Considering Best Practice in Compliance Monitoring & Management – Would You Still Watch Black & White TV?
I hope that you will excuse a slightly daft question and short anecdote before we launch into our latest tirade about compliance and monitoring…
Would you consider watching black & white TV any more? Probably not I suspect. Why? Because it’s not as good as colour TV. Obviously.
It reminds me of a famous gaffe made by Ted Lowe, our dearly beloved snooker commentator who sadly passed away back in 2011. Way back in the 70’s, when watching TV in black & white and colour was still common, Ted famously said…
"Steve is going for the pink ball - and for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green."
Our point is this. When you are considering Health & Safety and compliance monitoring, choosing last year’s technology may impact you a lot more severely than not being able to tell the difference between pink and green. Yet still, people use and buy technology that is well over 10 years old to record fire walks in Hotels.
This has all been prompted after our meeting with the Kent Fire Brigade a few weeks ago. It made us think long and hard about exactly why you would want to record day-to-day compliance and maintenance tasks and activity electronically, rather than using paper. Or, dare we say, why you might not want to record compliance activity at all!
Our meeting confirmed that keeping compliance information, per se, is not mandatory or a legal requirement. In fact, a hotel MIGHT trade forever more without ever needing to produce so much as a log book. Avoid the obvious pit-falls like propping fire-doors open with a fire extinguisher or making fire exits out of Balsa Wood, and hopefully you won’t get reported.
But the problem here is the word “might”.
Between April 2015 and March 2016, there were 596 fires in hotels or guest houses in England alone. There were 12,895 hotels in the whole of the UK at that time. This means that statistically, there was a significantly greater than 4.6% chance of anyone having a fire in their hotel in that year.
Another thing that our meeting with the Kent Fire Brigade established is that if there is a fire in an establishment with a high-risk profile (people sleeping in an unfamiliar environment is deemed to be high-risk), then there WILL be an investigation.
Last week we met a life-long hotelier who has found himself being “under investigation” in this context 3 times in his professional life (about 30 years). Simply put, the longer you are in the game, the more likely you are to find yourself there.
So what happens when you are under investigation? The law (the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) basically states that you must have chosen “suitable systems” and be able to prove that they have been maintained according to the appropriate British Standard. You will also be required to prove that you have evaluated, identified and removed fire hazards, thereby protecting those at risk, and that you have recorded your findings AND regularly monitored the risks and your findings and communicated them (via the appropriate training) to Responsible or Competent persons.
All straightforward stuff! Nothing grey, pink or even blue there then!
We should point out again that you will not be required to show this proof to anyone unless you are audited or investigated. Keeping a paper log book is NOT mandatory. But when someone comes knocking, you WILL be expected to prove that you have maintained the safety of your guests and staff. But how should you do that?
Legislation simply does not answer this question, but we at TourTraxUK do feel the need to question the validity of paper-based systems in offering the required proof. How can signatures or dates written on a piece of paper prove that anything was done, where, or when? Even systems requiring hardware to be scanned at strategic points are vulnerable to abuse and tampering if all that is produced is paper.
And what if all your “proof” goes up in smoke when the very fire that we are all trying to prevent takes hold. OK, so you keep it in a fire-proof safe, but what if someone forgot to put it in there on the crucial night in question.
Ultimately however, the point that needs to be considered is what evidence would you have at your disposal, and how reliable would it be, if the situation you found yourself in as a Responsible or Competent person centred around accusations relating to death or injury in a court of law.
Those that use electronic systems, where data is recorded with a time, date and GPS stamp at a central or remote location (“the Cloud) talk of “due diligence”. Although due diligence could mean anything, as good a definition as anything that we have seen refers to it as “reasonable steps taken by a person to avoid committing a tort or offence”. If people are injured or die because of a fire, any court of law will expect Responsible persons to go to some lengths to PROVE that they did everything they could to avoid the death or injury that has occurred. So not providing said proof may be considered to be an offence. Will paper log books cut it? Will the excuse that everything was destroyed in the fire be enough?
