An Integrated Future
As I mentioned in my article last week, digital strategy will be a bigger part of the future than ever. In a world that wants to reduce contact and continue to enforce social distancing, we have seen technology pick up the slack. This heightened awareness of both the requirement for social distancing, and the ability for technology to plug the gap, means this will become the new normal. In my previous article I looked at some of the physical components, that in a hygiene conscious world will become part of digital strategy. These are the ones that are obvious to replace, as they are seen by each and every person. The thing is, for true success, it’s the invisible parts of the system that can make the biggest difference. Now, I’m going to look at how integration is a critical part of your digital strategy for the future, as enabling the integrated guest journey all starts with a digital key.
In hospitality like many other industries, systems integration is important. For a joined-up guest experience we must have joined up systems, of that we are sure. Often, we have achieved this through point to point integrations, using Application Programming Interfaces (API’s). For anyone not sure, an API is a set of tools that two systems can use to communicate with each other. This way, two separate systems can exchange data, allowing them to access the contents of each other’s databases, allowing that joined up experience. As I mentioned above the common way of achieving this is point to point, also called one to one integration. This way you have two systems freely exchanging data with each other. When you have a 3rd system, you decide which system it needs to talk to, and if it’s both then you create both the interfaces. When you add a 4th, a 5th, a 6th, you can begin to see how this may become quite complex.
Hop on The Service Bus
Whether you are talking in American English or British English we’re all familiar with what a bus is. This familiar mode of urban transport moves people from point to point. Even though it allows people to move between two points, it allows movement between any two points on its route. In fact, you could use the same bus to travel from point A to B, then later to travel from point B to point C. Finally, you can travel back to point A from point C, totally independently of point B. In technology then, it is hardly surprising, that when we take a similar approach to integration, it is also known as a bus. The formal name is actually an Enterprise Service Bus, and for anyone who is hearing this for the first time, the Wikipedia definition is here. I would like to offer my own explanation though, albeit simplified: Just as our urban transport network allows people to hop on and off connecting multiple stops, an Enterprise Service Bus allows data to be connected and flow between multiple systems. For anyone technical, that might be dumbing it down a bit, but the logic is there. The ability to enable communication between multiple points, rather than just one to one. This is often referred to as one to many. I plan to talk a lot about service bus architecture in the future, but now I’ve introduced it here, I’m going to look at one of the uses, Digital Key.
Digital Keys have been talked about a lot for over 5 years now. Many chains have implemented them with varying degrees of success. In a world that has been impacted by COVID-19, unsuccessful implementations of digital key are no longer an option. We have been subjected to a world of social distancing and contactless delivery, and this isn’t going away anytime soon. In previous articles I have talked about using the guests own device for controlling smart rooms or TV’s. Well the same applies here. This time, we are using the guest device to control the door lock. The premise of digital key. The reason I bring digital key up in an article about service bus architecture, is the strong reliance on an integrated solution. Thinking that digital key only relies on integration with door locks would be naïve. While the primary aim of digital key is delivery of the key to a smartphone to allow a room door to be opened, the journey starts much earlier. Successful digital key must be combined with digital check in to achieve a successful, contactless, guest experience. I’m sure you’re ahead of me here, but you can see how this requires that integrated experience I talk of. With the integrated experience the guest can enter their details on the smartphone, select a room, check in, receive a key and head straight to their room. No handling of cards, papers, pens, foreign devices. Totally contactless. This is exactly what the guest will demand. So, are you ready to deliver?
Guests Demand Digital
The guest of the future will demand a contactless, digital check in, that is without doubt. When I say the guest of the future though, this is not some far away future, this is the guest that enters your hotel upon reopening. The guest that wasn’t so technically savvy before, but now does regular Zoom calls. The guest that avoided technology in favour of the in-room phone will now want minimum contact. The guest that preferred things in their hand rather than digital, will now favour their own device. All the solutions you present them will need to be joined up, and enterprise service bus is the answer. Maybe you are worried that you will miss that human communication with the guest, that makes hospitality what it is. Don’t forget though, human interaction needn’t be face to face. As I said above, this is one small application of service bus. In coming articles, I will be talking about many other uses, just to show you have starting with the integration can bring success for you, and your guests in a world impacted by COVID-19. Including keeping that personal touch and high level of communication that keeps your guests coming back. Until then, take care and stay safe!