How technology is redefining hotel communications
BOB POST is a successful entrepreneur, investor, tech company executive and the president and CEO of Cloud5 Communications, a leading provider of cloud-based telephony solutions, trusted by more than 4,000 hotel clients with 1,000,000 users worldwide. Here he shares insights on the trends that are changing how hotels communicate with guests and how user technology is redefining communications strategies and investment for hotels.
Can you provide a brief history of Cloud5?
It’s really a classic American tech company story. We started out with a simple idea from our founder and over ten years grew this company into a game changer regarding both technology and economic model for the hotel industry. The company was founded on the vision of bringing Voice over IP (VoIP) to the hotel industry to reduce costs by replacing expensive and unreliable PBXs with a cloud-based solution. Then, by building an affordable, proprietary solution geared to the unique needs of hospitality, Cloud5 began to stand out against other cloud-based systems that serve multiple industry verticals with less application expertise and higher costs.
Through several acquisitions, Cloud5 enhanced its network of service centres and client management services to provide guests with world-class service on top of a next-gen communication infrastructure. Finally, in 2014, the Cloud5 entered the High-Speed Internet Access (HSIA) network business with the acquisition of Innflux and HTS. And we’ve been enhancing the functionality and performance of our technology every step of the way.
How is Cloud5 positioning itself for the future?
Our goal is to be the communications standard of choice for hoteliers who look at their network as a strategic tool for mastering the evolving needs of enterprise communications and guest service. As the leading provider of VoIP services to almost 4,000 hotels, we run multiple data centres, architect complex communication networks and maintain advanced service levels for millions of users. Offering reliable guest-focused, networks to hotels seemed a logical step, leveraging the needs of the industry with our existing architecture. It’s astonishing how poorly existing HSIA networks in U.S. hotels perform. We’ve all been there as a guest – when you can’t get a connection from your room, or the lobby WiFi is more like dial-up. Every GM and asset manager knows the competitive importance of reliable Internet for guests.
Strong WiFi is like running water in your guest room – it’s assumed, and it had better work every time, or your reviews will take a hit and your guest satisfaction, along with loyalty, will suffer. With our existing network architecture, expertise in WIFI and understanding of the needs of the always-on guests, Cloud5 can provide hotels with an integrated solution for all their dynamic communication needs. We’re able to grow with them and ensure their staff and guests are always connected.
What do you think the future holds for guest communication on the property?
Asset managers need to face the harsh reality. The burden on hotel networks will expand exponentially as guest devices and applications demand high-performance access to these networks. So, they need to be prepared. The internet of things (IoT) and the ‘always-on’ guest have redefined the communications strategy of hotels and restaurants. We see the need for a ‘living, breathing’ network that can scale in capability and capacity without creating unplanned CAPEX events. What’s really needed is trust – trust that your provider can engineer the right solution for you, and keep it evolving year after year and not break the bank doing it. This is what Cloud5’s originating premise was over a decade ago, and we think it is why we continue to innovate successfully, providing the solutions that fit the dynamic nature of our business.
Do you think hotels will be able to keep up with the invasion of guest-facing apps? Do you see a clear winner in this space?
The market will determine who is the winner or winner(s). Some hoteliers hope to extend their loyalty program into this area, but the consumer will ultimately decide who wins and loses. As with any technology shift, there will be a co-existence of solutions, and the key is to have a platform that is agile and dynamic to respond to market changes. Hoteliers are better off letting the consumer market decide how they wish to connect and having systems that are flexible. Hoteliers’ focus should be on building the infrastructure to handle emerging demand with a reasonable economic value proposition to the consumer. For example, WiFi costs should be transparent – bundled in the room rate vs. separately charged. Guests hate being surprised by a paid WiFi login when they get to their room. Instead of arguing over tiered bandwidth solutions, and exorbitant upcharge fees to guests (you know, streaming media versus just email), they need to think about a service that delights rather than disappoints their guests. If hoteliers go to a trusted partner – one with experience in the unique requirements of guests not just the cheapest WiFi or mobile app provider, they will get a future-proof solution that can change with the needs of current and future guest, effectively and profitably.
What is more important – guest engagement or guest communication?
If you listen to hotel marketing teams, they are all a buzz about guest engagement. However, the answer is that it depends on the guest. Hotels need to define guest communication as the level of engagement the guest wants with your property at any point during their stay. Sometimes I want and need the hotel to “be all over me” and other times I want you to leave me alone to relax and unwind. This subtle difference requires creating a simple and elegant, interactive communication mechanism between you and your guests to engage 110 per cent when needed and stand down otherwise. It is not easy, but providing those types of sticky technical solutions with hotel guests in mind is what Cloud5 is known for.