Our position is that anything paper-based cannot possibly demonstrate due diligence. In fact, many of the systems that are still being used are simply not “fit-for-purpose”, in our opinion. Electronic systems that will securely record, and prove, your diligence in maintaining the safety of your staff and guests exist. And they are common-place. In fact, they are easy to use and are readily available for the price of little more than a Smartphone. This being the case, how can writing (or printing) words on a piece of paper possibly demonstrate due diligence with the technology that is available to us today?
It’s a lot more than simply a question of pink or green!
For more information about we can help you to track and monitor all of your fire safety related activity quickly, easily and securely… call Richard Dickety on 01634 757 088.
Is Health & Safety Really Such a Burden?
TourTraxUK had a meeting this week with the Kent Fire Brigade which was eye-opening to say the least.
What is evident is that although the conundrum of staying on the right side of Health & Safety law in a hospitality situation is serious and NOT straightforward, it is also nowhere near as complex as some may have you believe. We will aim to clarify things in this blog by being clear, by avoiding legalese, and without scare-mongering.
What Happens When Things Go Wrong?
So let’s start by NOT assuming the worst-case scenario. If death or serious injury were to occur in any hospitality environment, a full investigation would be conducted by multiple public agencies, and criminal prosecution MAY result. There’s nothing we, or anyone, can do about that.
Instead, let’s say that an aggrieved customer or former employee has contacted the Fire Service because they believe that you are not adhering to good practice for whatever reason. Maybe they saw a Fire Extinguisher being used to prop a Fire Exit open, for example.
At this point the Fire Service would be obliged to act, and within 24 hours. This would likely result in an on-site audit being conducted by the Fire Service. In other words, a Hotel could have a fully qualified Fire Officer on-site ready to conduct an audit, within 72 hours of the Responsible Person being made aware of anything being (potentially) wrong.
What Would An Audit Involve?
So, what would they want to see? Firstly, it is NOT legally necessary for you to produce a paper log book. But, you MUST be able to prove your compliance to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 Act. Well that’s fairly grey isn’t it!
What this means is that you must have conducted a full Fire Risk Assessment within the last 12 months, and this must be up-to-date. It also means that any means of escape, any means of fire detection, or any other health & safety equipment designed to guide or protect people in an emergency, MUST be “suitable” and must be “suitably maintained”.
Again, these points could be viewed as being slightly grey, but what it really means is that any assets falling under the aforementioned categories must conform to and be maintained according to the appropriate British Standard. Such as BS 5839 for Fire Alarm Systems, for example.
How Can Activity Be PROVEN?
Digging out up-to-date Risk Assessments should be straightforward, and what was interesting in our recent meeting was that the emphasis should be on keeping these forms simple and straightforward and covering only necessary information.
But how on earth would you prove that assets are regularly maintained, or that a Fire Alarm System is fit for purpose and that it has been maintained in a way that British Standards see fit? Being aware of the legislation and of any British Standard around your health and safety equipment would be extremely wise (NB we cannot help here!) but PROVING your diligence around maintaining your chosen systems is most definitely something that we CAN help with.
So What’s The Solution?
Well we at TourTraxUK believe that we have a solution that is as good as anything on the market.
Firstly, we can supply a Fire Risk Assessment template form that can be completed on our F1 Android SmartScanner device in minutes rather than hours. It will be time, date and GPS stamped and be electronically signed by the Responsible Person. It will also be stored safely and securely in your document store in the cloud to be found at a second’s notice, or it can be printed should you prefer. But the Cloud always acts as a great (fire resistant) backup.
We can also supply maintenance forms designed specifically for the health and safety equipment that you own. We have standard templates for most of the obvious items (Fire Exits, Extinguishers, Alarm Systems) which are designed to be simple and to cover no more than what is required. They will therefore be quickly and easily completed. Each can be adapted to the exact specifications of your equipment should that be necessary.
