It seems like digital signage is everywhere in hotels. We see electronic signs in the in the public areas - lobbies, restaurants, pools, even outdoors - all used for business marketing to guests and visitors. There is another application, however, that remains underdeveloped in the hospitality industry that presents enormous potential for digital signage resellers and their customers.
Back-of-the-house communications with housekeeping, maintenance and other service staff is a less-heralded electronic signage application that presents a major opportunity for system integrators. This is true even in hotels that already have customer-facing systems because management already recognizes the value of digital signage since they see it on the public side of the house. The sales process is easier since they are able to envision how it could benefit them by being used to communicate with associates.
However, their initial reaction may be concern that it will require the same level of investment for an employee communications system. Fortunately, associate communication requires a different digital signage network approach that is less costly and less complex to administer. For hospitality chains or franchises, offering a system that makes it easy to be frequently updated by administrative staff and allows both local and corporate information to be combined is the best option. This scenario opens the door for an integrator to provide a lower cost back-of-the-house system with hardware, software, installation and training to the human resources department of each property.
Hotel associate communications is often a challenge because of multiple shifts and the fact that housekeeping, maintenance and food service staffs probably congregate in different areas and multiple languages may be spoken. Yet, electronic signage gives every associate the opportunity to be informed. Well-placed digital sign displays and digital media players can reach every staff member 24/7, which can go a long way towards building team spirit, motivating staff and improving overall profitability.
For hotel chains and franchises the best approach is to use an Internet-based service that gives headquarters the opportunity to distribute corporate-wide news, messages, training and announcements over the system while still allowing local managers and franchisees to add their own local content.
The Software as a Service (SaaS) system can be self-managed in the cloud simultaneously by corporate and local administrators, frequently HR managers and clerical staff, who independently log onto their own digital signage dashboards. Typically, the digital signage provider offers a number of preformatted screens and templates to facilitate content management.
The corporate administrators can easily add content to any or all of the digital media players on the signage network while the local administrators have access only to their individual accounts. The system automatically merges the different sources into the local display according to scheduling and other user-defined preferences. This approach is ideal for customers and resellers since, once the system is set up, the customers self-administer their digital signage network content and the service provider manages the delivery network.
Our experience with a deployment to most properties of a major international hotel chain has found that its combination of corporate/local control works well. The individual property managers can administer their own installations, purchase their own low-cost subscriptions and post their own signage pages - all from a custom-designed, branded portal. They love that content is automatically updated by the system and by corporate, making their signage effective and easy to maintain. The corporate headquarters staff is able to deliver consistent messages to thousands of associates and maintain a consistent look across the multiple networks. It is a win/win for the organization, which makes it easy for integrators to close the sale.
As far as digital signage content is concerned, we've found that hoteliers have a wealth of topics that they want to share with their employees. In addition to normal news, weather, community events, birthdays and anniversaries, there are several interesting information feeds that are ideally suited or unique to hotels, including:
Electronic signage is a great way to build community among what are often very diverse employee groups. It's worth a look. There are literally dozens of lodging facilities in most cities that could be prime prospects even if they already have customer-facing digital signage systems. The opportunity comes from having an appropriate offering to meet their employee communications needs.
Mike Strand is founder and CEO of StrandVision LLC, an Internet-based subscription digital signage service that is distributed through resellers. Previously, Mike founded StrandWare, a leading bar code software and AIDC company. Prospective resellers may contact Mike at mjstrand@StrandVision.com.