Video Replay

Operational Efficiency: A Lodging On Demand Podcast Interview with Robert Stevenson

Listen to INTELITY CEO Robert Stevenson’s conversation with Lodging Magazine on how hotel technology helps alleviate common operational challenges.

Dennis Nessler Welcome to Lodging on Demand in this episode, Lodging Editor in Chief Dennis Nessler sits down with Robert Stevenson, CEO of INTELITY, to discuss some of the top operational challenges for hotel owners and operators. Stevenson also details ways to enhance the guest experience, as well as reducing labor related costs through a robust technology. Hi, this is Dennis Nestler, editor in chief of Lodging magazine. Welcome to our podcast today on operational efficiency. I’m joined today by Robert Stevenson, CEO of INTELITY, a leading guest experience platform. Robert, welcome to the podcast. How are you? Robert Stevenson OK. Doing well. Thank you for having me, Dennis. Dennis Nessler It’s our pleasure. Robert, why don’t you start out, tell me a little bit about the common challenges that hotel years face when it comes to the operational efficiency and how technology can help enhance that? Robert Stevenson Yeah, great, great question. So you know hoteliers behind the scenes, you know it really guest facing and try to make it all beautiful and perfect. But behind the scenes, we all know that it’s a bit of madness, particularly as you get larger and larger and larger hotels and you know you can be kind of running, around like a chicken with its head cut off. You know, between service requests work orders day-to-day task. So the disaster that’s happening on floor 3 or 415 or whatever it might be and trying to tame some of that software is really good at doing that. It’s not a new thing for software and tech tech platforms to challenge, you know, to tackle that kind of challenge. It really comes down to, can you organize your teams? How can you organize your departments? How can you organize the inbound flow? All of the sort of things that are coming at those teams and keep it in a sort of managed queue, you know, really kind of organized sense of capability that the teams can then act upon either actively or. Comes passively, right, like, hey, this maintenance request has come. Definitely not as critical as the leak that’s happening somewhere. We’ll get to this maintenance request tomorrow, but it’s passively sitting there. It’s never forgotten, so you know people call it ticketing engines, those kinds of things. But tech behind the scenes can definitely automate. Definitely queue, prioritize, and help manage some of the operational chaos that happens behind the scenes. Dennis Nessler Sure. You guys were kind enough to provide some statistics from hospitality in 2025? Automated, intelligent and more personal new research study 73% of guests more likely to stay at a hotel offering self-service technology to minimize contact. 39% want to fully contact contactless experience, 38% want a fully self-service model with staff upon request. What do some of these numbers mean to you? Robert Stevenson Yeah, I think as it relates to operational efficiency and sort of guest expectation that the times have really changed. I think the pandemic taught a lot of people, hey, look, I don’t need to get in contact with anybody. I can do everything off my phone, I can do things through, you know, a kiosk or other touch screens or different types of mechanisms. And for a lot of people, it’s eye opening. I actually like that experience. I don’t necessarily want to go to the restaurant and sit down and have a big dialogue necessarily with the server. If I can just do it on my phone, I can just point to a menu I can, you know. And taught this from airlines for years and years. Right. You know who wants to go up and stand in that long line checking in right when you can just walk up to a kiosk, get your bag, tag your bags, drop your bag off and walk away. Right, so much better. So much easier. So a lot of people really do expect that behind the scenes. What that means from an operation standpoint is that flow still has to be taken care of, right? You know, somebody checking in, somebody ordering, dining, somebody doing a valet request at a hotel. Somebody you know again, like we talked about a maintenance request, an urgent maintenance request. All that stuff still needs to be dealt with, but the guest is definitely saying hey, look, if you can give me a digital pathway to take care of that request, I’ll do it. I’ll help you automate it, and I actually prefer that cause I don’t really want to call downstairs and talk about the, you know, the water leak I’m seeing out in the hallway. If I can just do a couple of quick taps or, you know, quickly kind of engage and then disengage. And do it at my leisure, that’s my intent, particularly if you’re a leisure traveler or a business traveler in a hurry. You definitely want to expedite and not have to deal with a bunch of rigamarole in terms of the communication. That’s what you’re seeing in those stats. That’s definitely the way it is. Dennis Nessler A lot of times we hear and we associate technology with a less personalized experience, less hospitable experience, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, right? Robert Stevenson Yeah, absolutely. So you know the way we look at it and the way we’ve talked about it and quality has always been, you have options, right? You’re not necessarily taking away the in person experience the The Guess Who wants that? And particularly in certain, you know, certain situations of leisure experience you might be coming into a resort with your family for a whole week. You might want somebody to take you around the resort, show you the room, show you the amenities, those kinds of things, the experience of that same family, maybe the husband and wife are both working traveling workers, and you know, business traveler. I bet you when they show up in the hotel, they just