But where our system gets really clever is that it can PROVE who has visited these assets and when. In other words, a full audit trail of activity plus PROOF of attendance. We will even generate activity schedules and alerts for you so that no maintenance activity will ever get missed.
Peace of Mind Is Great But Is There a Financial Benefit?
First of all, using the SmartScanner product would make an audit situation a whole lot less stressful. You may still get audited, but how priceless would it be to be able to prove how completely diligent you are beyond any reasonable doubt? With our SmartScanner product, you can do exactly that.
But from a financial perspective, insurers like businesses that can prove that they behave in this way, because they pose less Risk. Meaning they make fewer claims. We work with a specialist broker who is prepared to guarantee a MINIMUM 5% off your existing property and liability insurance, if you are using our SmartScanner product.
This makes the system comparable in terms of cost to the old-fashioned wand or fire-walk monitoring systems that are still prevalent in so many hospitality environments. Yet it offers genuine PROOF of activity, PLUS the capability to conduct and manage your risk assessments. And alerts!!
So let me ask the question… What price peace of mind… is SmartScanner a no-brainer?
We believe so!
To learn more, please click here
What does it mean? How do we do it in the hospitality sector?
The ways in which we target and engage with our chosen audiences as businesses are rapidly being turned on their head. As the Digital Age changes the way we do everything, at a seemingly faster and faster rate, the traditional ways of reaching a remote audience, although still an important part of the marketing and promotional mix, are rapidly being diluted in their effectiveness as we learn that we need to speak to our audience in multiple ways and on a completely different level.
Not that long ago, phoning people up and asking them if we can send mail and information either electronically or indeed in good old paper format, was a good way of getting people familiar with who we are and what we do and so getting them to buy our products and services.
But there is now a new form of engagement. A subscriber is someone who “likes” you. Your target audience will now “view” you rather than read about you. And “share” it if they really like what they see with people all over the world merely by touching a button.
So, engagement has gone way beyond visuals and text. Although getting someone to “like” you, which for businesses is the new digital equivalent of a subscriber, is potentially quicker and easier to achieve than getting someone onto your mailing list, they are also much easier to lose. Leaving someone with a bad perception could also damage your brand very quickly amongst many people.
Digital Entrepreneur Jamie Bolding, who you will be able to see speaking at TourTrax’ s Innovation in the Digital Age event in the Spring, sums it up very eloquently in the above video.
As Jamie points out, we need to engage our chosen audience on an emotional level. For a brand operating in the hospitality sector, the opportunity is endless with humour and food offering great ways to offer a light-hearted, foody twist to any content that you may generate to try and get people to stay in your hotel or visit your bar or restaurant. This is exactly what Jamie has done very successfully with the launch of his own food delivery service, Twisted London.
If you would like to be at our Innovation in Hospitality event in the Spring and hear Jamie speak very specifically about producing engaging content within the hospitality sector, please click on the link below, fill out the form, click on the appropriate event button at the bottom and you will be added to our guest list.
The UK has been particularly slow in recovering its productivity levels after the recession of 10 years ago. But why?
The UK has a reputation for being innovative, I have the fortune of working in a location where much of the early pioneering research into enzymes and their effect on the human body was carried out, and I walk past the plaque which commemorates the fact every day. So why would it be that our productivity is still below 2007 levels? Moreover, why are we in fact the worst performer in terms of productivity of all the G7 countries since the last recession!
The Work Foundation is a think tank that works in conjunction with the University of Lancaster to influence public policy making and organisational practices in the UK through research and intellectual thinking. In 2017, the Work Foundation was commissioned by Cisco to conduct a study aiming to get to the bottom of why the UK has performed so poorly post-2007, and we here at TourTraxUK found the results so fascinating that we have chosen to produce a synopsis of their findings here on our blog. Interspersed with some of own thoughts of course!
