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How to Increase Efficiency with Automation at a Lower Effort & Cost​

Hotel Office Masters Series Session 1 Recap

Download the recording to watch the complete webinar. Learn more about the series here.

Despite operating in a world of staffing shortages, fraud, chargebacks, and a post-pandemic cloud, technology investment is still relatively low for the hospitality industry. Fortunately, in the wake of recovery, hoteliers are starting to realize that their time is too valuable to be dedicated to manual tasks and instead seeing an opportunity.

On Wednesday, May 31, The Hotel Office Masters Series officially launched with our first session, How to Increase Efficiency with Automation at a Lower Effort & Cost. Let’s meet the speakers:

  • Nick Stojka, co-CEO of Sertifi
  • Jennifer Jones, President of J2 Hospitality Solutions
  • Sara Meyer, VP of Product Management, Meetings & Events at Onyx CenterSource

The trio discussed how greater digitalization and automation can help hoteliers save time and revenue, get ahead of competitors, and deliver a more convenient, secure staff and guest experience.

"Technology can be a seamless extension of your team that helps you maintain the high-quality guest service you are aiming for, and there is still a huge opportunity to take advantage of it." – Nick Stojka

Time is Money and Fraud is Time

We kicked off the session acknowledging that investing in technology can be resource intensive. Hoteliers often ask themselves, “Is this problem big enough to bother solving with automation?”

Even automation applied at a smaller-scale can make an enormous impact, especially since simpler solutions let you see faster time-to-value. According to Hotel Tech Report, 40% of staff are still spending time on admin-related tasks, which add up to a lot of time that can be used in more meaningful ways.

Here are some common examples of office tasks that have yet to be digitized for many hoteliers:

  • Finalizing Contracts and Payments
    • How much time are you losing faxing/scanning/filing/emailing paper?
    • How much time are you losing on follow-ups?
    • How much time are you losing re-entering information?
    • How much time are you losing key-entering credit card information?
    Responding to Chargebacks
    • How much time are you losing to back-and-forth communications?
    • How much time are you losing looking up codes?
    • How much time are you losing gathering evidence to fight the chargeback?

We see the benefits of applying automation to tasks like these every day with our customers.

Another benefit Nick highlighted was applying automation to fraud prevention. “By using automation, hoteliers can prevent chargebacks before they occur because technology gives you automatic access to simple yet powerful fraud prevention measures.”

Here are some examples of automated processes that can protect you and your guests from fraud:

  • 3-D Secure (3DS): Shifts liability from the hotel back to the cardholder’s bank making the bank liable for the charge funds.
  • Address Verification Service (AVS): Pairs a guest’s billing address and the address associated with card to verify the authenticity of the card.
  • Card Verification: Scans credit card network for fraudulent activity and/or traits associated with credit card fraud.
  • ID Verification and Scan: Validates a cardholder’s ID through AI, selfie, or ID scan to compare to another form of visual identification.

It's a People-First Process

Once you decide a problem’s worth solving with technology, you’re going to want to plan for implementation and adoption, and Jennifer showed that applying a new solution to your tech stack is much easier than it appears to be.

The key is to remain organized and dedicated to change and to take the time to fully understand the needs of every team impacted by the change. By talking to every department and understanding your existing ecosystem, it’ll be easier to identify what you need and know you’re making the right purchasing decision.

"Allow your staff to tell you where they’re having downfalls and allow us (providers) to decipher where technology provides an opportunity for improvement." – Jennifer Jones

To prepare your team for a successful implementation, Jennifer suggested building a project team made up of staff members who are interested in the solution and have the time to learn about it inside and out. Within that group of people, she also suggested choosing a system champion – someone capable of empowering the rest of the staff to get excited about the new processes.

"A champion can be the person that maintains the solution and continues to optimize its use." – Jennifer Jones

Sara agreed with the importance of using a champion to boost business. “Get them on board, move it forward, and get the results. Hope is not a strategy, so do not hope that things will change. Take action. And when you find that element don’t wait.”

Once the team has been formed, stakeholders should perform User Acceptance Testing within each department before the solution goes live at your property. Any issues that may arise during training and production can negatively impact adoption, your guest experience, and overall revenue, so it’s always best to uncover and address concerns before you go live.

Jennifer also mentioned that while you’re implementing technology, the implementation itself should be a team decision. While the IT department should have input, they’re there to support the business. “They are not normally the end user so they should not be the final decision maker,” she explained. “By gathering input from all business users to make a final decision, you promote unity in the decision and prohibit finger pointing down the road.”

Creating Space for Connectivity

Technology solutions will not only bring your team together but also your industry connections by creating space for your network to grow. Sarah explained that the right vendor will also prioritize partnerships and allow integrations to make the entire hospitality network efficient and secure, ultimately enhancing the guest experience.

By keeping frequent, efficient communication with business partners, hotels and travel and meeting agencies have learned to band together to problem-solve in the wake of unexpected change and shared challenges. This new display of resiliency has allowed industry partners to use automation to address some of their biggest concerns, including:

  • Shortened lead times
  • Processing commissions
  • Needing to quickly educate new employees
  • Fostering strong relationships with new talent

Echoing Nick’s point about using automation to save time, Sara revealed that automation has also relieved the pressures of staffing and scalability within revenge travel. When your staff feels bogged down by manual tasks, they lose the opportunity to connect with guests and create balance for themselves, therefore stunting their growth as an employee in every way. By allowing back-office automation to handle everyday tasks, your staff’s mental health becomes the priority.

"I think if you do these things, then you are investing in your people, you’re investing in your technology and your client experience. When all those things come together, you really are helping to ensure that you can successfully navigate this rebound or this revenge travel in a way that is effective for you and for your team and for your guests." – Sara Meyer

The overall takeaway? Automation is here to enhance the guest experience, not replace it, creating more time for your staff to take better care of guests in ways technology can’t.

About the author

Mimi McNulty

Mimi McNulty is a Marketing Generalist at Sertifi. While she makes a point to have a pulse on all things Sertifi, Mimi is responsible for the company's social media channels, event coordination, and blog. She also assists with content creation, creative marketing, content strategy, and internal marketing ventures. Mimi is a communication enthusiast with a passion for storytelling and media relations.