Back in 2008, the Malibu Beach Inn billed itself as the world’s first iPhone hotel.
Now apps like that one are helping people get more comfortable (or complain more quickly) in hotels around the world.
The California hotel offered guests loaner iPhones or iPod Touch devices to order room service, set wake up calls, request dry cleaning, extra blankets or replace forgotten toothbrushes, check messages or set “Do Not Disturb” notices plus shopping, eating and cavorting info.
The whole shebang runs on an app called “Hotel Evolution” from Los Angeles software firm Runtriz.
I was skeptical about the iPhone Hotel concept back then — it seemed like overkill and the potential loss and theft of devices potentially expensive — but the idea has caught on faster than bed bugs at a seedy roadside motel, in part because people are bringing their own devices. (Crystal balls aren’t my thing, apparently. Though I have been told that I can be fetching with hoop earrings and a head scarf).
Runtriz founder Matthew Allard talks to Cult of Mac about how his company has expanded to major hotel groups worldwide and why apps make breakfast in bed even lazier.
Cult of Mac: How many hotels are currently using these apps?
Matthew Allard: Some of the brands using our hotel evolution platform are Four Seasons, Starwood Luxury Collection, The Ritz Carlton, St. Regis Hotels, Sheraton, Westin, Thompson Hotels, SLS Hotels and a number of other great partners.
CoM: How have iPhone/iPod hotel apps evolved since launch?
MA: Tremendously! Our platform now speaks 57 languages and is being used as a complete communication tool for guests, beyond just ordering room service and booking a spa appointment, we have a full two-way messaging platform, guests can give the hotel instant feedback the hotel can act on and avoid confrontations at the front desk.
Hotel Evolution also integrates with Facebook, Twitter and Tripadvisor and the hotel can manage and push promotions to guests, creating a new “in-hotel marketing engine” offering guests deals on spa services and allowing the concierge to communicate with everyone, everywhere.
CoM: Most common kudos and complaints from guests? Hotel managers?
MA: Mostly kudos, feedback from guests through the “feedback” app — they love it because they can order room service without getting out of bed or get dinner reservations on-demand through the concierge without ever waiting on hold.
It’s also been especially valuable off-property and pre-check in to request things they need on their own time and control their experience at their own pace. Hotels love it because of the data that we collect and report to them and how it continually helps improve service and know what their guests want. Also, it helps hotel staff have the flexibility of being able to communicate with their guest anywhere, beyond the four walls of the hotel.
CoM: Any thefts or broken devices?
MA: Since 2008, thanks to increasing smart phone adoption, hotels prefer to not provide devices in rooms since guests prefer to use their own device. Especially since the introduction of iPads, Androids and Netbooks, smart phone technology is extremely accessible.
Also, most hotels do not want to incur the huge cost of giving devices to guests because of breakage and having the confrontation at check out if the device goes missing.
A number of our hotel partners place iPads in some or all of the suites as an amenity, but I know I prefer to use my own iPad, mainly because it has Angry Birds and Tiger Woods Golf…serious stuff.
CoM: Tell us about the E-Butler vs. the iPhone product — how diffuse is that and who is it aimed at?
MA: Same platform, different customization. Our platform’s design and functionality can all be 100% customized. Hotels create their Runtriz platform to do exactly what they want, and extend their brand and service offerings to their guests.
“E-Butler” is the St. Regis New York version of Hotel Evolution, which includes an amazing Insider’s Guide of New York, with restaurant recommendations from Danny Meyer, Andre Leon Tally’s favorite places to go shopping and 12 other New York celebs favorite things to do in New York.
SLS Beverly Hills calls their version “GoSLSHotel” and the concierges have their “Perfect Day in L.A.,” with a guided tour of where to be seen. Hard Rock San Diego calls theirs “My Tour Manager” to create a VIP Rock Star experience and The Americano in New York has a tour of the Chelsea neighborhood complete with an art gallery walk.
CoM: What’s next? Android?
MA: Our mission is not only to provide access to every guest walking into a hotel, but also the same mobile experience no matter what device or OS they are using.
iOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry and any browser will support our platform making it the most accessible hospitality platform in the market, and we continue to develop for all new tablets, net books and smart phones as they are released.
Looking forward to see the iPhone5!