hospitality technology made simple by kevin sturm Consulting

information entertainment gets healthy with an apple a day

I did an interview with Josiah Mackenzie on his Hotel Marketing Strategies Blog. In the interview Josiah asked me a question about how information entertainment is changing the guest experience, with specific reference to Microsoft Surfaces. I think Surfaces is cool, but I'm not convinced it's functional at the current price point (check out the full interview here). His question prompted me to do a little more research on some rumors about Apple's move into hospitality.

I liked these rumors for two reasons. Firs
t, Apple already has guest experience nailed. If you doubt me spend some time in an Apple Store. From architecture, to music, to hands-on-play, to service Apple knows how to manage the guest experience. Second, I'm a tech junkie and an Apple lover (both the mac and honey crisp kind).

What I found really excited me.... I may book a trip just to experience what I saw. Apple has partnered with Nanonation to provide some seriously awesome digital media content to guests. Most of their website revolves around digital signage, but via Apple's website you can register to watch a demo on how they are changing the face of in-room entertainment. And this isn't future in
-room entertainment, it shows what is available now!

To get all the nitty-gritty details you really need to watch the presentation. You can do so by going here and then click "Watch the presentation". That will take you through a series of steps to register your info with Apple (you will need to setup an account). There is a also a singl
e page pdf you can download here.

if you don't have time to watch the video here is my synopsis of the benefits.

  1. A really awesome graphical user interface that is very easy to use, allowing your guests to buy services, research local attractions, and all the while allow you to store their search information making their future searches more guest-centric.

  2. Through use of the Mac mini (a 6 x 6 x 2 computer) you can use the LCD HD TV that most likely is already in the room. And you get the awesome Apple Care warranty option. This also means the hardware and software platform for your In-Room Entertainment is the same as for your Digital Signage in the main areas.

  3. The potential benefits of how this technology will migrate to the iPhone and iTouch is SWEET! See your entire schedule and be able to book reservations for any hotel amenities on your iPhone through an app that integrates with your room details.

  4. Very intuitive and highly functional interactive channel guide for TV viewing.

  5. A movie guide that is more advanced than the current solutions you generally see in hotel rooms, offering more flexibility and a richer user experience typical to that of a Mac.

If you're interested in implementing a new and different in-room entertainment or digital signage solution give me a call. Together we can find out of this solution is right for you.

For more information about kevin sturm Consulting please visit my website or email me.

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new website launch

Okay, so it has been AGES since I've posted here. But I wanted to announce the launch of my new website! There is still some stuff I need to include, mainly client details...those are going to take some time as I need to get approval from clients for the images and text.

But thanks to my buddy DJ and the Showit Sites team I got my new site up. DJ and team created one of the coolest new website design products out there. It allows somebody like me who really is not all that creative nor has html coding ability to create a pretty HOT website. So, when you get a chance check out my new digs over at kevin sturm Consulting.

If you are intersted in getting a site like this setup email me and I'll send you a promotion code for your Showit Sites subscription.

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a new title for what i am

I just learned what I am...

While reading Escape From Cubicle Nation I found out about Anywired and read the post Become a Lifestyle Entrepreneur: Complete Guide and 40+ Resources.

I'm a Lifestyle Entrepreneur! What does that mean you ask? You really should read the post, but here is a great description from Skellie over at Anywired.

"If you are — or would like to be — an entrepreneur, yet you’d be happy to earn enough to live the life you want rather than becoming filthy rich, lifestyle entrepreneurship might be a good fit for you.

Lifestyle entrepreneurs will generally base their ventures around time minimalism, or something they love, even if there are more profitable (but more time-consuming, or less interesting) options available.

The goal of a lifestyle entrepreneur is not to amass a huge fortune, but instead, to achieve certain definable goals and, beyond that point,
to ensure business does not interfere too much with the enjoyment of those goals."

Now don't get my wrong, I think it would be cool to be really rich. But not at the expense of the relationships with my wife, kids, or current freedom. I spent 9 years climbing the corporate ladder and had a good position with a good salary. The next step in my plan was a VP position which would lead to a C-level position. But ultimately what I found is the stress of those positions, the time requirement, and the sacrifices I was going to make just weren't worth it.

I quit my job and started my own consulting firm to create freedom in my life. Here is my current daily schedule - which I adjust daily as I need to fit into my lifestyle.

7:15 am - Wake up to alarm clock of "DAAAAADAAAA IT'S LIIIIGHT TIIIIIME!"
7:45 am - Get breakfast for the alarm clock and take a shower
8:15 am - Make coffee and lunch for Bubba
8:30 am - Catch up on my favorite blogs and/or take Bubba to preschool
9:15 am - Blog or grab breakfast or read news
10:00 am - Work on client projects (yes I start "work" about 10:00 am)
4:00 pm - Stop work to play with my alarm clock
4:05 pm - Play with Bubba, Chrystal, and Mianna for the rest of the day.

I say this not to brag or gloat but to say it's possible. We are not getting rich and sometimes money issues are stressful, but we (my family and I) live a good life and love it. We have more freedom (though not necessarily financial) than we have ever had. Join what Tim Ferris calls the NR and break the chain!

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mail call...what's the scoop on SaaS solutions?

I received an interesting email a while back from Carson Mehl at Lumiere Hotels.

"I am curious to know if you have heard of any robust hotel software being developed that is web-based. Our company has started using a number of web-based software solutions such as Google Docs and Basecamp by 37signals and they have been a huge asset as far as ease-of-use, collaborative ability, and no-need for extensive/expensive hardware. The great thing about web-based software is that it all operates inside the browser so it can be easily accessible from a number of devices."

Regrettably I was not able to point to any truly web-based solutions that I felt would meet the needs of a boutique hotel group. There are a few out there but none that I have extensive experience with or have been impressed with.

What Carson was really asking is why hasn't a hospitality technology vendor come up with some true SaaS applications that fulfills the requirements for a boutique hotel or resort location? For those that are not familiar with SaaS it means Software as a Service. Wikipedia defines it as "...a software application delivery model where a software vendor develops a web-native software application and hosts and operates (either independently or through a third-party) the application for use by its customers over the Internet. Customers do not pay for owning the software itself but rather for using it. They use it through an API accessible over the Web and often written using Web Services or REST."

In our email conversation Carson was good enough to expand to what hoteliers are looking for...

