It is entirely within the realm of possibility that 2020 was, and will remain, the most trying year for the hospitality industry. Occupancy rates, and the business in general, were at levels we have never seen before and hopefully will never see again. Forecasts call for the recovery to begin in 2021 and we certainly hope that is the case. For us at F3TCH, 2020 was the year that drove home what we have been working on for some time- improved, touch-less, integrated communications that truly reach the guest.
For some background on this paper, the co-founders of F3TCH come from the guest room technology/ hospitality industry. We have developed, sold, maintained, and serviced guest room telephones at every major hotel brand worldwide and sold many millions of guest room telephones over the past nearly quarter century. We have eight patents in guest room technology under our names, including two process patents for F3TCH. In addition, one of our Board Members was the CIO for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Not only are we subject matter experts, but we truly love the hotel industry.
Our mission has been to create the next step in guest room technology. We believe that we have accomplished our task. We have branded this new solution F3TCH (“Fetch”). Our vision for guest room technology is that F3TCH will:
1. Embrace and utilize the technology both the guest and properties have already adopted;
2. Be agnostic to both hotel brand and the existing infrastructure at the property;
3. Be as inexpensive to the property as possible and free to the guest;
4. Enable hotels and hotel brands to increase revenue at the properties and reduce costs;
5. Be able to handle Voice, Text (SMS), and Rich Text for starters;
6. Enhance the Guest Experience.
These were the guiding principles for the development of F3TCH. Let’s see how F3TCH addresses these:
(1) Embrace & Utilize the Technology Guests & Properties have already adopted.
If you think about it, really think about it, you have to be of a certain age to truly understand the guest room telephone. If you are a millennial, for example, an actual residential land line telephone may not be something you grew up with. So when our younger professionals go to a hotel, they may look at the guest room telephone and wonder why a hotel is still using such an antiquated tool. If you are reading this, it is highly likely you do not have a landline at home. Of course, the telephone unit is still used in offices and rightly so, it is a tool that is often used and a hub for communications, but individually speaking the smart phone is the prevalent choice for individuals and therefore guests.
Smartphone penetration is now at over 70% (Statista, Published by S. O'Dea, Feb 28, 2020). It is evident that mobile technology has been adopted by the guest. With such a high penetration rate, the use of a mobile app is the next step for hotel guest communications.
The real question today, is why is the hospitality industry providing a land line solution to their predominantly mobile technology guests? Why can you bank on your mobile device, but have to order your Room Service via a guest room telephone? That on its face, makes absolutely no sense. Yet, the guest room telephone is still the dominant solution in hotels worldwide.
To be fair, there are issues of “life safety” pending for the industry to resolve, but in all honesty we do not seek a land line when we have an emergency. We use what we have at hand, and in most cases, that means your mobile device. As a matter of fact, 80% of emergency calls made in the US were made from mobile devices. Advances in 911 services have already made great strides in this arena and our assumption is that F3TCH will allow hotels to minimize the type of landline offered, as well as reduce the number of devices per room by adopting F3TCH.
Note that we do not believe that the advent of F3TCH should completely eliminate the guest room telephone, we simply believe that hotels may need a very basic set and one telephone per standard room. Even this small change will save the industry tens of millions of dollars per year.
F3TCH is a mobile app for smartphones, so we place the functionality on the guest’s own smart device. A technology and device the guest has already adopted as their solution. Additionally, F3TCH reutilizes the existing infrastructure at the hotel by using the existing PBX infrastructure. In other words, F3TCH also uses the solution the hotel has already adopted (PBX) and installed. By adopting mobile technology and harnessing the existing infrastructure at hotels, F3TCH is easily adoptable with minimal interruption, or cost, to both hotel and guest.
(2) Agnostic to both Hotel Brand & Existing Infrastrucutre at the Hotel.
Many hotel brands will initially believe they need to own F3TCH or develop something similar (let’s not forget we are patented). The issue here is that developing a mobile app, keeping up with iOS and Android changes, as well as handling customer service for both the hotel and the guest is something that requires focus and an adequate budget. The best for the industry is to use F3TCH across the board. Why? Brand fatigue is real, F3TCH is a tool, much like the guest room sets are today. Do any of the major hotel brands make their own furniture, beds, or telephones? No, because it does not make sense to manufacture those items. Likewise, F3TCH is a specialized product for the hotel.
F3TCH is designed to complement the hotel brand’s mobile app that reserves rooms, manages loyalty programs and opens doors. F3TCH does none of that, our job is to handle guest communications and it’s a big job. F3TCH will allow each brand to highlight their best offerings, their services and amenities, and will make it easier for brands to highlight their strengths, all while enhancing the communication with their checked in guests. Lastly, by using one tool worldwide, guests can add one APP to their devices, not many or one for each brand.
By being agnostic to hotel brands and by working with all makes of installed equipment, F3TCH provides an industry wide solution at an incredibly good value.
(3) Inexpensive to the Property.
F3TCH’s retail price, for F3TCH Voice, to the hotel is $5.00 per room per year (North American pricing). That’s an average of $500 per hotel PER YEAR. That is an incredible value that includes digitizing the property’s specific information to the platform, avoiding costly printing, and removing potential virus transmission vectors. Our very first strategic partner, has already agreed to not charge licensing to their installed base for F3TCH Voice. We will be working to test SMS/ Texting next and that will be priced through our PBX partners directly.