want to get in there and get their emails done, go to bed, be ready for the business meeting, the context matters, and so providing a digital solution, you have both pathways right? You’re not getting rid of the old pathway and the context of that old pathway really really matters. Business class hotel, maybe human human interaction. A little bit lower. Lower importance resort may be much higher importance. The digital doesn’t take that away right. It’s just there as an option and it allows the guest who really wants to engage digitally to do so, guess who doesn’t? You know, don’t download the app. Don’t touch the kiosk. Don’t mess around with the uh, the public signage that allows you to select which restaurant you’re interested in, or anything like that. Just don’t, you know, don’t. Dennis Nessler Right, right is check in where we’ve seen where you’ve seen the most change in the last few years. Robert Stevenson Definitely check in has been. It’s been a very high contact area and so in the pandemic, certainly the ability to bypass the front desk as they say, we’ve been doing that for a while. We definitely perfected that on the INTELITY platform during the pandemic. Big driver, a lot of people are annoyed by check in if there’s a long line. You know all the, you know, back and forth. You know, why do I need to show you my ID? You know, credit. Card on file, not on file. All the different stuff Reg card like you’re literally gonna send me a Reg card that says I shouldn’t smoke in the room and we’re in, you know, 2023 like, it just feels kind of like stale and old. Right. So check in. Very annoying to guess if they can. If they can get out of it in a big driver for digital momentum I think other things you know you know the in person touch is nice, right? You know we obviously support spa bookings and things like that. But kind of good to talk to them. You know, I like a hard massage and, you know, I really want the Swedish, but I only want it for 45 minutes and then I want to do a foot, you know, a customized sort of situation that gets beyond what digital tools can kind of really allow. So there’s definitely situations where I would say, you know, mobile mobility, check in mobile key all of that. Big drivers, other areas, maybe not so much. Dennis Nessler I see right in terms of staff and attracting and retaining talent, big issue for the industry. Technology can actually enhance that, correct? Robert Stevenson Yeah, totally. I think for, you know, particularly workers in lodging and you know hoteliers, a lot of people, like, left the industry, there’s a big slow build back. I think it’s been well publicized and talked about and one of the challenges really for I think people behind the desk or working behind the scenes is, you know, when there’s no technology in place and the job is incredibly, you know, transactional and difficult and you know, you’re not always dealing with the most pleasant situations. Let’s just say, you know, not having a way to sort of help manage that coming from the hotel, the hotel operation side makes life a lot difficult. It makes it very difficult, right? You can imagine a situation where you’ve got non integrated dining. And you know you’re in a hurried situation taking down an order, but you’ve got something else going on and that’s on a post. It note that’s getting programmed into the OS in the kitchen. Not a lot of fun, right? So the ability to actually provide a good software solutions, not just INTELITY, but there are plenty on the market that can help labor, labor management. Also, tying in to ticketing things like that we do can make the hotelier and hotel staff life so much better, right? I don’t even know how you could possibly run a large hotel today without a significant software presence on the back end. Dennis Nessler Yeah, sure. We have seen as an industry in the last few years, things continue to kind of come back and demand is coming back pretty much in full force, now what? What can hotels do? What steps should hotels implement to help increase their ability to service that? Robert Stevenson I think you know really from a hotel standpoint, there’s the back of house, there’s kind of guest facing components INTELITY has the virtue and you know that we can service both in one. I think hotels are really you know start on the back of house. That’s definitely you know you’re trying to secure your labor trying to bring people back trying to better manage your operations back of house is critical and then you can migrate into the guest facing components. How do they fit into your operation? I would say they go hand in hand. Right. You know, if you build an operational process for, like, take our example earlier check in and you like to do it a certain way. You got a certain property management system. You have a certain guest experience that you believe in and the way. Be handled. You know, if you didn’t try to jam guest experience software and later to to deal with that, it may not be as easy to sort of deal with, right? It may be one of those things where ohh well, the software works this way. Ohh you know ID’s and our our sort of legal regulations work this way. Now we got to change our operations and we have to. Train our team of 30 people that can be very painful, so it should be thought about in tandem. But I would say, you know, definitely getting back of house sort of straight getting your operation software your PMS in place first and working and building off of that is the way to go. Dennis Nessler How about measuring operational efficiency? What are some of the things that that and some of the initiatives that hotels might want to take, how what, what would you recommend there? Robert Stevenson Yeah, for us, we actually track some of this in our platform. But, you know, time to close on a ticket, right, service standards and bands are they being met? You know, it was where things escalated. You know, you can also look, you