"...The newest evolution of internet browsers and runtimes like Adobe AIR are really opening up the possibilities for rich internet applications. Applications like Google docs, basecamp, ZOHO, buzzword (my fav), even Facebook that are stored in the cloud and accessible from anywhere, offer such an advantage. The ease of collaboration they provide is alone and tremendous improvement on traditional software not to mention the accessibility factor, ease-of-use, elegant design, and simple hardware requirements. I do not have super-deep ranging experience with hotel software, but what I have used is far short of what is possible today.

From an hotelier’s point of view, I see a demand for a well designed software platform that is easy to use and is far reaching ie: pos, pms, booking, web-booking, reporting, etc. What is currently available in this regard is very expensive and complicated from both a hardware and software standpoint. The existing platforms work well for companies with deep pockets, IT experts and central reservation departments...

I guess the dream software would provide seamless connection between web reservations, pms, and the gds. It would allow an administrator to provide different levels of access to employees. It would automatically create and update guest profiles. It would show activity feeds for a property (similar to a facebook newsfeed, but showing reservations made on the web, pms, or gds, and more). It would be dead simple to use. It would look elegant. Training would be obvious and intuitive. It would be a subscription based service or maybe annually licensed. The system would be complete so there wouldn’t be any interfacing problems between disparate types of software. All the data is indexed and searchable. Reports are automatically generated and distributed. Data is backed up securely. The software works in multiple languages. Software updates are seamless, because it is web based. Housekeeping could carry around a tablet pc or iPod touch and update their room list. Guests could check out from their tv or laptop. The list goes on and on. It may seem like a pipe dream, but I think it is a possibility especially as we are reaching the age of ubiquitous internet connectivity.

From a software company stand point I think there is demand for such a service. It might be a long long time before a large hotel company would make the switch but there are so many independent and small hotels for which this service would be a blessing. In addition, if the service was successful the access to data would be invaluable."

I thought the question was a good one and the desires well stated. So the question stands to why are there not more SaaS applications for hotel/resorts?

In my experience the main reason has been a data access issue. For pure web based applications the data is held (and often owned) by the vendor. Data security standards and PCI regulations make it difficult for vendors to effectively and affordably deliver on the needs of a hotel/resort. PMS, POS, and GDS solutions are generally considered mission critical to the business. If you don't have immediate access to the data then you cannot run your business successfully which often means inconveniencing the guest. And unless a company like Google with an almost infinite budget for infrastructure redundancy and fail-over brings a solution to the table the costs of effectively delivering a solution like this appears to be too high for a start-up looking at what is really a limited market (unless some of the larger brands like Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott joined in).

Ultimately I hope I'm wrong because I believe we need this. A corollary could be made to what people thought about CRM solutions until rocketed to uber-status of success and took over that space as the darling of the market.

If you know of a SaaS POS, PMS, GDS or other hospitality technology solution leave a comment as I'd be interested to find out more about them. Or if you have other thoughts on this topic post a comment and share your wisdom.

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confidence and humility are not mutually exclusive

In the last week of my full-time employment a co-worker (and former consultant) told me she thought I would find consulting harder than I expected. I didn't know her very well but I knew her well enough to know she was referring to the selling side of consulting, and I could tell by the way she said it she didn't think I had the "selling side" in me.

I told her I agreed that most consultants struggle with the selling side of the job, mainly because you are selling "you". What you personally bring to the table is all there is to sell, and part of what you bring to the table is confidence. But many consultants struggle with the concept that confidence and humility are not mutually exclusive. The opposite of humility is not confidence but rather cockiness. Cocky consultants are annoying, irritating, and often difficult to do business with.

When I talk with any customer I know I bring confidence to the discussion. Confidence that I know what needs to be done or that I don't.

Cocky consultants always know the answer, regardless if they really do. Confident consultants are humble enough to know when they don't know the answer, but instill confidence they can find it.

She was right that I'm not naturally a sales person. I have friends who are and they could convince you to buy the dirt off your own floor. As a consultant that is not the type of sales person you want to be. You want to be an evangelist.

If you are selling on the basis that you offer a service you're selling on cockiness: "Buy me because I'm here." You should be selling on the basis of a business problem that you personally can help solve: "Buy me because you have this problem and I have experience and knowledge to offer multiple solutions on solving that problem."

Seth Godin had a great post today on Self Promotion that spurred this thought. Thanks Seth!

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the most important decision as a consultant

The number of decisions you have to make when starting your own consulting business are numerous. Decisions like choosing your niche, how much you charge, where you will spend money are all important. But one of the lesser discussed but possibly most important decisions is what business will you NOT take.

I have found this to be the most difficult decision because knowing when the next job will be is usually unknown. You are always in need of the money (lets be honest here), but every opportunity that comes your way has the potential to grow or limit your business (read income).

  • will the contract increase your specific skill or expertise that makes you valuable?
  • will the contract lead to on-going future business with a client?
  • how sure are you that the project will end successfully?
  • how likely is it that the potential client will provide you with a good reference?
  • is the potential client the type that would recommend your services without request?
These are all important questions to ask when deciding what kind of projects you do or do NOT take. But I'm going to focus on one question where many consultants make the wrong decision.

Will the client pay you what you are asking?

This is an important question because it brings up two equally important questions. First, how much are you worth? And second, what type of personal life do you want?

The temptation to take a contract at a reduced pay is great, especially when the pipeline is small. But one of the most important decisions you will make is sticking to your guns and turning business away. Consultants are generally willing to take these jobs because they come with a promise of lots of work or because of nervousness that nothing else will come along.

But if you take a contract for either of these two reasons you are both decreasing your perceived value to current and future clients and sacrificing your lifestyle. You should be confident that you are worth your rate and your current and potential clients must see that. Taking a contract for a lower fee says that you believe you are not worth your stated rate. And if you do not believe you are worth your fee then you should not be charging that fee.

The second reason you should not accept a reduced fee is based on simple math. Let's say your normal fee is $100 per hour (just to pick a round number). If you take a 20% fee reduction at $80 per hour then you have to work more hours and harder to make up the difference.

Most likely you have a revenue goal for your company (if you don't it's time to get one). The more projects you take at a decreased rate the more you have to work to achieve that rate.

If you are still not convinced then look at it this way. Let's say your goal is to bill 30 hours per week at $100 per hour with four weeks of vacation. That means there are 48 billable weeks in the year. This is pretty aggressive goal if you are just starting out.

48 weeks x 30 hours x $100 = $144,000

NOTE: $144,000 may look like a lot (or may not), but when you factor in taxes and business expenses your take home quickly begins to fall.

If you take a 12 week contract at your 20% fee reduction there are only 36 weeks left in your "goal year".

