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  • Writer's pictureRyan Haynes

Hoteliers' Voice S3E3 - How Hotel Schweizerhof makes incremental gains to its tech stack

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

As part of Hoteliers' Voice season 3, we speak with Andreas Stöckli, General Manager at Hotel Schweizerhof in Zurich about evolving and augmenting the tech stack to provide more digital services to guests while digitalising operations and energy management to improve efficiencies.

Standing over 140 years old, Hotel Schweizerhof has 98 rooms and suites with modern conveniences and stylish luxurious amenities, where guests are treated to the feel of Old World elegance with the added convenience of modern accommodations and courteous, friendly and attentive service. Hotel Schweizerhof lives and breathes hospitality ensuring that the needs of guests are always at the forefront of their thinking.

In conversation with Andreas, we cover

  • Hotel tech stack for a contemporary luxury hotel

  • In-room entertainment and digital technologies

  • Website UX and why it is so important

  • Operations management and streamlining processes

  • Costs and energy efficiencies

  • Key systems covered include; Innspire, Seamans, HotelKit, MFiles


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Programme Notes


Ryan Haynes:

Hello and welcome back to Travel Market Life. This is Hoteliers’ Voice season three, and in this episode, we're looking at how to make incremental gains to your technology stack with Andreas Stöckli, general manager at Hotel Schweizerhof Zurich. Standing. at over 140 years old Hotel Schweizerhof has 98 rooms and suites with modern conveniences and stylish, luxurious amenities where guests are treated to the feel of old-world elegance. with the added convenience of modern accommodations and courteous, friendly and attentive service, Hotel Schweizerhof lives and breathes hospitality, ensuring that the needs of guests are always at the forefront of their thinking. In conversation with Andreas today, we'll look at the Hotel tech stack for a contemporary luxury hotel in-room entertainment and digital technologies, the website, user experience, Operations management, streamlining processes and costs and energy efficiencies.

Ryan Haynes:

Andreas, thank you ever so much for joining us today to look at incremental gains to your technology stack. Now, as a contemporary luxury hotel, technology is key, but what does that mean when you approach your tech stack and guest technology and digital services?


Andreas Stöckli:

Thanks for having me, Ryan. Yeah, you know, to me technology just needs to remain in the background. It needs to be user-friendly. I think that's the key. It needs to be supportive; it needs to be facilitative, and it needs to be in the end, meaningful to everybody who's using it.


Ryan Haynes:

And I, I say you're looking at it from the guest's perspective as well as your staff's perspective. I mean, there's always been this in a discussion around the art of hospitality, particularly within luxury hotels. So how do you help to balance that with staff to help them understand the utilization of technology and how they should be delivering those guest expectations around service?


Andreas Stöckli:

Technology needs to be in the back, and it needs to be as easy for the guests as, as for the employees. If it's not easy for the employees to use, they will fade out and you will lose them, and you will lose them immediately right from the start of the project. So better ask them first if they see any sense in it. If it sounds like work, they will definitely not join the club, but if it sounds like ease, they will join the club. So, I guess that's, that's the key. And probably the same with the guest.


Ryan Haynes:

One of the areas that you invest in is upgrading your in-room entertainment. Can you tell us about your in-room entertainment services and how this works for your guests and the benefits you've received?


Andreas Stöckli:

So, luckily, we found this company called Innspire and these guys are very good at delivering as well Tailormade, tailormade products for the hotel. And they made actually that what we've thought the guests of today like, like to have, it's like streaming, mirroring login for private accounts to, to see their Netflix, to see their own pictures being into Disney or like we are international hotel. That means 80% comes from outside Switzerland. That means finding your right channel through language selection is very useful, I would say.


Andreas Stöckli:

And as well for us then putting room service, on the screen and pushing room service in different languages at different times is fantastic. And these days as well, if you have a cooler code then you can just take a picture of it and your remote, your handy or your mobile phone becomes a remote control. Is cool for a lot of people because they're still not a hundred per cent sure of having foreign things in their hands. Other things, like there is an immediate feedback button where, where guests can immediately share their mood.


Andreas Stöckli:

And we have the chance immediately actually to react on their mood and, and, and make sure that the, that that the thing's going to be right for them. So that's I think that's about it. And Innspire delivers that.


Ryan Haynes:

Now, one of the other areas we've been focusing on for the customer experience is the user experience, particularly for your own booking engine for direct reservations. Can you tell us about how you've invested in the new booking engine and what that's enabling you to do from a product experience perspective?


Andreas Stöckli:

Yeah, I think all, or a lot of modern booking engines are on par with the OTAs or with the international hotel chain. So, as a privately owned hotel, individual hotel, we need to have that power like OTAs and international chain hotels. And if, if the booking process is as good or even better than those guys, then the lucrative direct bookings they will increase. So, that's actually the goal, right? And having like multi-property functions on the internet booking engine, so we can have our special D four brand, which is a five-star brand with a, within a four-star brand, we can actually serve both sides for the user and going through an experienced website.


