Marriott Implementing Hospitality Communication Solution – Cloud-Hosted Enterprise Voice

Marriott signs multi-year agreement to start utilizing Unified Communications specifically designed to meet the important and demanding needs of the industry.

If you have ever stayed at a hotel you know exactly how outdated the communications is for some; old desktop phones in the room and an Ethernet port. Unfortunately, for those who like the convenience of the latest technology you may not find it in every hotel you stay in. Many don’t offer a way to receive messages while sitting in the lobby or let you request a wake-up call for the following morning straight from your smartphone.

Of course, in years past many people would focus on the amenities offered by hotels but as technology advances and hotel communications do not, hotels are starting to become more aware of how improving this area could be beneficial. One can receive your basic voice services and Internet access but neither are as advanced as guests would likely prefer.

PBX Extravaganza
The vice president of Marriott International’s IT, Bob Galovic, noted in a phone interview that, “We have phone systems of all makes and shapes and sizes and ages” at 4,100 properties in 79 countries around the world. Marriott, for one, has long known it has needed to enable more efficient and effective communications at those properties, but has been hamstrung by its mishmash of premises-based phone systems”, he said.

Galovic continued to mention that, “For quite some time, Marriott has been considering swapping out those premises-based systems for a cloud-hosted alternative — a move it has embraced elsewhere in IT, but until recently it hadn’t found an option suitable for its needs.” After such an extensive search of available options, Marriott decided on Cloud Based Communications. They chose a cloud-hosted communications solution that is actually customized specifically for the hospitality industry.

“Slowly we looked, year after year, formalizing our search a little more each year, eventually putting out a request for information and then a request for proposals. Finally we got a catch — the pricing in the marketplace had come to the right point and the service had matured enough that we finally had an opportunity to take action,” Galovic said.

Of course, there are certain requirements that the hospital industry has including the ability to send out simultaneous wake-up calls to hundreds of rooms. The ability to interface with PMS (property management systems) is also an important requirement. Galovic’s example in terms of the cloud solution and PMS interaction – “When a guest checks out, we have to know that the voicemail he received and saved isn’t sitting there waiting for the next guest in the room to listen to.

Many of those PBXs are overdue for an upgrade, as Marriott staved off making replacements knowing that it was close to “what we consider a better long-term solution,” Galovic added.

Properties with newer systems — deployed in the last three to five years — will ride out their depreciations, he noted. Similar efforts are ongoing in Europe as well, although through a different provider, he added.

As the company plots its migrations, one of Marriott’s biggest concerns is ensuring connectivity from the physical property to the hosting center”, Galovic said. Network failures can happen suddenly and offering continuous service during this unexpected failure – even more so for 911 reasons. Marriott has now utilized primary physical paths in addition to 4 G LTE wireless links to achieve the resiliency it wants. As for their experience with Hosted PBX so far, “it’s a very solid system with stability and failover capability that we don’t have in our current [premises-based] world,” Galovic said.

During this transition of moving to the cloud-hosted solution from the PBX environment Galovic states that security will receive a boost also. “When you have thousands of properties with different systems at various stages in their lifecycles, it’s very difficult to track the patch levels and make sure everything is as current as possible. So we see this as a big stride in a positive direction from a security standpoint.”

Guests will be able to interact with Marriott staff both on and off site directly from their smartphone or a phone on the property (including the Internet) once Marriott finishes their premises to the cloud transition. “It’s all around how we make that guest experience pleasant, and, in a way, that means letting them take technology for granted.”