12 week x 30 hours x $80 = $28,800
36 weeks x 30 hours x $100 = $108,000

Now your total revenue is $136,800. In order to make up the difference of $7200 to meet your goal you have to work 72 hours at your $100 rate. That equates to 2.5 weeks of work which leaves you with 1.5 weeks of vacation time.

But the better scenario is that you would only need to work 45.5 weeks at your normal rate to achieve the $136,800 revenue number. This means that you either have 2.5 more weeks of vacation time (imagine a job with 6.5 weeks of vacation), 2.5 more weeks to market and build the business, 2.5 weeks to blog and share your knowledge, or 2.5 weeks to try and find a small contract at your $100 per hour rate.

Be worth what you say you are worth. It will be better for you in the long run and you'll do business with the type of customers you want.

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best-of-breed or one-stop-shop...what's best for me

For many this debate is a philosophical versus empirical one, but it is worth a discussion I think. It is almost impossible to set aside the philosophical side of the debate (i.e. those that hate strongly dislike big business), but I'm going to do my best based on my experiential side of the debate. In starting this post off lets take a moment and clarify what we are talking about.


"Best-of-breed" vendors generally provide one or two technology solutions. They are 100% focused on these products and are thus considered to have more expertise in the needs of their customer (a debatable concept). Generally they are also considered to be more agile because of this focus (or so they say), allowing them to respond to development requests in a shorter time frame or at least with a more predictable software release schedule.

one-stop-shop (aka integrated systems)
(Pretty self explanatory I think) The Wal-Mart of technology vendors. They can fulfill most of your major technology needs and some of your minor ones as well (or so they claim). Generally they are very large organizations that offer products to a wide range of vertical markets. For this reason they are considered to have less knowledge of your specific operation (a debatable concept). Their release schedules tend to be further apart, but they also tend to perform custom work more willingly (possibly because of a larger resource pool) (also a debatable concept).Now that we are all on the same page lets talk about how to sort through the question, "What's best for me?" First, for the purposes of your time and my own sanity I'm not going to attempt to categorize all the vendors for every technology solution. It's almost impossible given the new companies that pop up semi-regularly and more importantly with the disappearing act by many of the formerly named best-of-breeds recently gobbled up by the one-stop-shops. And that quickly then brings me to the or one-stop-shop labels are a useless and very stupid business requirement when selecting your technology solution. It might have been a semi-meaningful requirement five years ago (of even two years ago), but not anymore.

Now, I'd like to just end here and have you believe me because I say so...but the probability is some of you reading this are staunch believers that best-of-breed or one-stop-shop is an important requirement when selecting a technology vendor. The rest of this post is dedicated to you. If you agree with me I'd love you to post a comment on what experience led you to the same conclusion. Below are some of points based on my experience, and why they are pointless when made as general statements.

ease of integration
This is one of the biggest points in the debate, and is often touted by the one-stop-shop as a major reason to chose them. But before you buy look closer, talk to existing customers, and make sure that this is really true. As with anything in technology your plug-and-play solution may leave you hanging. At face value it seems logical.

A single company can get their products to interface and integrate easier/better than different companies.

But changes in technology, the ever shifting product road map, and the acquisition engine proves in reality they most likely are not so integrated.

Most one-stop-shops did not start development of their products at the same time, which can mean the technology platform between the solutions is different (sometimes drastically). This can lead to some interface challenges that are often only overcome with limitations (and you end up with multiple technology platforms). The number of products gained through acquisition and the time frame of those acquisitions is also a good identifier for how seamlessly integrated a one-stop-shop is. My experience has led to the conclusion that the integration capabilities post acquisition is about the same as when they were different companies. Existing customers have lived with the limitations before the acquisition for years, so it is easy for a vendor to rationalize not making it a priority to enhance integration.

The willingness of one-stop-shops to work with other vendors is also a point to consider here. Where generally best-of-breed vendors thrive off partnerships with other vendors, the one-stop-shop may create integration road blocks. After all, it is in their best interest for you to purchase all of their products.

Now in fairness to the one-stop-shop I suppose I also need to point out that best-of-breed vendors also make this claim by touting their agility to enhance the product quickly. In some cases this is probably true. But do not be easily mislead. As a customer you want to be wary of this promise, because if it is being made to you it is also being made to someone else. You want a vendor that has a well established software development life cycle (SDLC) so they already (or at least should) have the next two to three versions of the product planned out. First, this means that new development probably cannot make it into the next scheduled version. Second, it means that your requested enhancement can easily be trumped by promises to the next customer. The temptation for best-of-breeds to "follow the money" is often too tempting and promises become easy to break.

Rather than basing your decision on claims to ease of integration do your research to document your requirements with order of priority. Select a technology solution based on your clearly defined and documented integration requirements versus claims to ease of integration.

small size = better relationship
I'm going to pick on best-of-breed vendors here. One of the claims made by best-of-breed vendors is their smaller size lends to a better vendor-client relationship. They claim to support their product(s) better and establish better relationships with their customers because of their size. Who made the rule that to be nice to work with you have to be small? In my experience a good vendor relationship is grounded in the type of people versus the size of the company.

As a side note it is too easy when choosing a technology solution to let your sales person do all the selling. And that seems logical...but your sales person is not who you will be talking to on a daily basis. You should be meeting with the group of people you will be working with regularly. If you will be assigned an account manager then meet that person. You should also speak with installation, support, and the person that handles billing disputes. Interview them because how they respond will give you a very good idea of what it will be like to be a customer. This group will often not have the skill or desire to "sell you", so they will act just how they act every day.

Nice dinners and golf outings are great, but I bet you would give that up for a support team that is knowledgeable on the product and a finance team that is pleasant to work with. Select a vendor based on their reputation in the industry and the people that you meet, not on the assumption because they are smaller they will be better to work with.

single support entity (aka one person to yell at)
The "one person to yell at" claim is generally made by one-stop-shops and it has some validity. It can be very useful to have a single point of contact for resolving problems with your technology solutions. But this is only a reasonable point if the vendor is responsive and helpful when you yell. If you already read the comments under ease of integration and small size - better relationship you should foresee the coming point.

Having multiple vendors that are very helpful and nice to do business with will always be better than a single vendor that is difficult to do business with. Base your technology decision on who you believe will offer the better support not based on the number of 800 numbers you have to tape by the phone.

in your back yard
This is one of those funny requirements that venues seem to think is a great benefit when choosing a technology vendor, and that technology vendors tout as a major benefit to the venue.

