Imagine toting luggage up a hotel elevator and down a corridor to the room, only to find that the key doesn’t work. Carrying bags back down to the lobby to get a new key is an inconvenience at best and downright pain at worst, especially if carrying a couple of bags, maybe a cranky child or two and hurrying to head back out on the town for dinner.
FrontDesk Connect is an app that can help with that and many other issues that arise during a hotel stay. Marc London created the business as an alternate solution to the in-room hotel phone. The service gives hotel guests the same connection to a property’s front desk they’d have with an in-room phone, only with a mobile device.
Users can add the app anytime – it’s available in Google Play and the Apple iTunes store for free download. If it’s not already on a device, once a guest checks in at a hotel they download the app, put in a facility code for the property and a virtual lobby comes up on the screen.
“What we do is allow the guest to have that information regardless of where they are, whether before they get to the hotel, while traveling or during the stay,” London said. “The phone in the room typically is wired to the wall. It’s not transportable. The information that sometimes appears on a TV when you walk in the room is fixed to the TV. If you’re at a beach resort, a golf resort or a casino, all that information is now in the palm of your hand and the ability to connect with the hotel is in the palm of your hand.”
FrontDesk Connect also has mobile location to enhance the experience to connect the hotel to the guest, giving the staff the opportunity to interact with guests after they leave the front desk. Through push notifications, hotel staff can communicate things happening at the hotel and encourage guests to interact with amenities.
London has an important early supporter of the app: The Peabody hotel in Memphis. Working with the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality & Resort Management at the University of Memphis, London launched a beta test with The Peabody. The hotel’s staff worked with London’s team to find the best way to implement the solution for a hotel.
“They had a lot of fantastic ideas that were incorporated into our current product,” London said. “Even after the initial launch and demo, we found lessons and continue to modify the system, which is what we have today.”
London launched 2.0 of FrontDesk Connect in August, taking into account all of The Peabody’s recommendations. Those included making sure no hardware or software purchases are necessary. They didn’t want to add personnel to monitor the system, so the service is tied into the way the hotel currently operates.
The hotel also asked that the service have the ability to support conferences and events, so FrontDesk Connect can provide extra services to enhance an attendee’s experience.
London is focused on establishing relationships with hotel properties, with a plan to have some 20,000 U.S. hotels added to the database. Those hotels will have the basic service capability, which means any traveler using the app will be able to connect to the front desks of those properties from anywhere. Ultimately the plan is for hotels to come to FrontDesk Connect to register and establish an account.
FrontDesk Connect will offer two levels of service: basic and premium. The basic service will include a button on a device that enables the user to connect to the front desk. The premium service gives hotels the added ability to communicate directly with guests.
Those push notifications the hotel will be able to send to users will include specials and events going on at the hotel such as happy hours, free coffee promotions and other activities.
“Normally when a guest checks in at the front desk that’s the only time the hotel can connect with that guest directly,” London said. “After that, the guest is left to their own devices. And they go outside the hotel via Yelp and Google. We’re giving the hotel the ability to insert into that messaging to encourage guests to take part in their entertainment and activities and eat in their restaurants.”
By Lance Wiedower | Special to The Daily News