Case in Point

Case in Point: Room at the Inn
by Mark Kindley

Wyndham hosts the first chainwide wireless hotel reservations system.

Dallas-based Wyndham International is the first hotel chain to have a wireless reservations system, and so far, so good. Not only is the system helping the chain save up to $5.50 per customer in reservation-service costs, it's letting customers get personalized service in a heartbeat. Guests punch their customer ID numbers into the system, and the hotel automatically knows if customers are allergic to foam pillows or prefer an extra blanket.

How did Wyndham do it? Quickly, so far, and without blowing the budget. San Francisco-based Brience Inc., a wireless software and consulting firm, staged a trial for Wyndham in four days—and at a cost that "wouldn't take many customers to justify the expense," says Wyndham CTO Mark Hedley. The system went live in February, just 40 days later.

It helped that Wyndham knew exactly what it wanted going into the project. The system had to meet three business requirements. First, it had to be customer-friendly. Hedley didn't want increased automation to mean a lot less hand-holding for customers. Second, the system had to work off the hotel chain's existing IT architecture. Third, Wyndham's Web site had to remain the same. There would be no rewrite for wireless access. "We wanted our customers to only have to remember Wyndham.com," Hedley says.

Brience met all three specs. Its software "senses" the type of device customers are using to phone in a reservation, then converts its signal to XML, which then "speaks" directly to the hotel's e-commerce back end. Customers don't have to know what type of device they're using, and the system supports most PDAs.

But Hedley isn't stopping there. At Wyndham's Dallas facility, he's testing a check-in service that would let receptionists come out from behind the front desk and check customers in, wherever they may be strolling on the property. "They can meet you in the porte cochere as you are getting out of your car," Hedley says. Soon, guests will be able to check themselves in using their own PDAs. Not a bad way to hot-wire the business of customer service.

Mark Kindley is a veteran business and technology writer who covers the computer and IT industries from Roxbury, Conn.

This article was originally published on 05-01-2001
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