If the vendor's corporate office is close they will be more helpful and technical support staff will be available to swing by your property on a regular basis!

Unfortunately this is usually not accurate whether your vendor is a best-of-breed or one-stop-shop. If you yell loud enough and long enough they will send someone, but that is true if you are around the corner or across the country.

The vendor is not staffed to be at your beacon call and you will often get the freest resource (read least experienced) when you do need someone. If there is a big enough problem they will send someone regardless of where you are. In my experience your vendor's proximity to your physical location has very little to do with the quality of support you will receive.

Additionally, as a venue be wary of the in my backyard vendor. You have expectations but so will your vendor. You're site will become a frequent stop for sales calls, sales meetings, prospective customers, prospective partners, and bleeding edge technology solutions.

In summary if you choose to do business with a technology vendor because they refer to themselves as best-of-breed or one-stop-shop you will stand to be disappointed at some point in the future. It is naive to assume that your best-of-breed company is not looking to expand their product suite through "build it' or "buy it" plans. Even more likely your best-of-breed company is continuously being courted by one-stop-shops and will eventually marry for money (a poor relationship foundation by the life and business). But for many that is goal. Build a company so that it is attractive enough to a potential suitor to sell and retire in the Caymans? Can you really blame the owner(s) for doing what almost every entrepreneur dreams of doing? I think not, so stop treating your vendors as if they were different than any other company with a different goal than your company. And for the one-stop-shop vendor the reality is they are generally not quite as seamlessly integrated as they proclaim.

The bottom line is hospitality venues did not coin the terms best-of-breed or one-stop-shop. They are terms creating by the vendor's marketing departments and ultimately should have little bearing on your technology decision.

Comment if you agree or disagree, I would love to hear from you. And as always, if you'd like to find out more about kevin sturm Consulting please visit my website or email me.

Pictures courtesy of DWQ, Crawfishpie, Dzwjedziak, Extra Medium, katiebate

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the negative value of negotiated services

Normally I spend Thursday writing a post for htms, but today I spent it speaking at Santa Barbara Culinary School. I got to speak for a short while to the next group of leaders in the hospitality industry, which is always really rewarding. It was a great event hosted by the HFTP CA Central Coast Chapter, AND we had a great luncheon speaker in Bob Hazard (former CEO of Choice Hotels). I hadn't even looked at who the lunch speaker was so I was stoked to have such a huge name in hospitality. I also found out he is now the CEO of Birnam Wood Country Club just down the way. So COOL...

Anyway, since I was not able to spend much time writing I thought I'd shoot a quickie out about negative negotiation. If you're in the middle of purchasing a technology solution, or planning on it, it is likely that you have spent some time negotiating price with your vendor. If you are not, or have not planned to negotiate price you will probably pay more than you need to. Vendors expect price negotiation to occur and for that reason generally have decided on what pre-valued discount they will offer before they even meet with you. So negotiate away. But, there are areas of your purchase you should negotiate price and those you should not.

DO negotiate on hardware costs
Your prospective vendor has a price point for their hardware product(s). If a customer buys it at full price then they make great margin. But they expect that you will negotiate the price, and you should. Hardware is a fixed deliverable. You get the same hardware whether you get 0% discount or 50% discount. So negotiate and get a great deal. As a side note, end of quarter and end of year are great times to negotiate price with your vendor because they are pushing to meet quarter or year-end revenue goals.DO negotiate on software licensing
In the same vein your vendor has a price point for software licenses. Regardless of how much you pay for that software you get the same thing. If you negotiate a great price then you get a great price but the same product...great for you. The quarter and year-end purchase applies here as well.

DO NOT negotiate on services
I see this time and time again with customers where the quantity of services or total dollar value of services was negotiated down. DO NOT negotiate on services, because the old adage "You get what you pay for." applies here. Your sales person may try to make services the first place they negotiate on your order, and ultimately you don't think you care...but you should and you do. Often a sales person tries to cut services first because they are commissioned less or not at all on services revenue. Discounting hardware and software lowers their personal income, so discounting on services means they might not take an income hit. But discounting services will have a huge affect on your project!

The concept is simple really. In my experience almost every vendor quotes services accurately to what they believe it will take to do the project successfully. Services numbers are usually made up by the services group. Discounting or lowering this number may get you a lower price point, but it also means that the services group is doing the project for less than they think it will take. So you get one of two outcomes. One, you get a Change Order Request from the project manager after work has begun and pay the higher amount anyway. Or two, you get less or often poor service leading to struggles in the implementation and support of your technology solution.

Comment if you have a story on how discounting services hurt your project. I would love to hear from you. I'd also like to hear from you if you think I'm wrong. And as always, if you'd like to find out more about kevin sturm Consulting please visit my website or email me.

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the pending death of "pay-as-you-surf" internet

FREE or pay-as-you-surf Internet in hotel rooms is a hot topic in hospitality conversations right now. So like any good sheep I'll follow and give my two cents. If you read this blog regularly you know I'm a big fan of FREE Internet. I believe with an unwavering constitution that Internet in your hotel room should be FREE (read this post to understand my stance). It's my technologically advanced right! I deserve FREE Internet! I HATE paying $9.99 when I want to get online...but I'd happily pay $15 to not care if I was paying $9.99.

I've had dozens of conversations about this topic, and inevitably there is someone making it out to be a complex issue that has many different factors contributing to if a hotel provides FREE Internet. I hear them, but to them I say Bologna! (pronounced ba-low-nee for those who speak no French) Lines have been drawn and there are three camps when it comes to "how should a hotel recoup costs for providing web access to customers".camp #1: the money-grubbers
I think that title says who this camp is. This camp believes vehemently that Internet access is not an inclusive service and should cost extra. They love the additional revenue pay-as-you-surf supposedly proves to generate and are not willing to discuss the possible or plausible revenue benefits of inclusive pricing and better customer satisfaction. This camp should be forced to pack up their tents one week per month and work from hotels that do not offer free Internet. Or, everyone in this camp should be forced to pay for Internet access by the day, hour, and minute at their normal work place and then be forced to submit justification with the receipt on what they accomplished during those charged Internet hours. Or, forced to pay for it out of pocket like the thousands of entrepreneurs who don't get to "expense" Internet access and feel nickle-and-dimed by the pay-as-you-surf camp.

