Monday, 7 November 2016

Hotel Problems everywhere

Problems with hotels - we've all experienced one problem or another during our hotel stays in the past. The problem could be your keycard not working so you are locked out. Perhaps you found yourself in a double room booking and you had to relocate to another hotel? Or maybe you ended up in a dirty or loud room and you had trouble sleeping?

After staying in thousands of hotels all over the world for the last 20 years, ever since the travel bug bit me in my early twenties, I'm still finding new hotel problems every time I go on a trip. I believe most problems encountered in hotels can be solved digitally with apps, software, and integration's.

Here's two new problems I encountered in my most recent travels which a guest loyalty app in a hotel would solve;
1. We were charged for room service we did not order in one hotel.
2. In a second hotel, my wife could not check-in without taking a physical security deposit swipe of a credit card which I was holding (and I was on the other side of the city at a conference), despite the fact that I had made a booking with my credit card (on the hotel's website) and so the hotel would have had my credit card details stored on their software system, and could have used these details for the security deposit.

Problem 1 being charged for room service and mini-bar we didn't have - when we went to check-out, we were presented with a bill for drinks and food that we didn't order (beers and lasagne). We explained this to the reception desk attendant and she immediately questioned our honesty. This 'charging room service to a room' is such an archaic process based on the honesty system, or is it? When a room service order such as food arrives to a room, the guest in the room signs a receipt to say they have accepted the room service. But the first point of break down with this system is this - the guest accepting the food may or may not be the person who has signed the forms at check-in (there is no way to line up signatures at the time of accepting food, so who takes responsibility in the room for the payment at check-out time?

Second point of possible break down - is it the responsibility of one of the hotel staff to take a copy of the signed receipt and attach it to a file for the room number/guest name (possibly scan it digitally) and log the information into the hotels Property Management System (PMS), so the bill can be generated at check-out? Of course this requires a human to do two things which could break down; firstly hotel staff must file a receipt correctly, and two; staff must enter correct details into software (which could be entered wrong such as with a typo with wrong room number).

So returning to our situation with being charged for something we didn't order, we had to wait around 5 minutes for the reception desk attendant to disappear to a room out the back, then finally return to watch her converse with her manager for a couple of minutes down the end of the reception desk, before finally returning to tell us, that, "we can't locate the file and receipts for your room, as they have already being taken away and processed for accounting as it was the end of the month yesterday".

At this time, I had to insist once again, that we didn't order any drinks, and we didn't order that food on the bill I had laid out in front of me. Finally the reception desk attendant agreed with me and said, "that's ok, we'll work it out later", and she then printed out a new bill with a new total amount which I paid.

So I wonder what happens next to who pays for the drinks and meals (the beer and lasagne) which totaled around $70? How are the hotel going to find out who pays for this? If it was a typo error, such as the hotel staff mistakenly entering room 505 (our room number) in their PMS, instead of the real room number, say 605, then what are the hotel going to do to get this $70?  Are they going to look up guest in 605's mobile number and ask them if they ordered beers and lasagne on the 30th October? What if it was a typo and it should have been 506? Are they going to do the same thing to guest in room 506, until they find someone that admits its their room service? What if they dig up the room service order signed receipt from the accounting department, then can the hotel be certain that the right number is at the top of the receipt? Can they line up the signature with another signature on their check-in system file? Have the hotel just lost $70 for incorrectly charging room service to the wrong room? How often does this happen?

A hotel guest loyalty app with room service solves this problem so easily. Here's how it would work - the room service order (beers and lasagne in this case) is placed inside the guest loyalty app by a guest hitting an order button, and the guest is charged immediately and automatically from their credit card stored inside the app (of course credit card details are hidden to all - like in Uber). There could be a double check system when food arrives, where the guest taps their phone to the rooms service delivery persons phone, or tray/trolley to confirm the delivery, or hitting a button on the room's service delivery persons phone. The details are then automatically sent to the hotels cloud based Property Management System/interfacing cloud based accounting system, and guest is automatically billed correctly. There can be no error here.

The second problem we encountered is also easily solved with a stored credit card inside an app, once again like Uber, or simply being able to self check-in on an app. Although the hotel had taken my credit card details at the time of the booking (through their channel too - i.e their website), they insisted they physically swipe my credit card for a $200 security deposit, or if my wife had a credit card on her to use that (which she didn't have at the time), before they would check us in and give the key to my wife to access the room. Although the hotel had my credit card details stored from my booking (and I had paid for my room already), they would not trust giving my wife with the key to the room without a physical swipe of a credit card for the $200 security deposit. The hotel would not allow me to come down after the conference had finished at 5pm with my credit card physically in person to be swiped for the $200 security deposit, despite me being interrupted from my conference and pleading on the phone for this to happen.

So at the end of the day - we the guests have had to trust the hotels (especially with our credit card details) but they don't trust us! They're systems are often based on the honesty system (room service or mini-bar ordering) or on a system that is inefficient and can't store and re-use details (such as credit card details, and your personal information for example sometimes you have to fill out your personal details on a piece of paper at check-in, even after you enter all those details into a form online when you make the booking).

The lack of trust from the hotels, leads to conflicts, inefficiencies, time-wasting, and possible loss of money and respect. An Uber like loyalty app, with credit card details stored, and tied to all purchases during hotel stay, solves many problems. The hotel does not take responsibility of your credit card details (a third party financial institution holds it in the app) and there can be no errors or mistrust or problems.

If you are interested in learning more about Guest Loyalty Apps for your hotel please visit

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