RBH Management - Digitalising the guest journey and cultural change

HOTELIERS' VOICE S2E3

Vibhu Gaind is the CIO of RBH Management, one of the UKs leading independent hotel management companies with a portfolio of more than 45 hotels. RBH maximises returns for hotel owners, as well as building and developing new properties. Partnerships include prestigious brands like Hilton Hotels and Resorts, IHG Accor, Wyndham Worldwide and Marriott International.

He tells us about the group’s ongoing digitalising journey and the pilots in one London hotel. Although the group was already making technological changes, Vibhu explains how COVID19 accelerated the process. The overall aim is to use technology to make contact with guests “more meaningful”

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The group has put in staff-less check-ins and digital dining across much of its portfolio. But Vibhu explains why the strategy depends on location. “You have guests in the leisure market who love in-person check-ins and want to know about the facilities and service levels. It’s a portfolio where staff-less check-in would not be considered.”

But at corporate hotels in city centres, busy corporate guests often want to go directly rooms without interacting. Some hotels may have different strategies during the week and at weekends, when leisure guests arrive.

The group is experimenting with a pilot project with lobby ambassadors at the London hotel. They can check guests in on iPads, or at kiosks. Meanwhile, they engage, answering questions about hotel services and the best places to visit.

“You’ve used technology to enable a quick experience for the transaction. And you interact with guests at a more meaningful level. So it’s not about how do I get the check-in done now, it’s about how do I service the guests? Make them feel welcome to give them that unique experience, that personal touch?”

Removing receptionists also allows the hotel to deploy more staff for services like F&B. “Suddenly you’re open to a level of staffing where everybody’s trained in all factors and customer service truly becomes a synergy across the hotel,” he says.

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It’s about getting away from the nitty-gritty and focusing on customer service. It’s part of a big cultural shift.

At this point, Vibhu says the hotel can look to hire multi-skilled individuals from outside the sector. Training becomes crucial. “We’ve seen many peers transition to other industries over the last couple of years and we need to be bringing people in from these other sectors,” he says

Adopting the new technologies, though, does not require as much training as it once did. New PMS systems are more user-friendly. Vibhu also speaks about how the group has changed its approach to its tech stack to become more “Microsoft heavy”. “That makes adoption easier,” he says. But the company also considers innovative new entrants into the tech space.

Vidhi ends by explaining how the company installs systems that are appropriate for a particular property, rather than just having a specific system. “It is customised to each hotel. But if we see a specified system is better suited for the leisure market, we’ll use that for those hotels.”