camp #2: the corner drug dealers
This camp is like the corner speed dealer getting a casual user hooked. Stay at our hotel and we'll give you crappy casual speed for free. If you want to have web conference calls, host a webinar, give a demo, perform remote actions on a system via remote control software, or let your kids play games you have to buy the "good speed". The good speed is expensive, and they know you will always generally feel the need for speed. And once you get the good speed you can't really go back to the free speed...and they know it. This camp should be forced to perform their normal daily business functions for an extended period of time on the "free speed". And then smacked with a purse when they ask for good speed. This is also the camp that uses soft word rhetoric in calling themselves peace makers and collaborators by giving us a choice. "If you are a casual user then you get it free." In my world there is no casual Internet use, and my world generally doesn't include streaming video or online gaming. But as iTunes, Hulu, and ModernFeed become mainstream and talking with clients via Skype is normal, that is the casual user and then the corner drug dealer forces me to pay for speed.

camp #3: camp of the free, web surfing rave
This is the camp that wants all the speed FREE. If all you have is slow speed then I want that FREE, but if you have high speed i want that FREE, too! It is my Larry G. Roberts given right to have it FREE. This I believe is the largest camp, of which i am a card carrying member. Give me FREE or I'll give you pay-as-you-surf Internet death!

And that then leads me to the real point of this post. Unless something changes pay-as-you-surf hotel Internet will go the way of pay-as-you-talk hotel phones. Phone calls used to be a pretty good money maker for hotels. X dollars per call and then charges per minute. If you traveled regularly on business your hotel phone bill was hefty. First came the invention of 1-800 calling cards, so then hotels started to charge for the 1-800 calls and local calls to make up for lost revenue. Then came the mobile phone. Reception made it hard to only use mobile phones, so hotels still invested heavily in PBX infrastructure. But hotels quickly found their phone investment would never pay for itself because mobile phones became business phones and free VOIP via computer came about (i.e. Skype) and hotel phones are now a required convenience to call the front desk. Phones are now just a cost of doing business. Internet access is a requirement for doing business (both personal business and business business).

I've heard a few technology executives from some hotel and vendor companies say that satellite Internet will never be fast enough to meet the demands of the consumer. They may be right and probably are, but what I can promise is that if it doesn't meet the requirement someone will invent something that will. Being fixed to a specific location for highly capable wireless high speed Internet access will be a thing of the past in 5 years (maybe less). Internet access is already at the milestone hotel phones reached with the introduction of the early mobile phone where "good enough" is already applying. I'm paying for this cellular based wireless service and it is fast enough to do what I need, and it's FREE. Note it's not really FREE, I just already paid for it. So why would I pay $9.99 to use your Internet. Especially if I can't expense it. But if your Internet was already included in my room rate then it is FREE and I'd have the choice to use it or my Internet. And if I chose your Internet then you get to ask me who I am...bonus for the hotel.

I believe we are at cross-roads for hoteliers. Pay-as-you-surf Internet will go the way of the pay-as-you-talk phone and for many hotels, especially those without wireless. Infrastructure costs will either be sunk or take much longer to pay off as the hard decision is made on how to off-set those costs. It is time to make the decision that Internet should be FREE. If you cannot figure out a way to provide it FREE then I'll use my own and stop paying for yours altogether!

Photos curteousy of dana 2, miss rouge, rightee, and TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³

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the attractive but un-sexy side of BI

I had a wonderful opportunity recently to join some very smart colleagues on a BI (Business Intelligence) panel presentation. I first need to thank Jon Inge for inviting me to be on the panel and for being an advocate for the un-sexy side of BI. Second I need to thank Rick Heuer, Geert Mol, and Clive Perry-Core who were on the panel with me. I learned a ton about CRM BI from Rick and Geert, and Clive has more hands-on experience to the nuts and bolts of BI than anyone I've ever met. It ended up as more of a round-table discussion than a panel really, but it was great for my own learning opportunities that way.

In his opening Jon referenced a great article from the Wall Street Journal on "Knowledge Management" which is largely what BI is all about. (Which I was bummed to not find on the web and provide as a link to all of you. If you find it give me the link in a comment.) The opportunity benefit of BI is to effectively act on meaningful information about your business...or more briefly put knowledge management.

During the introduction of the panel each panelists described how they worked in BI. During this brief introduction I came to the sad realization that I specialize in "un-sexy" BI. The "sexy" side of BI is in CRM and marketing. Their personal introductions were exciting and I'm sure led to everyone dreaming about a hotel knowing you when you walk in the door, welcome you by name, hand you your favorite margarita, quickly tele-port you to your room with pre-set temperature and lighting preferences, and have music playing based on your perceived mood and core body temperature. It is what you read about in press releases from the big brands in the industry where they know everything about what the customer prefers. The summation is Know your guest and achieve total patron value! Increase revenue through understanding your guest's preferences and market directly to them! Sexy No? (to be said in a French accent)

For the record I totally agree it is way more fun to talk and dream about the benefits of BI with CRM. But the reality is the ROI and TCO for BI with CRM is harder to quantify (I tried hard to get a fifth acronym in that sentence but I couldn't find one that made sense. Though I digress). It is not impossible to quantify, just harder. Before I jump into the "attractive but un-sexy" side of BI I think it is important to lay some foundation. First let's take a shot at defining TCO. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is the total investment capitol put into the technology solution over a specified period of time. Return on Investment (ROI) is the duration it takes for decrease in costs and/or increase in revenues to surpass the overall investment (or TCO). To put simply, save or make more money than what you spent within a specific time period. The measure of any good technology solution should be create cheaper, faster, and better operations than what you do now. The general problem with proving the ROI of BI with CRM is the generalizations that take place into why certain customer preferences exist and under what specific set of circumstances. It is the accurate capture of circumstances that really creates the challenge. It is difficult (not impossible) to tie a decrease in cost or more likely and increase in revenue to a specific preference or area of guest behavior being influenced by an almost infinite number of inputs (aka circumstances) that lead to a specific action (for more thoughts on this see when CRM will achieve its potential).

So if BI with CRM and market data is "sexy" then the operational analysis side is really the "un-sexy". Note that both are attractive, but the former is far more attractive than the latter.

The un-sexy side is the analysis of your operational systems data in order to decrease costs and increase revenues (yawn). I'll define operational systems as Property Management System (PMS), Point of Sale (POS), inventory management, time and attendance, service optimization, and other solutions implemented to manage the operations of a venue. See, I'm only two sentences into the "un-sexy" and you're mind is already wandering...hmmm..what should I have for lunch today...

