Voice over IP has taken the business world by storm, and the market for this technology shows no signs of abating. By 2020, the VoIP market is poised to be worth more than $136.5 billion, up from close to $71 billion in 2013, according to Transparency Market Research.
But not all of this growth will be driven by the enterprise. In addition to the ever-growing number of features offered by VoIP providers, more industries are becoming savvy to the benefits of Internet telephony. One of the less talked about, but no less viable, market verticals for VoIP services is hospitality. In particular, hotels can benefit from reliable, comprehensive VoIP solutions in several significant ways.
Improved staff communications
Room service, bell boys, waiters, bartenders, gym trainers, facility maintenance teams and security staff are only some of the professional roles that help to ensure hotel guests are safe and satisfied during their stay. Hotel management must have a streamlined method for getting in touch with these various employees at any given time.
For example, if guests check out early, the front desk may need to notify maids so they can get ahead of schedule, rather than waiting until the expected check-out time to tidy a room. The in-house restaurant may need to place an order for more ingredients or new dishware. Hotel managers may need to contact a member of the maintenance staff to fix an amenity. The list goes on.
With a multifaceted IP phone that integrates with hotel computer systems, hotel management can easily stay in contact with staff. Different departments can communicate with the touch of a button, either on a physical handset or via the digital interface of a VoIP softphone. Essential information such as food and beverage inventory, guest check-out times, outstanding customer balances, room service schedules, special events and more can be managed from a single computer and shared with the appropriate personnel as needed.
Even hotel staff that are constantly on the go, such as room service, can access this information via mobile devices, which can easily be configured as wireless IP phones. Mobile VoIP applications can be installed directly onto smartphones and tablets, which makes it easy for staff to communicate as they move through various sections of a hotel campus.
Better guest services
Hotel staff obviously need an organized, efficient way to stay in touch with guests throughout the duration of their stay. Whether a customer needs to request a wake-up call, has trouble accessing certain TV stations, needs a refill on the mini bar or would like to extend his or her stay, the first call will be to the lobby, and will most likely be made from the internal phone system provided in the room.
According to a recent article in USA Today, a lack of attentiveness for customer needs – which all too often comes across as apathy – is a huge complaint among guests. Hoteliers should do everything they can to be at customers' beck and call.
"Hoteliers should do everything they can to be at customers' beck and call."
This means having a comprehensive, multiline VoIP solution that integrates with guest information. When the front desk receives a call, a unified communications platform can help determine exactly what room it's coming from, and even provide a customer profile with details that make it easier to provide top-rate service.
As an added bonus, guests who are in town for business or a hosted event at the hotel will be more likely to make calls using the hotel phone system, and putting them on their company's tab – that is, assuming the hotel phone system is reliable and affordable. Thanks to the feature-rich functionality of IP phones and the cost-efficiency of Internet telephony, hoteliers now have a new value proposition for guests: HD voice for customers at reasonable rates.
Emergency response features
Making guests feel safe – and actually keeping them safe – is one of the most important jobs of any hotel. This isn't limited to having locks on the door and a security guard in the lobby at certain times of the night. It also means having a fast and efficient emergency response system.
One of VoIP's lesser-known features is its ability to act as such a solution. In the event that a guest in a large hotel makes a 911 call, a VoIP-based emergency response add-on can give first-responders the exact location of the phone the call is being made on. This can save precious seconds in the event of a serious medical emergency. Likewise, the VoIP system can push emergency notifications via email, text or screen pop-ups to predetermined personnel who, in turn, can take the appropriate measures to help ensure the safety of guests.
With the ability to streamline communication among hotel staff, improve customer service and keep guests safe in an emergency situation, it's safe to say that when it comes to the hospitality industry, VoIP is vital.