The study was based on interviews conducted with 1,500 employee’s at large companies across the UK, plus business leaders, academics and public-sector executives. Some of the results are very surprising (and frankly quite worrying), and many do not shed the UK’s working practices in the greatest of light. Here are some of the most concerning findings…
But surely, whatever anybody may think about tomorrow’s technology (I refer here to things like artificial intelligence, augmented reality and genetic modification which still do require a huge amount of debate), the benefits of cloud technologies and remote working are proven and without doubt?
Only yesterday I was discussing our next creative campaign via a crystal-clear IP-based voice connection with an important stake-holder in Canada. We shared our screens to review the campaign. A campaign that is being produced by somebody in Puerto Rico, with copy and creative input from us here in the UK. The collaborative tools that we use enable us all to make comments, to be alerted if required to make input, and if necessary, we could all be in a virtual “room” to brainstorm ideas even though we are all sitting in different corners of the globe. Just as an addendum to that, I have logged in this morning to be greeted with the latest swathe of updates based on all of our input yesterday that were made last night whilst I was either spending time with my young family, or asleep.
So why oh why oh why would anybody feel the need to RESTRICT flexible working in ANY job role?
This is an extremely important point in my opinion and I have a couple of theories on this (based on talking to mates down the pub of course!) which relate to the way that I think technology is currently perceived by the general population in the UK...
Although the report does not stray into such subjective opinion, what it does do is list reasons as to why some technology projects fail and what we need to do to avoid them failing in the future. They talk about poor business planning, lack of innovation, out-dated infrastructure, and our low uptake of flexible working practices. The first point is obvious (fail to plan, plan to fail) and the subject of infrastructure is no surprise and indeed of constant annoyance to us all in the UK, especially when we hear that South Koreans have been watching streaming video on underground trains for about 15 years. The policy of austerity might be partly responsible, but that’s for another day!
What I want to know is WHY we have failed to innovate, and WHY our uptake of flexible working practices is so low. What I suspect, as I have already suggested, is that many decision makers are now sceptical of, and therefore not “buying into” technology, even in the workplace. If I am right, the UK really needs to get over it, and quickly. If we don’t, China, Russia and India will continue to blaze a trail ahead of us.
If this is what is holding us back, then again, I refer to the report. It talks of “intrapreneurship”, meaning that young innovators must be allowed to take ownership of implementing technology so that the productivity benefits can be reaped for all. They must be allowed to make mistakes. Because they will probably be younger and less “experienced” than the rest, but they will also be better and more at home with technology and gadgets because they grew up with them.
And we should probably ALL bear in mind the following recommendations that were also made in the report...
In the Spring of 2018, TourTraxUK will be running an event in central London offering insight and real-life examples of how technology delivers competitive advantage to hospitality businesses. Reflecting TourTrax’s own commitment to making manual processes electronic, we have invited 2 of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs to talk to TourTraxUK subscribers about the way they have used technology to disrupt and innovate. They will also expand upon how and where they have applied these technologies to benefit the hospitality sector.
At the heart of the TourTraxUK proposition lies our commitment to making any manual or paper-based process electronic. Whether you are familiar with our technology as something that makes monitoring your staff easier, speeds up the process of sending and managing tasks and activities, or just proves that people are in a certain place at a certain time, the reality is that the number of ways and scenarios that our technology can be applied is virtually endless.
Because of the flexibility that cloud-based hosting and the Microsoft SQL Azure programming platform gives us at the back-end, along with the uniqueness of RFID and the processing power of smartphones at the coal-face, we can produce a completely bespoke solution enabling virtually any paper-based or manual process to be automated most environments. For example, our solutions have been used to enable exactly the correct amount of organic waste to be dropped at recycling points across the UK, with the full visibility (through API integration) of the environment agency. More simply, we have also been asked to implement a tracking solution allowing parcels to be tracked from one University building in South-East London to another, making sure that all packages are delivered on-time and in one piece.
At our event in the Spring of 2018, in addition to meeting senior TourTrax management in person, you will be able to meet 2 of the UK’s youngest and most exciting entrepreneurs in London’s Aldgate, E1.