But, when this data is captured in a meaningful way and linked to other external data elements (i.e. weather, currency exchange rate, website click through, etc.) the value proposition of BI becomes very attractive. I'm going to say "becomes" attractive because generally the first thing that a BI system shows you is how poorly your systems are currently setup to capture meaningful data. You will need to spend at least three to six months cleaning up configuration elements of your existing system(s) before BI will begin to have analytical payoff. The correlation can be made that it's like exercise for your technology solutions. You may hate the process but you'll like the results. I'll cover some thoughts on the steps to a successful BI installation in a future post. But for those in need of immediate gratification Jon Inge wrote a great article in this months Hospitality Upgrade (it's free by the subscribe) entitled Demystifying Business Intelligence. You can download the article here from Jon's website.

As an exercise in brain storming here are a few examples of how to both define and achieve ROI for your BI solution. I am making a HUGE assumption here that you already have some meaningful KPI's identified for your business and that you can apply them accordingly. If you have not, first go read Jon's article.

the pms story
A key metric for any hotel/resort is RevPAR (revenue per available room). The value of this KPI becomes more valuable over time as you compare it against historical data. It is one of the measures used for how to price a room and it's amenities. Some PMS systems will give you this number over a specified date range and may let you compare it to one other range. Or you can run multiple ranges and do the comparison yourself by entering the information into a spreadsheet. But, what if rather than just looking at previous RevPAR numbers you were able to review historical RevPAR numbers with the corresponding temperature/weather and current exchange rates with selected currencies over multiple selected date ranges. Then what if that information could be plotted graphically for you giving you some solid predictive analytics on what room rate would give you the best RevPAR based on matching factors from a historical period. The ROI benefit in this example is actually achieved in more than just the revenue opportunities. It can also be achieved in the "improved costs" column by spending fewer hours entering information into spreadsheets.

the pos story
The POS story I think is one often left behind, but it is one near-and-dear to my heart. Your POS (and PMS) system holds real data about customers that they pay you to keep so you can know more about them. How wonderful is that?! Grocery stores have the POS BI story's a science of revenue for them. Hotels, resorts, and other venues should be watching and learning from their successes and their mistakes. As a quick story lets meander into a world where all your POS data means something (meaning versus what you have now). It means what do your customers like, what do they not like, and what should they like but just are not finding and buying. By "should they like" I'm referring to placement, description of the item, presentation on the plate, verbal marketing, and price. BI with POS allows a manager or chef to aggregate and compare data for items that are selling well to items that are not selling well, and possibly against the day of the week, time of the day, and temperature outside.

the inventory management story
You get an even better story if you tie POS to Inventory Management and look at actual cost versus selling price data. A manager can run pricing strategies and get concrete data back on how well or poorly it worked. For example, take your top 10 selling entree items and increase the price of each of them by 5%. If you have historical price and cost for those items for the previous three months you should have food costs, theoretical and actual yields, margin, and profit for those items. Track on a weekly basis for three months how the 5% price increase affects each of those performance monitors and you begin to understand exactly how much items should be priced for in order to achieve minimum food costs, maximum margins, and maximum profits. You may tell me you can do this now, but I'm going to tell you only with a small troop of analysts and well massaged data.

the employee performance story
Wouldn't it be great to have a better understanding of what made great employees great, good employees good, and poor employees...well...suck? I'm sure you can tell me about personal drive and character and customer relation skills and I'll agree with you. But what if you could see metrics about employees like how many more transactions they perform, or how efficient they are in certain work areas, or why they are always able to predict what needs to be done before it needs to be done (okay...that one may be harder to figure out). Again, manufacturing plants have been dong this for years...we just have to catch up and figure out how to make it work for hospitality A BI solution should have all the data points where an employee enters information into your technology solutions, and that transaction is tied to an employee ID. Employee ID is often the ONLY common thread among disparate technology solutions so this specific area can be one of the easiest to achieve. The benefit of seeing performance information on your performance range of employees is to spot operational efficiencies that great employees implement and then work to train those into the rest of the staff.

If you are shaking your head at me saying, "Employees won't do it even if I show them how to be better", then I'm going to tell you that you have bigger problems. Employees suck either because of lack of education or apathy. BI can help you fix the education part and then you can help yourself and fire the apathy part.

the staff management story
The last story we'll weave is the magic tricks around staff management. I never ceased to be amazed at the creative processes that I find managers and client venues using to estimate staffing requirements and build employee schedules. It is an artful guessing game made more accurate after years of experience and some trial and error. But if you have employees entering information for time and attendance (if you pay people you have this I think), and you have historical revenue information (for a specific day of the year possibly for multiple years), and you have employee performance detail (for example revenue per hour) for a "good" employee then you could have the best staff management procedures on the planet based on BI data and predictive modeling. Bringing this information together into a BI solution gives you forecasted revenue expectations with forecasted costs for which you can then effectively manage your schedule and get maximum revenue potential at minimum cost from your staff. I have a dream....

See, you find it attractive...admit it. But (yawn) sooo un-sexy. Who wants to talk about boring operational efficiency metrics to executive management so you can purchase a BI solution? I hope you.

I would love to hear from you if you have other great examples of ways you achieved the ROI of your BI solution. I'd also like to hear from you if you think mine are ridiculous. And as always, if you'd like to find out more about kevin sturm Consulting please visit my website or email me.

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my reason for lagging on posts

I have been seriously lagging on getting weekly content to htms in the past two weeks, but I have a pretty good reason. That reason is this picture. Yesterday morning at 9:51 AM we welcomed her into the world. You can get the full story at k.sturm blog.Oh, and keep watching because there are some good topics pending in the coming weeks.

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proving me wrong, proving me right

There was an interesting post today on HOTELS that is a good follow up to my post what technology do you expect from your hotel?. Hotel Sax Chicago, apparently dubbed "Hotel Microsoft" (who knew?), has unveiled some current and future technologies from Xbox ready rooms to an entertainment lounge to in-room touch screens that control lighting and temperature.

As I was reading the article I was rethinking my statement that hotels cannot expect to implement better technology than the customer has at home. After all, I don't have an Xbox (or any other video game unit) and most of the frequent travelers I know don't either. I also don't have touch screens to control my home amenities and probably won't for a foreseeable future. Hotel Sax Chicago will most likely have better technology than almost any guest, and their point is they will draw guests because of it (or they hope).

But the reality is the in-room touch screens are only in the presidential suites and more of the hotel's rooms have normal technology for a starting rate of $450/night.When at some point in the future the cost of the "marketing technology" becomes affordable enough to retrofit into every hotel room it will be affordable enough that the clients that pay to stay at Hotel Sax will have it in their own house.

