Translated article of the interview in the german magazine “gastronomie & hotellerie”, edition April 2017: “We’re automating services”
VINN’s Managing Director Frank Gerhardt on the VINNcockpit app and the opportunities presented by digitalization.
With the VINNcockpit app the guest receives a personal profile which is activated upon checking in. Why have guest requirements moved away from the simple overnight stay to the customized stay?
The desire for a customized stay has always been there. In the past, this pertained to the types of hotels and rooms and the special service provided by the staff. Later, digital booking technologies and rating platforms satisfied the need for independent searching and booking as well as the need to share personal experiences. Today, the guest usually has better networked and tailored digital processes at home in keeping with the term “smart home”. This is why he expects customized digital services and offers also from a modern hotel. And this is where VINN is tapping into the demand by enabling a smooth digital “Travellers’ Journey” from the idea of the trip right up to the return home.
Thanks to modular VINN products, the guest can be provided with a configuration file that matches the hotel. Doesn’t the app further complicate things?
The guest doesn’t notice. For each hotel and each hotel room we prepare a technology profile with the enabled services, which is automatically loaded to the guest’s smartphone when he checks in. This way he doesn’t even have to manually connect with the WLAN, since we know from the booking who the guest is and that he is entitled to dial in there. This all happens in the background without interaction on the part of the guest. If the guest for instance indicated a certain room temperature in his profile, we can determine by way of beacons, whether he is in the hotel and then automatically control the air conditioning. If the guest leaves the hotel for an appointment, the AC is automatically switched to the ideal level of energy efficiency.
What kind of third-party solutions should hotels individually integrate into the app?
VINN has a holistic product portfolio, which in addition to the VINNcockpit app also includes TV solutions, Internet solutions, digital signage and IP-telephony, which are effectively networked with each other. We also understand, however, that for strategic reasons hotels favor competitors for one product or another. Our vision is to personalize the guest’s digital trip. If there is an interface to a third-party product, we offer the possibility of integrating it smoothly into our platform. This can, for instance, also be an additional manufacturer of air conditioners to be integrated, a content provider that wants to offer guests tailored contents, or even a baby phone as the case may be. One thing is for certain and that is that no guest wants to install umpteen number of apps for various trips and tasks.
Do apps like VINNcockpit which simplify guest management and work processes pose a possibly risk to jobs in the service sector?
In 2016, there was a new record in Germany of 447 million overnight stays. According to the World Tourism Organization, the number of tourist arrivals around the world will increase from 1.138 billion in 2010 to 1.8 billion in 2030, with a 52 percent share being in Europe (as of 2015). At the same time, come 2030 Germany will have around four million fewer workers, especially in the service sector. Those are alarming figures. That’s why the question for the hotel industry right now tends to be that of where the skilled workers and laborers are going to come from. With VINN, we see the digital transformation above all as an opportunity. We are automating standard services at points where the guest doesn’t notice, enhancing operational processes, helping to save costs – among other things when it comes to energy – and freeing up skilled workers so that they can return to concentrating fully on the guest without being distracted by routine tasks. Let me give one example: In many hotels, the batteries of the hotel remote controls in the rooms are changed every six months to avoid complaints and having to troubleshoot. We provide a report that outlines which batteries have to be changed in the coming days … or the guest uses the VINNcockpit as a remote. In addition to the ecological aspect being that there is less hazardous waste in the form of batteries that are not even dead, there is an additional advantage which is that employees now have more time to ensure the rooms are flawless and clean and that guests are satisfied.
The app can be used as a room key, and mobile payment with it is also possible. Can’t the user’s information lead to misuse in the wrong hands?
We’re not reinventing the wheel where there are very good and secure solutions and are collaborating with branch leaders. Our payment service provider is certified according to EU regulations and meets all guidelines and security standards set out in the payment industry. All of the data is encrypted and conforms to the guidelines of the PCI Security Standard. Our partners, whose mobile technology we have integrated, have used it thousands of times, and it goes without saying that they comply with all guidelines and the latest security standards. Our job is to make sure that data does not fall into the wrong hands, and ensuring this protection is our top priority. Only then do such technologies prevail.
What opportunities do you see in digital networking for the future of the hotel industry?
One trend is to offer a room not just for the night, but also for a certain period of time. If a business traveler goes to the airport at 5am, and the next guest for the same room arrives at 9pm, there is significant latent earnings potential here. Without more effective and digitalized processes this is an immense logistical task. VINNcockpit is an attractive app with numerous perks, which makes it as easy as possible for the guest to map out his entire trip individually and simply. The app reduces the hotel search not just to the lowest price, but also boosts direct bookings. And back in the hotel, employees can once again concentrate fully on the guest instead of on time-consuming routine tasks.
Here you can download the original german interview, page 17
Gastronomie und Hotellerie