Developing new technology is no small task, especially when so many industries around the globe rely almost entirely on the continued evolution of cutting-edge platforms and capabilities. Hospitality is no exception; the software that hoteliers invest in will play a pivotal role in curating the guest experience and, ultimately, deciding a hotel’s success.
The software development process can be rather complicated and is often rife with mistakes. Across an industry that is commonly chastised for its reliance on outdated, legacy technology, it’s all too easy for vendors to arrive at the classic developmental bottleneck: ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ As we’ve established, the hospitality industry exists at the mercy of ever-changing guest expectations.
This, in turn, means hotel software has to change in tandem, and its development should be informed not by past standards, but by current requirements, pain points, and guest needs. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top 4 mistakes vendors make when developing hotel software.
1. Guest Behavior
Guest behavior should exist at the forefront of the software development process. If the product is going to be used by the consumer (whether the primary consumer will be hotel staff or hotel guests), where is the research on what the consumer really wants? If the primary barrier to technology adoption is often the user experience, where is the research on what type of user experience is preferable? Is the target consumer interested in efficiency, personalization, or both? Do they prefer digital or human interaction or a hybrid of experiences? Unfortunately, too many vendors bypass this step entirely, subscribing to the misconception that they have an in-depth understanding of guest preferences without taking the time to qualify those assumptions and, for lack of a better term, without going directly to the source.
Simply stated, vendors cannot truly serve consumer needs without first understanding, through research rather than assumption, what the consumer wants and needs. With this in mind, guest data represents an incredibly valuable part of the software development process. This data can be collected by tracking guest behavior and directly asking customers, not in the form of a webinar, but through guest queries (studies, surveys, questionnaires, etc.).
2. Long Term Scalability
Legacy hotel software has plenty of shortcomings, but perhaps the most glaring is its lack of scalability. Successful hotels are meant to grow and, therefore, their digital backbone should possess the capacity to support that growth. If a platform is cumbersome and unable to adapt to a property’s evolving needs, how can it continue to serve and support that hotel over time? The answer is quite simple — it won’t. Instead, it will eventually be replaced.
Moving beyond the confines of legacy technology, modern software should be cloud-based, flexible, and scalable through the provision of frequent updates, improvements, and tiers of service. Software vendors should also consider the long-term vision for their product, and invest in a customer advisory board that can help with the continued growth of the product, based on the evolving needs of the end consumer.
3. Software for a Post-Pandemic World
Over the course of a few months, our industry (along with the world as we know it) has changed dramatically. The coronavirus pandemic impacts both the way we navigate the world and the way business owners service customers and, as such, processes must be aptly reformed and reimagined. Any of the 2020 outlooks or updated data collections that hospitality leaders and software vendors used to inform their strategies must now be discarded, as the post-pandemic world brings with it a vastly different set of expectations and buying behaviors.
Moving forward, software vendors must invest in market research and surveys, to appropriately survey their clients and gain a thorough understanding of the current hospitality landscape. Armed with this information, vendors can innovate according to the real-time needs of the consumer. Without it, they are simply taking shots in the dark.
4. Integration Capabilities
In many ways, software is only as good as its integration capabilities. Guest expectations are robust, and, as such, the technology stack positioned to service those expectations on behalf of a hotel often includes a variety of platforms. If any of those platforms lack the ability to integrate seamlessly into the operational ecosystem, data silos and fragmented workflows will become commonplace.
The myriad of applications and platforms that hoteliers rely on must share and communicate guest data in real-time while providing hotel staff with a seamless user experience that accounts for all critical touchpoints. Although legacy technology is notorious for its lack of integration capabilities and/or expensive integration fees, next-gen systems built on an open API promise hoteliers a streamlined process, reduce costs, and enhanced efficiency.
5. Flying Blind
Our world is largely defined by the digital infrastructure and data-backed insights that lay the foundation for hyper-personalized, guest-centric service. Today’s guest, especially in a post-pandemic world, arrives with heightened expectations and, in order to continuously meet and exceed those expectations, hoteliers require the support of new-age software. But what makes great software? Customer insights. On the other hand, what makes mediocre software? Vendors who take a ‘shot in the dark’ during product development.
Let’s consider a well known example. McDonald’s, a fast-food restaurant of global, widely successful scale. In 2015, McDonald’s was experiencing declining sales, and realized a need to combat the public perception of their food offerings. Asking for direct customer input through the means of market research, the company was able to address consumer desires for an improved, more health-conscious menu. Today, McDonald’s no longer sells chicken products containing human antibiotics, phosphates, and maltodextrin, while offering customers a wider variety of ‘healthier’ menu choices. Had the fast-food giant not leveraged intelligence gleaned from market research, they may have never changed their menu appropriately and, as such, would have continued to face declining sales and popularity.
Market research is an incredibly powerful tool, and allows software vendors to proactively determine the feasibility/demand for a potential new product or service offering, identify or appeal to new markets, enhance customer service, and even monitor competition. Without it, hospitality technology vendors are simply ‘flying blind’.
New software has a job to do. It has to be easy to use, easy to implement, and be relevant. If the software is not relevant to today’s guest’s needs and requirements, the vendor did something wrong while developing their solution.
With this in mind, hoteliers should seek out providers that outline how the roadmap of their software was conceived, and how they gathered relevant information that assisted in the development of the software.
The future has still yet to be defined but rest assured, it will not be business as usual.