IN 2021, AAHOA sent a survey asking the members if they had job openings, and an overwhelming 91% of AAHOA Member-owned hotels said they did. If I were to ask again now, I would bet 100% of the hotels in the U.S. would have job openings.
COVID-19 created one of the darkest labor markets since the Great Depression, so, when running our usual hotel operations, it’s hard for us to give the same service to our guests due to this labor shortage. However, if not for the pandemic, many hotels probably wouldn’t have looked to implement technology-centric solutions so heavily. And once the labor shortage is a thing of the past, those employees can act more as a concierge, accomplishing tasks a computer cannot.
I’ll give you a personal example. At multiple hotels, we didn’t have anyone to work the night shift at the front desk, so we shut that down at night. There was no one at the desk. There were times when the management team ended up getting calls from hotels or the police department because someone couldn’t get into their room.
If not for the pandemic, many hotels probably wouldn’t have looked to implement technology-centric solutions so heavily. And once the labor shortage is a thing of the past, those employees can act more as a concierge, accomplishing tasks a computer cannot.
That was a huge challenge for us. So, we had to pivot. We brainstormed: How can we innovate? We ended up partnering with a Florida-based company that provides check-in kiosks. You install the kiosk at the desk, you walk up to it like you would a person, and it connects you with a live agent, who’s based anywhere.
This live agent does everything a team member would generally be doing. They’re a live person on the other end of the kiosks. The kiosk accepts cash, provides change, accepts credit cards, and provides room keys.
And I’m not implying that I intended to eliminate jobs, but these jobs were never filled. With labor shortages, my team members have been helping to clean rooms, and they can do a variety of things instead of being stuck to the desk and doing things that a machine could do.
It helped us and our customer service scores, and after the first month, it was seamless. Customer service scores actually went up because the guests are now talking to the team members without interference.
Now, they’re making personal connections when, before, it was hard for them to do.
We’ve been able to learn from all of this. We’ve been able to adapt.
Technology is the future. Five years from now, every company will be a technology company. So, when it comes to forecasting, the future is bright. We might not have all the answers now, but with any challenges life throws at us, we learn to adapt. Instead of focusing on the problems, we find a solution.