Really what Hotel Sax is doing is marketing. Having these rooms is a marketing technique, and a good one, but really is not an initiative to provide every customer with a technology experience they cannot get at home. And in proving me right the Chicago Tribune said, "...that's why Microsoft is in Hotel Sax -- to let people live with and get used to unfamiliar technology so that they'll want it in their homes."

This post is one of many about the technology at Hotel Sax. If you read the ones from hospitality sites you will find a regular comment....customers want basic amenities and service delivered very well before they want touch screens in the room.

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hotel crm part II and permission marketing

There is a great article on the relationship between hotel CRM, web 2.0/social networking, and permission marketing on eye for travel's website today. It is an interesting follow-up to my post when crm will acheive its potential as it talks directly to the danger of what type of data hotels are collecting, the validity of the data, and which preferences a hotel can and cannot use to market to customers.

This quote by Diane DeWindt, Director of Customer Insight, Starwood I think says it best, “Sending marketing communications based on guests personal preferences expressed during a stay is potentially dangerous – if a guest expresses a preference on-property, you must get that guest's permission to store those data, and for what use. The best thing to do both from a data privacy perspective and from a customer-service perspective is to give the guest a channel to explicitly tell you what they want, where, and how, and deliver for just that instance.”

The reality of a "customer opt-in" approach to hotel CRM (and many other markets) will completely change the way hotels market to their customers.

You can read the article here.

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when crm will achieve its potential

I was in the audience of a CIO panel discussion and finally heard a hotel CIO (Scott Gibson of Best Western) give the real truth on hotel CRM. It cannot currently be as useful as least not with current technology. I was disappointingly not able to get his exact words, but I believe that is what he meant.

Hotel CRM is valuable, desirable, and a reality. But the pie-in-the-sky story often told is not a reality under the current operational requirements for acquiring the data. Talk to any person responsible for aggregating all that data and doing something meaningful with it and the first thing they will tell you is how inaccurate it is (with the possible exception of CRM and BI vendors). Preferences are missing or based on what the system "thinks" preferences are. I heard a story from a Marriott GM where a guest asked why he kept getting a refrigerator in his room. It was because he ordered a refrigerator twice in one month while traveling with his family. Based on those two stays the CRM system updated his profile with refrigerator as a preference.                                                                                                                                        image courtesy of Fergus McIver
A good portion of the guests address, phone, and email data is missing or inaccurate. If a guest does not want the hotel to have information then they don't give it or they provide bogus information. I won't go down the road of the calls hotels receive when an irate guest calls about an email receipt from his hotel stay sent to the email account he and his wife share (I hope you get the picture). Once a hotel does have the information it becomes the responsibility of the front desk staff to ensure it is accurate when a guest checks in, which has proven to be a generally unreliable method for collecting and perfecting data. There is also the problem of all the profiles that frequent travelers have to maintain and the multiple reservation mechanisms that exist (hotel's website, Orbitz, Hotwire, etc.). It's just not realistic to expect every brand and every venue to obtain and update this information accurately. CRM will continue to be at the top of the technology list for hotel executives, but it will continue to be a solution that has great potential.

As a side note I had a mentor that said, "Potential is just a French word for that's too bad". Rather CRM has opportunity which can be achieved when it gathers data based on a "customer opt-in approach". Dream with me for a moment...

What if when I arrive at the hotel my preferences are sent from my mobile device (let's say an iPhone just for fun) to the hotel PMS. Before arriving I tell my iPhone what information I want to share with the hotel. As I arrive I have the option to check into my room from my iPhone (or kiosk or front desk) and receive a message giving me my room number and directions on how to get to my room. I also receive "something" (barcode, security number, insert new technology) that allows me to use my iPhone to access my room. I'm offered a quick preferences and services review which I can bypass or complete. I go to my room where the temperature is preset (technology exists to set my home thermostat from my phone now) and my visual preferences (curtains open or curtains closed) and physical preferences (number of blankets, towels, and pillows) have been taken care of based on my reservation (remember I had the option to change those preferences at check in). If I'm traveling with my family I have the option to add mobile numbers that will also receive the "something" to access the room.

The "something" sent to my iPhone also allows me to pay for items at the restaurant, gift shop, and vending machines for the duration of my stay. If I add other mobile numbers I have the option to activate or reject charge privileges when I provide those number.

From this first interaction the hotel knows what time I entered the hotel, what time I got to the room, if I purchased something before I went to the room and possibly what transpired between all those times (if hotels want to activate elevator and hallway access with the "something" the guests travel path is also tracked). I told the hotel what information I wanted to share (name, phone number, email, address) which is always accurate because it's on my iPhone. There are probably some operational gaps in this scenario and the technology is further out than I would like, but CRM will only leave potential behind and grasp opportunity when data integrity it is driven directly by the "customer opt-in approach".

Kudos to Scott Gibson for having the vision and tenacity to tell it like it is at a technology conference.

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compelling rhetoric about your resume

A few months back I wrote a post about resume writing called care enough to be different. Today I read a post by Seth Godin that moves the ability to be unique and remarkable in your resume to a whole new level. His opinion is to be so bold as to not even have a resume.

Read his post here. It is worth your time to think about his thoughts.

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remember the names

I'm terrible at it. Absolutely horrible. When I meet someone it is almost for certain that 10 seconds later I can't remember their name. I know it is one of my worst traits and I hate it about myself.
Image provided by ArstySF
It is important to remember someone's name for many reasons, but I think the most important is because it shows you care.

As I was trying to find a parking place at Church today I saw my new friend Dave. I rolled the window down to say hello. He came over and said, "Hey Kevin," and then looked in the back and said "Hey Brody, gimme five." Dave had never met my son Brody. He had heard about him during a recent ski trip we both went on, but never met him. He cared enough to not only remember my name but to remember Brody's name. He knew Brody was really important to me and it showed that he cared about that. I immediately felt like I was important to Dave...which made me feel great.

Caring like this translates well into the world of consulting. Consultants are contracted based on experience, knowledge, and skills. But most likely your experience, knowledge, and skills are not completely unique. The client can hire someone else. If experience, knowledge, and skills are equal then what makes you different?

Caring about the success of the project is paramount. But when the project is finished and over, I think it is caring about the people you interacted with that brings additional projects to the table.

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what technology do you expect from your hotel?

I attended the HOT and Green Hospitality Conference this week and was surprised at a statement that was made regularly in the presentations about technology in the hotel room (TV, TV stations, Internet, etc.).

"Guests expect the hotel in-room technology to be as good or better than what they have at home."