Andreas Stöckli:

Guests can easily book either four or five-star products in a clear and understandable way.


Ryan Haynes:

Excellent. So, it's really being able to help you diversify the sort of offers that you've been able to present to them in a way that they're used to across the much larger recognized commercial players in the industry. Now another area, I mean you, you, you've mentioned just earlier, you know the need to make sure that staff can buy into these tools, make sure they add that simplicity and provides ease within their roles. Now Operations management and streamlining processes today are so important, particularly where there is a struggle to perhaps recruit, and retain staff, but also to bring those essential efficiencies across the property.


Ryan Haynes:

Can you tell me about how you've digitalized your communications and improved some of those processes for the staff?


Andreas Stöckli:

I think it's a good point you bring up here because just being in front of digitalisation doesn't help. You have to have the backup as the backend as well. Somehow more efficient. And we have, we found, we have found a program which is called M Files, which is a document management program which works fantastically. We are keyword search so anyone in the hotel can find invoices, search suppliers, even products or prices. And this promotes a lot of efficiencies and of course self-employment empowerment.


Andreas Stöckli:

You don't have to run all the time to the manager and ask where this is or how is that. And you just go make your search and you find it by yourself. So, this is very cool with these files. The second thing is like a HotelKit, I guess there are just a few hot hotels already in the world using that as well. The chain started and, and that is fantastic because it is very con contemporary with training tools like videos. So, everybody from Chen set the Chen X or the baby boomers will understand, understand it. HotelKit makes the internal o operational and administrative knowledge and information accessible to everybody.


Andreas Stöckli:

And in a mobile way, you don't have to sit at a desk, you can have it on your mobile and HotelKit as well. If you take on it, you know, people have read it so you can make sure everybody has gotten the message. And that is fantastic.


Ryan Haynes:

Are you seeing a greater expectation among staff, particularly some of your new staff, that they would have some sort of smartphone or tablet device in order to be able to access some of the files and information of the property as their, as they're around the building?


Andreas Stöckli:

You know, as everybody brings in his own device, you just have to give them access. So, you have to allow them, let's say, the balance of a little bit of private and the rest of work tools. Because I guess that's just a new world, you know, if, if you cut it out, you have to make behaviours though, you know that you don't like surfing around in front of the guests. And so, but at the end of the day to day, this mobile phone is in everybody's pocket, and it is there to stay, and it is there as well for private as for business reasons in your pocket.


Ryan Haynes:

Excellent. So really seeing the value of staff having their own technology, but being able to incorporate access to what's happening at the property, as you say yes when they're out and about, they can check that there's not, not obviously as you say, sort of like when you're servicing guests now we all know that the European market has been particularly hit hard by energy costs. We've seen inflation over the last couple of years as well. Really impacts I guess profitability. So, managing cost and energy, efficiency is the key. How have you found a solution to keeping on top of this?


Andreas Stöckli:

You know, I have to say, luckily in Switzerland and inflation is not as high as in other places, but we see that high energy costs are here to stay for a circle of time. And we found actually with, with Seamans and, and, and, and bro, which is our, which is our property management system, we found a solution that there is, it's called an eLink, where the individual room regulation is actually linked to the, to the property management system. And when a guest checks out, the room itself will immediately regulate down to an energy-low reset.


Andreas Stöckli:

Exactly. And that actually helps us a lot because, before humans had to go in and had to reset it like that, we save about three to four hours of energy cost saving. And we expect especially right now in summertime, about 20% of energy con consumption being saved with that solution.


Ryan Haynes:

Yeah, I can imagine. Especially in the midst of the summer, high heat, air conditioning and in the middle of the winter as people ramp up the heating in their rooms. If you can sort of set that back to a standard level, then you are saving significant energy costs.


Andreas Stöckli:

Yes, it is. And as you see the Americans and as well people from the Middle East, you know, they, they stretch it till the end. Yeah. So, it's on the lowest level, on the highest level.


Ryan Haynes:

And then you've really been focusing on developing that hotel tech stack and you've not really focused on one particular area. Have you, you've, you've actually been making incremental gains across your property? Why is it important that you approach your strategy like that, and you know, how do you consider such even bigger projects where you might need to make a drastic change in your providers or your platforms?


Andreas Stöckli:

You know, the hotel is 150 years old. It's a complicated old building, which is in front of co of course looks brand new. So, it needs to pay out. You have to make a calculation, you know, so if you have like heat, light power, which is there, you can, and, and it's still running very well, it would be a grey zone to invest a lot of money just to gain a little bit of energy. So, therefore optimizing is the key. Yeah, and we optimize in both ways. On the revenue side, on the guest satisfaction side, on the employee satisfaction side, but as well on the owner satisfaction side means costs.