Jamie Bolding started Jungle Creations in July 2014 and 3 years later, at the grand old age of 26, he now owns some of the most viewed and shared social media channels on the planet. With in excess of 47 million followers at his disposal, rivalling the likes of Walt Disney and Warner Bros, Jamie will be able to give you unparalleled insights into how compelling content can be generated at little or no cost that can be used to engage a global, but highly targeted audience around the world.
Carl Churchill started NetPay in October 2012, having started and sold his own internet services business before the age of 25. Carl then decided to apply the same principles of technology and innovation to the payments sector, and five years on, 30% of ALL businesses in the UK applying to use merchant services for the first time, or switching from one to another, are being processed by NetPay. Carl will be imparting the benefits of his experience around enabling hoteliers and restaurateurs to take more up-front payments and bookings in advance of any services being delivered.
The Digital Age is here. It affects everything that we do, and is constantly adapting the way that people behave and interact. Love it or hate it, it’s happening all around us, and has been doing so since the 70’s, so it’s here to stay.
It seems to me that the challenge with technology is to work with it, use it and embrace it. Whilst understanding that it can and should be put to good, positive use. Possibly the most common perception of technology is that it makes everything “faster”, and therefore “worse”, because it’s a means of enabling very fast mechanical processing which makes people “redundant” and “useless”. But when used well, technology is in fact about enabling us to make better-informed decisions, implement them more quickly, and make sure that everyone that needs to know what is going on is informed promptly and without fuss. Freeing human beings up to do the things that we do well.
Food is a great example. If we thought of applying technology to food preparation and service from a “traditional” or technophobic stance, we may argue that all that it will achieve is to make sure that we are carted in and out of eateries on a conveyor belt, serving pre-packed food that was cooked and flown in from wherever it is cheapest to produce, in whatever box that is easiest to discard. But based on a recent survey of 823 caterers aged between 19 and 65+, technology is perceived as a way of achieving much more than that.
What was cited by this straw pole of expert caterers, over 50% of whom by the way cited that they are positive about the year ahead (the survey was carried out earlier in 2017), is that people want bespoke menus, cooked and served in a variety of ways that is specifically for them. So, no buffets or barbecues please! This food of choice needs to be created using ethically sourced, local produce that is not going to clog our arteries. And caterers see technology as the way of being able to define exactly what people want, and deliver it in the way and at the time that they want.
As for learning about new product and service offerings, not surprisingly 14% of caterers suggested that social media was the most beneficial route to their customers for them. In comparison, only 1% had bothered to use more traditional forms of advertising such as magazines, newspapers and other print media. Only 2 weeks ago, an innovative social media channel has just started up a food delivery service in East London based on exactly these principles, using Facebook as the medium to take and receive orders.
So, caterers appreciate that technology can be used to deliver locally sourced, healthy produce cooked exactly as the customer wants? Well that can’t be a bad thing can it…
We at TourTraxUK feel exactly the same. Used properly, we know that technology will only benefit human beings and the businesses that they operate. Certainly, the technology in our solutions will anyway. It’s a way of benefiting the environment by reducing the use of paper and energy, of keeping people informed of vital decisions and activities, of making sure that they are safe, and that customer needs and safety is always at the forefront of the minds of staff.
So that human beings can focus on the things that human beings do best.
At TourTraxUK we refer to it as Dynamic and Static activity…
One of the main advantages of using technology to monitor health & safety or compliance checks, is the way it can be set to alert Responsible Persons when things do not happen with user-defined regularity and at certain times.
But due to the nature of compliance checks, especially those that are associated with security, it may be especially important that those checks are not carried at regular, specific times. For example, if large amounts of cash or any other valuable property or asset is being protected, if it is observed that security checks are done at the same time every day or week, it could make the property or asset concerned even more vulnerable.
