With over 30 years of experience in hospitality, Brendon Granger has been helping 100 hotels to use technology to increase revenue and reduce cost whilst at the same time increasing guest satisfaction. Brendon built his IT Skills from the ground up, he began as an installer & trainer for a local property management system vendor. Brendon owns Technology 4 Hotels which acts as a “technology concierge” that helps hotels thrive by leveraging technology. We recently got an opportunity to chat with Brendon about his journey so far and to understand how hoteliers can use hotel software technology to improve business and increase revenues, here we share insights shared by this hospitality veteran.
1). What has inspired you to be a hotel guest room technology specialist?
Like a lot of things in life, you could say I just fell into hotel technology. Whilst doing my Hotel Degree one of the subjects I loved the most was technology. Later in one of my first hotel positions, I became the de facto systems guy. If I am honest nobody else wanted to do it. It was an old Unix based system and was not very user friendly. This shaped my career and my roles were hotel and technology based. For example, I worked for a PMS vendor in numerous roles and then for a hotel Internet provider in Sales initially but I finished up in Marketing & Product Management being the interface between the end-user and our development team. Hotels and Technology are my two passions. So I started Technology 4 Hotels to service the industry I love with the level of service plus both product & hospitality knowledge that the hoteliers deserve.
2). Why are smart hotel rooms becoming important?
I think one of the primary reasons that smart rooms are becoming important is because of the increased costs of energy. A smart room is able to turn off or put the Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) into a setback routine automatically once it detects that the room has been unoccupied for a designated period of time. They are not commonplace as yet but there are some hotels that have rooms fitted with IoT devices that can self-report a fault. As an example, if the light bulb blows, a maintenance request can be automatically generated and sent to the maintenance department as a task. This saves time, reduces cost and also enhances the guest experience.
3). What are your tips to transform a hotel room into a smart room?
I am going to answer this slightly differently if I may with general tips on the implementation of technology in hotels as a whole. Here is my suggested checklist.
• Determine your needs & those of your guests. Don’t imply personal bias & don’t just go for shiny new things. Create a list of Must Have, Nice to have and Wish List criteria.
• Look for Integrated solutions as they can save time and money. A doorbell with a Makeup Room & Do Not Disturb that links to your Guest Request system can save time, which saves money.
• Reference check the Vendor – Evaluate both the product & the vendor – Sales / Installation / Support / Ability and willingness to modify the product and product road map.
• You are not alone – the industry is big but close-knit. Reach out and speak to those that have had experience. Ask the question, given your time again would you make the same decision and choose the same vendor/product.
• If the technology changes the business process, you need a change program. We are all change adverse. Normally this involves incentivising the staff.
• Not all problems are best handled with technology. You need to offer the guest a choice. As an example, blinds controlled by the TV only with no manual switch at a hotel caused lots of operational issues and frustrated guests.
4). What technologies should hotels use for new travellers’ concerns post-pandemic?
As a result of the pandemic, the health and safety of both staff and guests have become a major focus. With hotels looking to reduce the number of contact points for guests. This often means less staff contact, but also less contact with in-room collateral items such as the compendium which have been removed. As occupancies slowly return hotels are facing staffing shortages and technology is and will be used to help streamline hotel operations.
Some of the technologies that hotels are using include:
Mobile Check-in or Web-based check-in – Airlines have been doing it for years. It streamlines the check-in by taking care of the transactional process before arriving at the property.
Self-Check-In & Check-Out Kiosks – now being installed in hotels across all star ratings to help reduce pressure at the front desk and improve the guest experience.
Digital Compendiums & Guest Communication Tools – Guests now have access to all of this plus more on their personal device.
Room Service & Table ordering via QR Code/NFC – This is a Win/Win – These solutions are quick and efficient for the guest and allow them to split bills. Guests normally spend more and staffing requirements are reduced.
Staff collaboration tools – streamline operations, make sure things don’t fall through the cracks particularly as staff are often multi-tasking. These systems also provide insights into operational enhancements that can be made.
5). How can voice control benefit the hotels?
I have been following voice technology ever since I saw Bill Gates speak about it in 1995.
I use voice to text daily and have had multiple Google Home devices since they first came out. So I appreciate the benefits of voice. In a hotel setting, I think it can certainly provide a Wow factor allowing guests to turn on the TV, turn off the lights or make requests for additional towels etc. I think we will get there but as a rule, guests are not ready for voice due to a lack of familiarity. There are also concerns about security and privacy.
6). How can the Internet of Things (IoT) benefit hotels?
Let’s start by defining IoT. Put simply, IoT describes all devices that are connected to the internet. As part of a digital network, all of these devices are able to collect and share data about their environment and how they’re being used. They can also be monitored and controlled.
We are only just starting to see the IoT make its way into hotels but let’s look at a couple of examples of how the IoT will be able to enhance the guest experience. A guest could leave their room and the door sensor sends a signal to the lift so that it is on the floor and waiting for the guest when they arrive at the lift. It’s quite a few years off but via IoT, guest rooms could learn the guest’s behaviour and for example, set the shower to the temperature that it knows the guest likes. This could then be stored in the guest’s profile and be communicated back to the room as part of the check-in.
We also talked about the light bulb that can automatically create a maintenance ticket when it fails. In the future, most devices will be fitted with IoT and will be able to self-report failures and even potential failures. A simple example could be the TV remote that creates a maintenance request when it gets to 10% battery life.
So IoT will improve the guest experience directly by learning their preferences to offer a truly personalised stay and also by ensuring all items in the room are working. This will also streamline operations and reduce labour costs.
7). What is the impact of in-room technology on business performance?
In-room technology can help hotels reduce costs as well as increase revenue. Energy Management solutions have been shown to save 25% – 40% on (HVAC) operating expenses. Digital compendiums help hotels reduce costs as compendiums no longer need to be printed. They often also allow guests to make requests for items such as additional towels which then go it a guest request management system. This reduces labour and improves the guest experience by ensuring that no requests fall thru the cracks.
If the digital compendium also provides the ability for the guest to order food and beverage from their own device, that could be room service, minibar on demand, poolside snacks and drinks or the meals in the restaurant this will result in labour savings, as well as a 19% to 35% higher average, spend per order.
My advice to any hotel when looking to implement technology is to, make sure you are improving the guest experience. A one size fits all approach doesn’t work. Guests are unique, situations are different and emotions often come into play. Providing choice is the answer. Don’t force the guest to use technology as their only option. Give them a choice. A tech solution coupled with a familiar alternative provides the best of both worlds for ALL guests.
About Brendon Granger
With a great passion for all things hotels, but in particular technology and a desire to help others; his company Technology 4 Hotels which acts as a Technology Concierge for hotels & hotel groups allows him to do both.
Brendon has worked with hundreds of hotels to help them with their in-room technology. He has helped them to reduce costs, increase guest satisfaction and win awards such as the best business hotel, best city hotel, best upscale hotel and best luxury hotel in Australasia.
Always going the extra mile, Brendon began his hospitality career over thirty years ago. He has held various management positions within 5-star hotels, worked as a consultant in both hotel feasibility and technology and has an extensive background in hotel technology having worked for a number of leading global technology vendors in consulting or executive-level roles.