Andreas Stöckli:

So, this is just the game we have to play anyway and it's just new tools which arise, and we are just there and, and use them as good as you can. And actually they, a lot of them make a lot of fun as well. Because they help, they really help.


Ryan Haynes:

Now another area that you have been investing in is getting control of your Y land and that's really quite important for you and your guests. Can you tell us what you've done and, and why that has been key to your property?


Andreas Stöckli:

Yeah, first of all, I, think we have, we got in, in every room we have like an access point. So that means guest can, can either shut it off or shut it on. That's very important. I think that's a good message. Some people just don't want it, but most of them want it of course. And therefore, it's very important that an effective distribution of the capacity of the giga, if the gigabytes is fairly made so to every room. Huh? So, therefore you have to have a controller where the gigabytes are very well controlled. That is, I think very important. That gives a lot of stability to the net to the network.


Andreas Stöckli:

Secondly, the provider of the product is responsible for the content that is, that's been downloaded as in Switzerland. It's like this, I don't know how it is all over the world, but with us, we are responsible for the content. That's why I would recommend having, a third-party provider such as Mozu we have because he is three E's like checking what is, what is been downloaded and if there is some illegal stuff or whatever bumps or whoever, he cuts it off immediately. So, they have the resources, they have the control, and we are hopefully, yes, we don't, we don't even, that's not our business.


Andreas Stöckli:

I'd say that's not our core business and they do that fantastically. And thirdly, I think if you have a fantastic VLAN environment, it needs to be controlled so that it's functioned well. So, if it's if you have like a few rooms or if like an entire floor, which is not working, you're going to hit that immediately at the front office like this. We are probably faster than the guest finds it out. We are faster than we can see. They call us, hey, there is an issue probably there just aren’t blocked out or whatever. So, so, so these are the points actually, which makes it very important because we hear it from all over the world.


Andreas Stöckli:

VLAN is probably more important than a shower. That's crazy. No, it's crazy. Yeah, no,


Ryan Haynes:

It's part of your digitalisation plan. What have you got next?


Andreas Stöckli:

We are a bit in the consolidation phase because we have a lot of things now running and, and those things need to, we need to dive deeper in, in that like hot HotelKit and even in Innspire and so on. But there just aren’t a few things which definitely will with the change of generation online check-in, mobile door check-in is on the list. We, we are just looking for a suitable solution. There are a few good ones around, but not as good as we think at the infrastructure is here.


Andreas Stöckli:

So that means we just need a software provider to do that. There we are. And then Furthermore, we ask ourselves and scratch our heads a little bit, what will happen with the ai like chat pt, can we use that somehow or augment reality like the Vision Pro, I guess it's a bit in the future, but that will affect us. I'm sure it will affect us and if we understand how we can use it, we will again benefit from it, I'm sure. But it's a bit, that is a bit of the future right.


Ryan Haynes:

Now. I mean when it comes to, as you say, identifying the right technology, you know, the need for that technology, how do you find and select the right technology vendor partners for Hotel Pfizer?


Andreas Stöckli:

You know, we, as we are curious Yeah, we are constantly looking out, first of all properly if something is implemented successfully, yeah. You want to go for more, right? And if you have a bunch of young and young people who, who are pushing and, and they actually, they bring you all the time, new stuff, on the table and say, you know, that would be good. And on the other hand, we are partnering like in terms of marketing with, with like big, big congresses, like the world web form we had or, or just lately we had the shift, which is a, a conference for ethics in ticket digitalization and we have those people in the hotel, then we talk with them.


Andreas Stöckli:

We found so we are just curious, right? And whenever we find something, something that pops up, we think, hey, could, that could be easy, easier for the guests or easier for us, or probably it makes more sense than, than whatever we had before. Then we, we stick to it and, and have a look at it. So, that's actually the strategy is actually staying curious.


Ryan Haynes:

And when does it feel right, when you find a vendor, what are some of the key criteria would you say?


Andreas Stöckli:

Mostly if I bring it up to the team and the team says, you know what, I can see that. Yeah. Because then I'm not by myself. And then I got, I got the, the entire army in, in, in the back of me and they actually will bring it alive. So, it's mostly like this. If there's an idea, I think it's cool, I invite the guy or the lady, they have a pitch. If the pitch doesn't work, he's out. So, it needs to be more than 50% of the team who agrees to continue. Otherwise, it'll be a failure.


Ryan Haynes:

Wonderful. Excellent. And Andreas, thank you ever so much for that whistle-stop tour around your tech stack development and, and, and giving us a bit of an insight into sort of how you've been making those evolutions within the property.


Andreas Stöckli:

You're welcome.


Ryan Haynes:

So that was Andreas Stöckli, General Manager at Hotel Schweizerhof Zurich, sharing with us how he makes incremental gains to his technology’s tech stack at the Hotel Schweizerhof, you've been listening to Hoteliers Voice season three, check out more episodes on Travel Market Life, I'm your host, Ryan Haynes. Thanks for listening, ciao for now.

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