There is increasing concern in many industries about the pervasive effect of technology on human interactions, or the lack thereof. Some predict – and not unreasonably, in the light of hotels exploring AI and virtual concierges – that one day the need for human interaction in hotels will no longer be required. But studies and surveys have suggested that guests still like the human touch: there is still the opportunity for staff to be as involved, but in evolving ways.
4Suites is a startup app which not only allows guests to take control of their hotel stay, but works with hoteliers and staff to create an enhanced customer experience. “[It] gives hotel guests the possibility to completely manage their own stay,” says Lennart de Haan, CEO, “from booking a room to checking in, opening their hotel room with their smartphone, ordering room service, booking a restaurant or spa, checking out and payment; all of these processes are manageable within one app.”
The app aims to “place the guest experience at the centre” of a hotel stay, and with this, the founders hope to make mobile access available to the world at a low cost and at the highest level of security and reliability.
The app, which targets the hospitality, real estate and leisure sectors, was born out of the founders’ need to develop a more efficient way of managing their own properties. Utilising the app at their co-working spaces to deliver keyless access, set up a booking system and have automatic invoices, they soon saw a gap in the market for a similar service in the hospitality realm.
Taking a year and a half to fully develop the hardware and software attached to the app, the Dutch creators are using an investment of $440,000 to launch the operation across Europe. It recently showcased an embedded chip at the Hotel Tech Live Exhibition in London in September, beginning the rollout process of its service to the UK market. The new embedded chip makes it possible to make any electronic hotel lock accessible without having to replace the existing locks. Focusing on larger hotel chains first, de Haan explains that the app is set to benefit all kinds of properties in the industry.
Although the guest is the main focal point for 4Suites, they have not left out the operators. The company promises the app will aid hoteliers, staff and make the day-to-day running of a hotel smoother and more efficient. de Haan says that the app will help the hotel “save up on costs, generate more revenue, improve service, provide a more pleasant guest experience.”
As the number-one expected fear with the introduction of any new technology, 4Suites insists that the implementation of the service will not go towards the beginning of the eradication of the roles of the humans employed at hotels. However, as with any technological advancement and form of modernisation, de Haan says: “It will probably change jobs, replace jobs and create new ones.”
He goes on to say that he believes that the role of front-desk employees will change to “a more personal role”. He expects the passage of booking control to the guest will turn the front of desk role into one that resembles a “personal host or hostess who will welcome you, know you and your preferences beforehand and offer his or her personal service without having to ask for passports or having to write down a lot of information”. “Administrative tasks will be eliminated and make more room for real personal communication,” he adds.
Changes like this are already being made in certain portions of the industry. In September, Ibis hotels announced it will ditch its check-in desks and replace them with staff who greet guests with their keys on arrival. 4Suite’s newest release allows hotels and guests to have the option of still using existing keycards, meaning the company’s services need to only be available to guests who wish to have a tech-centric experience.
This allows hotels to function and find their place in a technology obsessed world while holding on to some of the traditionalities that other guests may prefer – possibly dispelling some potential apprehension that may be felt by hoteliers who have been in the industry for some years.
However, despite the halfway-house capabilities of the service, de Haan suggests that eventually the conventional method of handling bookings, check-ins and payments directly with hotel staff will die out. “Everybody likes efficiency and a smooth guest experience. Research shows that 85% of guests bring mobile devices during their travels, 32% of guests wants mobile check-in.” These findings are followed by the bold claim that “keycards will be disappeared within five years from now”.
Outside of the worries that technology will completely take over the way we do things, there is also a concern for how reliable electronic-dependent processes are. But 4Suites have worked to create a product which they believe has a low break down rate. De Haan says: “We barely have technical issues.” Admitting that the company encountered a few snags when it first launched, these were considered to merely be the common teething problems expected to pop up with any new software. He continues: “Most of these issues were solved within a few minutes to max 30 minutes. We offer the best support possible and see this as a very important part of our business.”
The service also aims to be secure, with the chance of guests misusing the app to over order or overbook, resting solely on their shoulders. As the app is expected to be downloaded on the guest’s personal mobile device, whatever they do order through 4Suites will be traceable back to them. “Room service orders, for example, will be charged on the account of the guest, not on the room. Everything a guest orders or books in the app will be his or her responsibility. The risk of misuse is therefore negligible.”
App-operated booking is just one of the ways the hospitality industry is being modernised and 4Suites is just one company who are creating products to fit that. Whether it be keyless hotel rooms or automated check-in areas, the introduction of this service only proves that sooner or later, technology-driven interaction will be commonplace in our hotels and everyday life.
This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of Hotel Owner