Top UK CIO explains how to create a 5-star digital hotel experience

Editor's note: Today’s post is from Chris Hewertson, CTO of glh, the largest owner-operator hotel company in London with over 5,000 rooms throughout London as well as two locations in Malaysia. Chris was recently named “disruptive player in the crowded hotels market” in the CIO top 100 list. Here, he shares his secrets to success.

In 2013, we launched the world’s fastest hotel wi-fi and put our focus on digital. We had big ideas to transform our business, and we knew we couldn’t do it alone.

We’re always looking for new and innovative technology solutions that can help us deliver the best guest-centred experience in hospitality. Hosted services and real-time responses are becoming more and more of a basic customer expectation in other industries so we thought, why not hotels? We worked with implementation partner Cloudreach to adopt Google Apps as our fully integrated, enterprise-wide cloud collaboration and storage solution.

Let product enthusiasts within your teams help usher a smooth adoption

With over 33 hotels, more than 1000 users and nearly 4 million files, how were we going to move everything and everyone onto Google Apps for Work? The answer was obvious – Jedis.

Well, not Jedis exactly, but pretty close. Our nominated Google Guides were a group of 65 champions across all our locations and departments – from night managers to head housekeepers – who helped kick-start our Google Apps for Work adoption. Their support and enthusiasm for the tools meant we could truly bring Google Apps for Work into every part of our business.

Not only did they help us cut down old and unused data as part of the migration process (we have now almost halved our original 3 million files), they encouraged everyone to use the tools for creative solutions. This is a great example of how a user led change approach can lead to high levels of engagement and adoption while minimising the need for a traditional data migration.

Find creative ways to use new tools to improve customer experience

At glh, we take guest complaints seriously and try to accommodate each request as much as we can. At our biggest hotel, room moves and changes happen daily. Guests move rooms to be closer to their travelling party, away from their boss (yes, really) or even to avoid odd numbers.

Before Google, this would cause major disruption across a number of teams from Housekeeping to Concierge. Now, all teams can see and edit real-time room changes in Sheets, and housekeepers can even use it on their mobiles. As a result, we’ve significantly minimized delays, confusion and complaints.

From internal invites to office polls, Forms has been a welcome addition to the working lives of all of us at glh. Now we have a form that allows staff to check out a guest from anywhere in the hotel in seconds. No more printed paper that was popped into a box at reception.

Invest big savings from new technology tools into workplace improvements

Trans-atlantic Hangout conversations have led to a 42% reduction in conference call charges. Hourly printouts of various logs and reports of over 1,000 pages are now shareable digital Docs that are securely stored on Drive. The logs are updated in real time and available on any device.

It’s just over a year since we introduced Google Apps for Work, and in that time we’ve made so many apps-based ideas a reality – like our Manager of the Month initiative, where everyone votes using a Form.

Our Google Guides, who were so central to our training and awareness a year ago, are still coming up with new suggestions all the time – it’s amazing how creative people can be.