The common perception of technology is that it is very rigid in terms of how rules can be set up to make sure that things happen “regularly”. Things like server backups, virus sweeps, or other maintenance checks are typically carried out at the same time every few days or weeks. Because in that context, it is appropriate.
But in the context of this blog the most important thing is what the definition of “regular” actually is, because it needs to mean different things for different tasks.
As we have mentioned before in our blogs, TourTraxUK uses RFID tags in conjunction with the in-built functionality of NFC on smartphones, to enable us to be a hell of a lot smarter about how we enable you to plan and monitor activity. In this context, RFID and NFC allows us to be way more flexible in the way that we define the term “regular”. One day, you may need to be a total control-freak micro-manager, and on another, the coolest most laid-back boss in the business! But the point is that this will need to change every day, dependent on the nature of the tasks in hand.
If micro-management is needed, then TourTraxUK can be set up so that a set of checkpoints must be checked in a particular order in a five-minute window, every day, for example. This we would refer to as a Static Patrol.
But if a more “laissez-faire” approach is required, you could tell our system that a certain checkpoint needs to be swiped a certain number of times within a much more extended period. This could be set at days, weeks, months or even years. It could also just as easily be set to require that a set of checkpoints need to be visited with the same (ir)regularity. This we would refer to as a Dynamic Patrol.
In terms of monitoring and reporting, TourTraxUK also allows reports to be sent to key decision makers to view the progress of this on-going activity. So, if you have a set of checkpoints that need to be visited 1,000 times within a 6-month period, it is really easy for you to know if you have enough resources to actually do it. Meaning that you won’t have to employ extra staff to make 750 visits in a month to complete your compliance target!
For more information on how TourTraxUK will enable you to manage your compliance and security tasks with the utmost flexibility, call Richard Dickety on 01634 757 088 or on 07779 563 678
Remote Workers and Network Coverage. How Much Should Signal Strength Impact Your Decision to Use a Smartphone or Tablet Based Field Management Solution?
Not at all if you use RFID tags…
It’s another of those things that we hear quite regularly… “oh we don’t want to use anything that relies on a mobile phone signal, because the coverage around here is so poor”.
If you live in the centre of London or any other major city that has an abundance of 4G and Wi-Fi coverage, you may have thought that such arguments had been consigned to history. But the reality is still that in the UK, when you get to the extremities of our small island, signal strength can still be debilitatingly poor.
But this is one of the many reasons that our own developers have worked so tirelessly to overcome what is a significant hurdle to provide what we feel to be one of the best solutions around for ensuring that stuff gets done when it needs to get done, and that people are kept safe in the process.
Obviously, we are way beyond relying on “live” internet connections to monitor remote workers. Doing that would never offer the kind of reliability that a remote worker would need. The invention of the app was the real breakthrough moment here in that it meant that a huge amount of “stuff” can be managed by the phone and their ever-faster and more efficient processors and storage. Simply because the app already knows what needs to be done processing-wise and can store a lot of relevant information to help it to do it. Without the need to rely on an internet connection to gain access to a powerful server somewhere.
In other words, much of the processing just gets done on the phone itself, and no signal or connectivity is required at all to do that.
But what about for time or location specific tasks? What if your remote worker is out of signal at the time you want them to do something, or in a location where coverage is simply out of the question?
Well that’s when you just have to be a bit smart….
If all you need is for your field-staff to be able to call up one of your library of forms at a random point, all we do is make sure that they are synchronised to your fleet of mobile phones at regular intervals. Enabling them to call one up whenever they need, signal or no signal. You have a lot of forms? You should be able to store thousands of forms on a single device, no problem. You can with ours, anyway.
As far as time-specific activity is concerned, if you know in advance when an activity needs to get done, then it is very easy just to send a schedule of activity to the phone at a time when you know that it has coverage. Like when its owner is at home asleep, for example. We enable a user defined setting to automatically send jobs and schedules down to remote workers well before they venture out into the back of beyond.
