With innovation at the heart of most companies’ success, it has become vital that businesses implement new technology that separates them from rivals in order to enhance the way they conduct operations. The introduction of technology has meant that firms can consistently launch new tools that will enable them to provide a better service to its consumers. For Edwardian Hotels London, artificial intelligence (AI) has enabled the company to completely transform its customer experience.
Director of Information Technology of Edwardian Hotels London, Michael Mrini, believes that technology has allowed people to perform to higher standards. “We believe technology acts as an enabler for people to do their job better and with less drudgery,” he says. “Thanks to the backing and encouragement of our chairman and CEO, Jasminder Singh, a great visionary and believer in the power of technology as an enabler, we were able to develop to pursue this route and invest in cutting-edge technology.”
Having begun his career in 1987 in hospitality, Mrini worked his way up from washing up part-time as a student, to a job as a bartender, before working on the reservations and customer service side of operations at Hyatt Hotels until 1997. Mrini subsequently joined Edwardian and became the Director of Customer Services, before transitioning to the position of Director of Information Systems until he moved into his current role at the beginning of 2012. Such experience of working in a number of different departments in a hotel setting has enabled Mrini to gain a working understanding of how each area operates and he can draw on his experience to achieve success.
“Since 1997, I haven't stopped developing technology. When I joined as a customer services manager, I automated that particular department,” explains Mrini. “While still being customer services manager, and with the help and encouragement of Iype Abraham who was at the time the head of IT, I joined other departments to look at what they do and how they do it. From the finance side, month-end reports used to take someone three days to compile. However, from working with them, we turned that into a 30 second operation where at the end of the month he just presses a button and the whole month-end pack is created and distributed to senior management.”
Developing innovative technology
Innovation is an area which Edwardian Hotels London prides itself heavily on. Having developed over 32 apps in the past five years, the company is utilising technology in order to create the best possible guest experience for its customers. However, the most exciting innovation has been the launch of virtual host “Edward” which handles guest enquires such as information about the hotel, booking breakfast and any other requirements the guest needs before, during and after their stay. Operated through AI on a phone app, Edward can manage more than 1,600 requests.
“I travel lots and stay in many hotels worldwide so the idea of Edward was born out of the frustrations I had. It’s annoying when you need information but it's very difficult to find. For example, quite often I arrived at an airport somewhere and then realised I didn’t have the name or the address of the hotel where I'm staying,” explains Mrini. “Other times I’m in the hotel room, and I want to order room service but I can't find the menu in the room. You try and make a phone call to get someone to deliver the menu and you end up calling room service but it's engaged so you wait and wait. But with Edward, it comes to you as a guest. Edward knows you’re coming because three days before you arrive, Edward will send you a message and tell you, “Look, anything you need, just text me.” Now, that facility is in your pocket.”
By having such innovative technology at guests’ fingertips, Mrini believes it has allowed the company to find out information about their customers that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. “We search for keywords to see what our guests are asking for and what to identify. Because of this, we've managed to learn things we never knew about our guests' behavior, such as most of our guests can’t remember whether breakfast is included in their booking or not,” says Mrini. “Breakfast seems to be the last thing they think about before they go to bed at night. We also found that it's very important to guests to be able to easily find out whether their room has been cleaned or not. If they’re either out in meetings or out and about visiting the town, they want to know whether their room has been cleaned so they can come back to the hotel or stay out a bit longer and through this technology, they can do that.”
Forming key partnerships
Such success with the company’s AI software couldn’t have been achieved without the work of the firm’s key partnership with Oracle. The partnership has enabled Edwardian Hotels London to make it easier to interact with its property management system (PMS) and act as the catalyst for the success of its technological innovations. “We have found a really excellent partner in Oracle. They have supported and encouraged us over the years in what we wanted to do,” explains Mrini. “Oracle sees what we’re doing as unique in the hospitality sector. What they have done is help us make it easier for us to interact with their PMS system because that’s where the bookings are and where the check-in/check-out happens. Any application we develop needs to have a live interface to that system otherwise it's useless.”
“Edward would be useless if it didn't have access to that live information in the booking system because we wouldn't know who that guest is. It wouldn't know the latest changes to the guest booking, the ETA, the list goes on. I believe they have been fantastic in supporting, as by enabling us to have that access, it has helped us with the understanding of the core PMS system so that we can develop our interface to it.”
Other key partners that Edwardian Hotels London has been supported by include BT which helped install the Wi-Fi in all of the company’s hotels and Alcatel which has provided the internal telephone systems for the past 20 years. “BT has been fantastic in installing the Wi-Fi that we have. They have done an excellent job at the speed that we wanted it done. We like to work with partners that can provide quality and efficiency and BT were able to do a superb job for us in very short period of time when we upgraded the Wi-Fi in all of our 12 hotels.”
“Alcatel is another one of our partners that has done a brilliant job with us and we have been working with them on things like location services and beacons within the hotel,” he adds. “They’ve been tremendous, and that’s why they remain a partner after 20 years.”
The company currently has 12 UK hotels, 11 of which operate in key locations in London, with the final hotel located in the heart of Manchester. In addition, Edwardian Hotels London are set to unveil a 13th property in Leicester Square in 2020. With the future in mind, Mrini demonstrates a commitment to continue to innovate at Edwardian Hotels London. “The ultimate goal for us is to become the best in hospitality and it’s important for us to continue to innovate. With technology you never know what's next but one's things for sure, we're going to continue to improve and innovate with AI,” affirms Mrini. “We’ve previously dipped our toes in before with AI and had fantastic results so we’re going to continue to utilise it in all the different areas to enable us to do a better job. Technology is never going to completely take over what we do and do it for us but it's going to enable us to do what we do better.”