can drill down to an individual staff member, right, you know what is this team’s performance, what is a particular staff member’s performance. You know, perhaps somebody who’s figured out, hey, this is a good way to, you know, really do efficient checkouts. You know, perhaps that person can cross train other people to be really good and meet the service levels of the hotels. So those are key things. You know looking at volumes is also important. You know, hey, we’re getting a lot of we actually we actually did a study some years back with UCLA. And a property, relatively high end property, in Santa Monica and some adjacent properties. And we looked at their data, right. It’s interesting, right? You know, maintenance request service requests will go up if there’s rain going on, right? Like people are staying in the hotel, they’re going to ask for more things, right? And so looking at your volume and matching your staffing levels to that volume and the nature of the volume, right, you know if you’re in a situation with. Where you’ve got an event, your event specific hotel, you’re obviously gonna have more dining and those kinds of things. While an event is going on, being able to be ready for the specific nature of those types of requests very important KPI’s to also follow. Dennis Nessler Sure, sure. How about you know data and business intelligence and being used to optimize hospitality and improve the customer experience? Robert Stevenson So definitely, you know we do some of this, uh, there’s definitely data companies out there that do even more than we do, but you can optimize against, you know, anything just take a room service, you know is an easy one ID. Hey, what are your top items? What are your bottom items right? Is there any price flexibility here? Dude, you know is it like hey, the Key Lime Pie selling really well? And the pecan pie is not. You know, but the line probably has an extra dollar or two that you could charge for it based on some analytics that the data is running. So you can optimize something you know like ID you can optimize again your workforce to a degree, right? You know, hey, we can clear all our weekly maintenance stuff out Monday. Tuesdays maybe. You know, we focus on more. Active type maintenance activities on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday and we staff accordingly, right? So maximizing, you know the labor force, but also potentially maximizing non room revenue sources. Dennis Nessler Robert, we only have a couple minutes left. Just wanted to get your kind of what’s your outlook for 2023 for the industry in general and maybe more specifically for the technology and platforms and such? Robert Stevenson No, great question. I do think travel is, as you said earlier, basically back, you know we’re not quite at pre pandemic levels in every area, but looks like business is starting to return events, has jumped up in a major way in the last six months. Leisure travelers, leisure travel has peaked and exceeded in some cases pre pandemic levels. So I think we’re almost back, which is great. And then you can look forward to 2024 and on to exceeding pre pandemic. So I think this is just really great. And then you know, I would say, you know, really from a technology standpoint, you were getting into a little bit of at the end, Dennis, I think really you know how much can AI help how much can business analytics help you know there’s definitely packages out there that can help ticketing and automation. There’s a lot of people that are, you know, playing in that sort of space. But you know, what does it do more than that? Right. You know what? What can it offer in terms of insights? What can it offer in terms of simplifying the operational needs of the hotel and you know, really cutting to the chase of like, how can we drive, you know, more effective? Business either from a cost side or from a revenue side. So I think people are looking beyond sort of the basics and looking at kind of the next tier of what you know any particular platform is able to offer them. Dennis Nessler And if I had to ask you maybe for three takeaways, 3 key takeaways for hoteliers from this or you know, maybe some pieces of advice or or what have you that you might give, what are some of those? Robert Stevenson Right. No, I think we talked about a couple of here. You know, you know the operational efficiency issue, labor issue you do, there’s definitely software platforms in place that, that, that can make that issue go down, not fully away, but certainly can help in a dramatic way when you’re selecting those platforms and thinking about them. Think about the guest experience, the guest experience component. Should go hand in hand if you get out of a lock step, you’re gonna get into a weird state where you know what your operation wants to do. One thing your guest experience wants to do. Else and you know to embrace, embrace those kind of decisions holistically and you know absolutely, you know I think in terms of what you’re looking for out there, you know look for packages that offer complete solutions but also packages that offer that kind of second level of like OK what business analytics am I going to get out of this? You know does it do full mobile check in? Can I bypass the front desk? You know, making sure that the robustness of the features in any area are really there to meet your needs. Dennis Nessler Well, I appreciate your time today, Robert. Thanks so much and good luck to you and INTELITY for the rest of the year. Robert Stevenson Thanks, Dennis. Appreciate it. Dennis Nessler Thank you for listening to Lodging on Demand. If you want more content like this, subscribe to Lodging magazine on YouTube. You can also subscribe to Lodging on Demand wherever you get your podcasts for news and updates, follow at Lodging Magazine on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, or visit us at
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