Normally, patents are used to price solutions well above market pricing, however, our goal is not to “corner” a market, but to provide the least expensive solution to the industry. By offering low costs and ready built solutions to our PBX partners, we hope to allow the spread of superior technology to all hotels that include VOICE, TEXT and Rich TEXT.
(4) Enable Hotels & Hotel Brands to Increase Revenue at the Property & Reduce Costs.
Reaching a checked-in guest in real time drives a lot of value for a brand and a property. Sending a Push Notification to the guest’s own smart device through the hotel’s system has a lot of potential to serve the guest and increase “same property” sales. The increased revenue side is easier to understand. Here’s a few examples:
Happy Hour- we see this often. A complimentary Happy Hour offering where a guest can get a drink and some hors ‘d'oeuvres. Great way to promote some non complimentary food and beverage sales. F3TCH makes it easy to remind the guest of this amenity via Push Notification.
“Flash Sales”- a property may want to increase Restaurant or Room Service revenue and sends a push notification offering a special to the guest. Maybe a free appetizer with dinner for example. These can be run by the property’s own sales team or manager, depending on size, and run through a simple portal.
The cost savings side, aside from CAPEX, is less clear. But there are many opportunities to ensure the hotel’s optimizes its resources. We understand that there are nascent text solutions in the market, but none go through the existing system and structure like F3TCH. With F3TCH you do not have new hardware, all you have is an incremental cost for the advanced services like SMS and Rich Text from your existing PBX provider. F3TCH is a smarter, more integrated and less expensive solution overall. Also, F3TCH is fully integrated so you do not need a separate end point for Voice, Text, and Rich Text.
Keeping this in mind, let’s use two hypothetical examples:
(A) A guest calls Housekeeping and wants more towels. There are systems that manage Housekeeping and the system notes there are rooms being cleaned on that floor. The Housekeeping system notifies the staff member the guest requirement and messages the PBX that in turn Push Notifies the guest that towels are on the way. By connecting the guest to the system, complimentary systems can be engaged as well. The result in this instance would be towels delivered in minutes from a nearby hotel resource, versus delivering towels from some other area at longer delivery and higher associated costs. At larger properties, this is a big savings and increases guest satisfaction markedly.
(B) A guest has a light bulb not working. They engage Maintenance from their mobile app and send an image through the PBX of the faulty light. Maintenance can now better prepare for the maintenance call. Even better some items in the room can be reset remotely so a picture can show the maintenance personnel what is worn and a fix that works can be quickly implemented, maybe even without the hotel employee leaving their office. If further data is required, the hotel staff can simply dial the room number and speak to the guest or text the guest.
(5) Fully Integrated to handle Voice, SMS (Text), and Rich Text.
F3TCH already handles Voice, Text, and Rich Text in its solution. As an integrated end point, F3TCH can handle the full service requirements of a property from the more basic voice to the images, all through its existing infrastrucutre.
(6) Enhance the Guest Experience.
All of the above deliver a much more integrated and flexible way for Guests and Hotels to speak to each other. That alone is a great improvement over today’s solution. Moreover F3TCH provides the guest a solution that is in line with their expectations, not a physical device guests view as part of the past. A fully integrated guest is a guest with a much richer guest experience, everything is easily available and service levels are greatly improved.
Hotel brands (e.g. Hilton, Marriott, Inter-Continental, etc) have invested millions of dollars into systems that learn their loyal customers. They manage loyalty programs that are vast and expensive. They already know a lot about their frequent guests, their core customer base. With F3TCH, you can now match what you know about your loyalty member, with the hotel the guest is in, and connect with that guest through your systems. The opportunities are endless. For example:
(A) You have a guest that has checked in to multiple brand properties in the past few months, let’s say 6 times. Your loyalty program knows this, you can even reach them one to one. F3TCH, however, can reach them “on site”. Do you think that receiving a push notification for a free drink for their loyalty while at the property they are staying in is more powerful than an email offering a small discount for their next stay? Why not send both? Can you imagine the satisfaction, the loyalty, and good will you can gain by saying, “please have a beer on us. just show this digital QR code to the bar” or “please enter this code for faster WiFi as a thank you”.
(B) If you have traveled, as I have, often times you have a late check-in after a long day. Your loyalty program, via the PMS, knows that Guest A likes a sandwich and often orders this late in the evening after check in. So Guest A has checked-in late, the brand knows the property serves Room Service at the location, and it’s AI sends a Push Notification to the guest saying, “We know it’s late. Would you like your Club Sandwich for dinner? If yes, just text us “Y’.” This type of service would be unbelievably great to experience. This type of service is truly customizing a guest’s stay.
The applications are endless simply by reaching the Guest via the existing hotel systems and combining that with the power driving a brand’s loyalty program. The really great advantage is that most brand’s already have all of this in place, but now they can reach in real time their checked-in loyalty members. That is different and will drive new ways to service the guest, increasing the guest experience, and adding some new revenue to the hotel.
F3TCH is built, ready to start beta trials in the very near future and does all of the above. It is a new tool for guests and hotels alike, it is inexpensive and it uses the preferred technology of both the guest and the hotel. F3TCH connects the guest, but by doing so allows hotel brands to raise their service levels with the tools and programs they already have in place and get a better ROI on those investments. F3TCH is going to revolutionize guest room technology and drive a new era of guest experience.
F3TCH is also a great way to gain consumer confidence as it is touch-less and allows the guest to not have to touch or interact with a “public apparatus” such as the guest room telephone. It’s time the industry adopts a better solution for the guest. It’s time for F3TCH.