A modern twist for an old lady.
I have had the good fortune to be resident in a large country house that doubles as a B & B and the full time home to the hosts. On occasion I have the opportunity to assist with guest check in’s.
Recently I was taken by the excitement and enthusiasm of a young lady from abroad – so excited to stay in a genuine English country home, this was obviously something she had looked forward too. She just loved everything from the large formal drawing room, the walk up the creaking wooden staircase, her comfortable country house room.
This got me thinking, how could I improve the process without destroying the essence of a stay in a country house, that had so enchanting this guest.
I set about this by studying each action that is taken, why and how it is done and what the guest wants from the experience of a country home – Realising that a chrome and glass view would not do the old lady any favours – The only fault I could find was the time it takes from ringing the bell to actually being let in, it can take a while – after all it is a big house with a lot of stairs.
This is not a big problem but as the winter approaches I see the wait being a bit cold, damp and windy – A wait in front of the entrance hall fireplace looked like the only improvement I could come up with. Simple, easy solution, a brass keypad door lock for guests – Easy!
Let me explain a little more about the process that happens when a guest checks in – its all a bit old fashioned and mainly paper based.
The guest rings the doorbell and this is sounded in strategic areas around the house our hosts then drop what they are doing, make a dash for the front door to open and greet them.
The check in process is then pretty simple and much what you would expect. We require them to sign a booking acceptance form and while they do that, the breakfast list is updated .. in red ink!
We have to ask for a car registration, the main reason for this is in case of an emergency (like fire) we need to know who is onsite, so in the event of an emergency and assuming we have the time and presence of mind, is to exit the building with the booking forms & car registration numbers, we can then make a calculated guess as to who is on site.
The guest is then shown to their room. On returning to the office the online booking system is updated on the outdated PC that sits in the back office – this in turn updates housekeeping and accounts etc.
Not difficult or complex but not part of what a guest will remember about their visit and something we try to expedite and allow them to settle into their surrounds with as little bother as possible.
So back to my improvement – an electronic keypad lock. At 10.30 am the guest will receive an auto generated personal SMS from the hosts supplying an entrance code to use on arrival. The guests can then let themselves in by entering their unique code, at least they are in front of the hearth and out of the elements. Keeping tradition alive there is still a desk bell Ring for service!
Having entered the access code a few other things have happened too.
- First the the system has updated the online guest booking system to “checked in”.
- It has updated the breakfast listing with any special dietary requirements ready to be printed automatically at 6.00 am for the chef.
- Housekeeping lists have been updated with the confirmed new arrivals.
- It has triggered the automatically controlled central heating to “occupied mode” in the reserved room only.
And finally the system has sent a push notification, informing the hosts of.
- Full names of the new arrival
- Any special needs / children / pets / etc
- Any special occasions being celebrated, birthdays, anniversaries.
- Country of residence etc
- Room # booked etc
And all this before the guest has rung the bell.
The hosts can now greet our new guests at the entrance hall fireplace like well known friends and as they are shown to the stairs leading to their room …
To supply the required headcount for emergency situations is a non invasive mobile phone tracking system that does not gather any personal information (for the privacy concerned). By use of a simple “direction of travel” it can make assumptions about who is onsite.
- Door code = arrival of known occupants – Onsite
- Door sensor followed by stair sensor = guests are indoors
- Stair sensor followed by door sensor = guests are outdoors
Combine that with number plate recognition at the entrance and exit gates, we have a good idea who is onsite in real time.
… Back to our guests as they are shown into their room.
Discreetly on the end of the bed is a leather folio containing, on beautiful rich house stationary, a personal welcome letter, a fountain pen… oh … and a booking form, after all we still do require a signature.