I agree this is the way it used to be. It may even be true for some of the current guests from a higher age demographic (over 60). But based on my experience the hotel industry is catering to the 25 to 55 crowd, and the chance that it will have better technology than what that traveler has at home is slim...most likely none. The general population is more affluent and technologically advanced than ever before and will continue to be (even with our pending recession). The reality is many household
s already have a flat screen 32" TV (or bigger) and maybe an LCD flat panel. They have home theater with surround sound. They have a DVR. They have over 100 channels. They have a iPod docking station or component cables that connect their iPod to their surround sound. They have wireless Internet on 802.11b if not 802.11g and hard connect rates of 6Mbps to 30Mbps. When at home they check email, download from iTunes, listen to music, and watch TV (sometimes all at the same time).

For many (at least me) when they do stay in a hotel that has a cool new technology the first action after arriving home is to go buy one of equal or better quality (welcome to GenX and GenY). After all, if you can't keep up with a hotel you sure are not keeping up with the Jones. ;-)

But again and again I heard this statement and how hard it was to manage this problem. I have a solution...stop trying to manage the problem. It should not be a problem because hotels are not going to be able to surpass home technology in the room anymore. And besides, when I travel is it really an iPod docking station with movie surround sound that I want? No.

I think a good question is "What do you expect from your hotel?" For some the answer may be better technology, but the majority want something else.

As a self proclaimed technology evangelist here are the top 10 things I would like from my hotel room.

power outlets...lots of them
I want power...all over the place. I want four outlets next to the bed with at least two available for me. Oh, and th
ey can't be in the lamp because sometimes my power supply won't fit (with the possible exception of on the top of the lamp base). I want four available outlets at the desk, and not so far under the desk that I have to be on my hands and knees to get to it. Better yet, stick a surge protector at the desk so my equipment is protected as well. I want absolute power...but absolute access to power will do.

FREE wireless Internet
Please give me FREE wireless Internet. This is quite possibly my biggest pet peeve when staying at a hotel. I get this feeling the hotel is yelling at me, "WE WILL MAKE YOU PAY!" I understand the plight of hotels that wireless In
ternet is expensive, especially if you already ran CAT5 to every room. But, I don't literally mean I want it free. I just want it included in my nightly rate. The perceived value of FREE cannot be understated. FREE Internet makes me feel like I'm getting something free even though I'm paying for it as a room rate. It makes me feel valued and that the hotel understands my desires. If you can't give me FREE wireless Internet then at least give me FREE Internet. Oh, and in that case I want a 20 foot CAT5 cable so I can wander all over the room (this was actually provided by Adam's Mark this week). The speed of the Internet is really lesser of an issue than getting it FREE. (I'll cover that topic in a post in the near future.)

a remote control that works

I want a TV remote control that works. It needs to work when I hit the power button, when I hit the volume button, and when I hit the channel button. I should not have to point it at crazy angles to turn the TV off and on. It should work exactly like my universal remote at home, which is a basic remote but it works every time.

let me see the TV
I want to see the TV from the bed or the desk. If Chrystal is traveling with me then I want her to be able see it from the bed and me from the desk. The room should be arranged so I don't have to drag the desk over in order to work and watch ESPN at the same time.

good lighting

I want to see at the desk and see in the bathroom. The switch to more energy efficient lighting is awesome and I'm all for it. But if it means my wife has to turn on every light in the room while standing near the window in the morning to put on her makeup then we have kind of defeated the point. Give me good lighting in those two areas and I'm ha is Chrystal.

iron and ironing board

What's with the new trend of having to ask to have an iron and ironing board delivered to the room? I want and need an iron, and it is usually at the last minute. If I have to wait 10 minutes for it to be delivered then I'm late for my meeting. "I thought I had an iron" is worse than "The dog ate my homework."

odor free room
I do not want my room to smell like an ash tray, a restaurant kitchen, my high school locker room, or an industrial cleaning product. I want an odor free room. It should smell like a clean room (read no smells).

hot water
I want hot water. Not "hot enough" water, but real hot water. I like to take a really hot shower so I want really hot water. And while I'm on that I want the same water pressure I have at home. I have flow control faucets but I still get enough water pressure to enjoy it.

room to room privacy

I don't want to hear what the guest in the next room is watching on TV or what deal he is trying to close on the speaker phone. I don't care and it invades my privacy. I expect privacy way before I expect a flat panel TV that is bigger and better then mine at home.

clean sheets and a fluffy towel
If I need fresh bed linens or towels I want the service staff to recognize it when they are cleaning the room. I'm fine if the standard is to change the bed every other day and that I reuse a towel. I use a towel probably 5 times at home and change the sheets when it seems reasonable (or Chrystal changes the sheets really). And my towel should not scratch me when drying off out of the shower. It should be soft and feel like a towel should feel.

extra pillows
I want extra pillows in the closet. I may never use them but I want extra pillows.

FREE coffee with real cream and sugar

"Again with the FREE," you say! I want FREE coffee with real creamer and sugar. Provide Mini Moos (half-and-half that does not need to be refrigerated) as it is way way way way better than powdered-non-dairy-gross-creamer. Oh and I'm a coffee snob so I don't want Folgers. I doesn't have to be Peet's but give me something in the middle. The perception that I'm getting good coffee FREE makes me feel great. Don't you love feeling great?!

clean room
I want a clean room and bathroom. I want it to look like it was vacuumed and scrubbed just for me. I don't want toe nails in the bathroom corner. I don't want candy wrappers under the bed. I don't want someone else's used tissue in the trash can. And I never again want someone's underwear between the bed sheets (yes that really happened).

The reality is I want the same normal comforts I have at home but be taken care of like I'm special. Eating out and having someone pick up after me is a luxury, so do that really really well.

alarm clock that works in the dark
I want to see the alarm clock. Oh, and yes especially when the room is dark. I'm impressed if the clock is sleek, artsy, and black. I'm unimpressed if I can't see it when I need to. If I want to know what time it is when I'm up and around I'll look at my watch or my phone. I don't want to search for my watch or phone in the dark. I want to see the glow-in-the-dark-big-huge-glowing-digital-clock.

attentive staff
I want better service. Pick up the phone at the front desk after no more than three rings. Have a concierge service that knows about local restaurants and which ones are good.

Do this better than everyone else and I may stay at your hotel (so will many many others). And if you have technology better than mine bonus for me. But the next time I stay most likely my technology will be better than yours.

The hotel-room-of-the-future project may disagree with me, but I'm betting my home technology will better in 2010.

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