Let’s talk about the phone system at your hotel. It’s not a common topic, and the reality is that yesterday’s PBX system is fading fast. Typically, this equipment lasts 10-15 years and requires, on average, 25 hours of service a month. With the turnover in the industry, this means that it is likely that anyone who initially oversaw the installation of this aging equipment is long gone, leaving a legacy that may very soon need to be replaced.

Alternatively, you may work at a hotel that has replaced parts through the years to keep the phone system up and running in a quasi-Frankenstein manner. If that’s the case, your hotel may have overspent by thousands of dollars because as the equipment began to age, the cost for replacement parts went up. Other hotels may have purchased low-cost “new/old” systems in the hopes that it would become someone else’s problem in the coming years.

If your hotel falls within any of these scenarios, your aging voice equipment may already be experiencing frequent service issues, disrupting your hotel’s daily operations. Those who haven’t taken the time to consider their phone systems until they stop working will face costly repairs.

Advancing beyond the room phone
The phone system of yesterday can no longer handle the needs of both the guest and the hotel staff. Forward-minded hoteliers realize that today’s guests communicate in new and different ways. They also understand that it is imperative to adapt to recent trends. We see technological advancements across many aspects of the hospitality industry; however, one that is often overlooked is the phone system.

The guest of today is a different one from yesterday. Business travelers are turning to the “work from anywhere” model as corporations loosen their control over in-office restrictions or close their offices altogether. These guests often carry a laptop or other device and expect reliable WiFi. They will be less likely to depend on the phone in the room but may still look to the hotel for a reliable wake-up call or to communicate with the front desk.

That being said, the reality is that the hotel room phone serves a much different purpose than it did in the past. But, that doesn’t mean your communication system needs to remain stagnant. In fact, due to the accessibility the cloud provides, cloud communication systems not only provide ongoing updates to the backend of the system, but also help your hotel remain current.

For instance, we are all familiar with 911. But, another three-digit code was implemented in July by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. A new 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline went live to help anyone experiencing a mental health emergency. In the past, implementing a change like this would have taken resources and technical support to switch over hotel PBX systems to accommodate this new service. Cloud communication system developers only needed to upload the changes via the cloud to ensure all hotels could provide this service to their guests.

The advent of the cloud, the ubiquity of the cell phone and the ability of software companies to automatically update software from the cloud have changed ours and many other industries completely. In fact, today’s cloud-based, enterprise-class smartphone systems can perform functions that yesterday’s PBX could not.

Texting internally or externally
As cell phones have become the primary form of communication worldwide, the ability to text has become a primary communication method. Using SMS to communicate with guests and staff is no longer a nice amenity to have; it is a need-to-have service. Does your current phone system (PBX) allow your guests and staff to text on property?

If not, imagine having the ability for group communications and message broadcasting in the event of an emergency, a weather event or simply to communicate with all staff (or a group such as housekeeping) at one time. What if you have a special event or promotion, such as a Happy Hour or a special restaurant menu, and want to get the word out to all guests? Perhaps you have a banquet that has changed rooms or times?

Having the ability to perform outreach to a specific group at the same time is likely a service your guests will remember.

Managing and viewing guest details
Having all your communication capabilities in the cloud and accessible from a single dashboard saves time and creates efficient workflows for front-desk staff and operations employees.

Advanced communication systems can also connect with and share data such as reservation records from the PMS. Through data integration, an intelligent phone system can automatically provide a call history for all extensions, group a list of contacts for accessible communication and allow operations to easily reconfigure extensions throughout the property.

A single view
Many online cloud platforms today provide the ability to capture and present data from one screen, the dashboard. This is probably the most crucial advancement for short-staffed hoteliers. Accessing all conditions, reports and essential data from one screen is efficient and critical in today’s post-pandemic hotel space. Software providers know that making it simple to digest a vast sea of data is imperative if they want the customer to use the software properly.

It is no different for your communication platform. For example, wakeup calls and call tracking used to be tedious to manage. With the advancements in cloud communications, your front desk staff can now easily pull reports that deliver detailed tracking and reporting for calls, wakeup calls and emergency calls, freeing up front desk staff time to ensure the guest is being taken care of quickly and easily.

The future of hotel communications is here
We know PBX systems are being phased out, but have you taken steps to budget for and align with a vendor that can help you in the process? In the past, upgrading this equipment required great expense and excessive downtime. If you have a system older than or coming up on 10 years in service, you will need to balance the costs of repair against the costs of that downtime. Alternatively, you can turn to today’s more affordable, efficient cloud communication platforms.

The PBX is going the way of the rotary dial phone. It’s time to take advantage of new, streamlined communication services that can take you into the future.

Joseph DeCiantis is cofounder of Think Simplicity Inc., which provides PBX and VOIP services to hospitality customers across the U.S. and Canada.