Carrying out asset specific tasks that require pre-defined or stored information? This is where RFID really comes into its own. By assigning a form to a job or asset before the field worker has left to do the job, all the asset and job-specific information can be transferred to the phone whilst in coverage. The worker arrives at the job, has no coverage, and swipes the asset. At which point the form “appears” with all the site and asset specific information pre-filled. How? Well the pre-populated form had been on the phone since the job was downloaded five hours previously, but is only presented to the field worker once the tag is swiped. With or without signal.
And what about proving attendance, activity and presence in remote locations with no signal, GPS coverage or even the possibility of mobile mast triangulation? Again, we rely on RFID technology. By placing tags at specific locations on a site, when the tags are swiped, the unique identity of the tag can be stored (tens of thousands of swipes can be stored without causing even the most basic of smartphones a problem) along with the time it was swiped and who by. At such a time as the phone re-enters coverage, all of the swipe activity is communicated to the remote server.
Giving you your bullet-proof audit trail of compliance activity, wherever you, your sites or your field-workers may be.
For more information about how TourTraxUK can help you to keep workers busy and safe even in the remotest of environments, get in touch with Richard Dickety on 01634 757 088 or 07779 563678.
Push-to-Talk, 2 Way Radios (“Walkie-talkies”) and the Rise of IP Based Telephony. Is It Time for You to Consider IP Communication for your Mobile Workforce?
2-way radios have been around for many years. They allow 2 people to communicate quickly and clearly over a distance with great reliability. Invaluable when the pressure is on.
Although the rise of mobile telephony has presented a bit of a challenge to 2-way radios, GSM networks have traditionally rather let themselves down in environments where reliability is crucial, simply by being extremely, well, unreliable. Also, the running cost of mobiles is significant, and when you add in the fact that employees are always likely to be tempted to use them for nefarious purposes, the good old fashioned “walkie-talkie” makes huge sense for voice communication in industries like hospitality and security.
For those who may not be aware, 2-way radios are still commonly used in industries where being able to talk to someone NOW may be of life or death importance. This is basically because the technology “just works”. You push a button, and get a crystal clear, instant connection to the required person at the other end. When was the last time you could say that about your £800 smartphone? A 2-way radio channel will also NOT be shut down in the event of a terrorist attack or national disaster. We rest our case.
But the mobile device, especially the smartphone, suddenly presents a new challenge to traditional 2-way radio technology from a slightly unexpected angle. Forget GSM, and think IP telephony.
The idea of using a mobile phone to make an IP call, specifically designed to make and receive calls using the traditional GSM network, in many ways just seems a bit odd. But smartphones have suddenly become pretty good at switching between voice and data networks to make voice calls. BT Mobile in the UK has been doing it for a few years now, and with the genuinely improved coverage of 4g, HSDPA and 3g in the UK, achieving the networks’ long over-promised 99% coverage is now much closer to reality. When you add in Wi-Fi coverage, and the fact that a smartphone can switch between Wi-Fi and GSM networks without a hitch to continue an IP call, suddenly you are challenging the reliability of a 2-way radio to make and receive voice communications. The relatively short distances covered by traditional 2-way radio also has the potential to become an international call when you use IP.
The other traditional benefits of 2-way radios are also maintained. Secure, reliable, instant communication is offered via a smartphone’s PTT (push-to-talk) button, and the cost is low, because you are ideally using your own corporate Wi-Fi network or a data bundle. Way cheaper than traditional mobile voice bundles.
The cost-benefits are further enhanced when you consider that many security and hospitality businesses will already be using smartphones as part of a remote worker management solution. This will be a crucial everyday part of their business that they will be using in addition to 2-way radios. Well, suddenly 2 cumbersome devices become one. All that is required is some additional software or an app and a smartphone with a PTT button, but most enterprise level (especially rugged) smartphones will have that anyway.
