Baker is the Product Development Director of HandHeld Hospitality, a hospitality software company leading the way with innovative guest engagement solutions at an affordable price. His experience with big data, ubiquitous computing, usability design, and agile management provide a unique voice and vision to HandHeld’s product line.