Then you can add in all the additional benefits of VOIP calling and messaging. Such as voice messaging (including voice-to-text), on and offline availability alerts, queued messaging, accountability (of course everything is logged and recorded in a management suite) and the ability to generate open and closed work-groups for team communication. Think WhatsApp here, but a solution that is 100% designed to support a business rather than our teenage off-spring.
Concerned about security? Remind yourself of the story recently where WhatsApp got beaten up simply because the UK intelligence agencies were struggling to infiltrate the encrypted communications of terrorist cells who were using WhatsApp to message each other prior to the recent London terrorist attacks. So yes, your business communications will be 100% secure.
Interested in using 2-way PTT over IP in your business? Talk to us about how you can keep your existing estate of traditional 2-way radios, by using them to work in conjunction with any newly implemented IP-based PTT solution.
Call TourTraxUK and ask for Richard Dickety on 07779 563 678 or call the office on 01634 757 088 if you have questions or need any impartial advice.
HOTELS & HOSPITALITY: Using Technology to Make Your Customer Service Experience Pro-Active, Not Reactive
We hear it all the time. “I trust my staff”.
The sentiment is totally admirable. If you are really in the very fortunate position of being able to say with 100% certainty that you CAN trust every one of your staff to give the kind of attentive service that they would give to their own infant children… then you are doing something very, very right.
But let’s get real. Hospitality is competitive, and margins are tight. The pressure that hoteliers feel to maintain high standards, whilst keeping staff costs low… is extreme. This means that many of your staff are likely to be lowly paid, maybe even minimum wage. Almost certainly overworked. Meaning that their motivation to treat your customers like their own, may not always be what you would want it to be.
The number of customer “touch-points” in terms of their overall experience of your brand is huge. Every time that a customer interacts with you and your staff, be it in a physical or virtual sense, it offers the opportunity to build an amazingly positive perception of you, your brand, and the experience that you provide to all of your customers. Errrm… or not.
When you have residents, who are potentially residing with you for days or even weeks, the opportunity for the sum of all these experiences to be negative, rather than positive, is sizeable. You have a restaurant where despite the best efforts of the chef, a front-of-house person may serve wine in a glass that is smudged. Your maintenance guy may have forgotten to fix the air-con unit in the honeymoon suite, for a couple who want everything to be “just perfect”. Your receptionist may just be having an off-day, which is why she forgot to give that all important message to the extremely busy sales executive from New York. You know, the one who flew in jet-lagged this morning and needed that life-or-death phone message an hour ago, NOT 10 minutes ago.
Technology can be a help AND a hindrance here. On the down-side, it is now so easy for a customer, independent reviewer or regulator to communicate negative experiences to a wide audience quickly and easily. Especially in the UK, where let’s face it, we’re so much more likely to talk about a negative experience than a bad one. And we also have a seemingly innate desire to paste it all over the internet.
But technology can also be used to turn your organisation into one which reduces the likelihood of this ever happening, by preventing problems before they occur. It can be used to keep every piece of equipment working, 24/7. It can make sure that all thoroughfares are clear, every day of the year, even at 3am. But most importantly, it can help your staff not to be over-reliant on their tired, stressed-out brains to remember every task that they need to achieve in a day. Sometimes, a smile or a voucher is simply not enough to turn a bad experience into a positive one, especially if the issue could have been easily prevented. This is of course doubly so if the issue has impacted on someone’s health or safety.
The point with technology is that it enables you and your key management staff to be pro-active about customer service rather than reactive. It means that a heating unit will be turned on 30 minutes before a customer takes occupancy of a room when it is -5 outside, rather than finding out that it does not work 5 minutes after they arrive.
In terms of health and safety, it means that you will know that a fire exit is blocked before the vulnerable night hours when your guests are asleep. Rather than having to produce paper-log books that show that the exit was checked 2 days previously, when dealing with an investigation that has proven that it was blocked resulting in death or injury on the day that disaster struck.
For more information about how we can turn you into a pro-active rather than reactive business, call Richard Dickety on 01634 757 088 or 07779 563 678.