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Cisco: Room Service...Turn Down The Lights Please

My well-rewarded IT buddy calls me up from the Atlantic City Water Club to tell me of his escapades and then complains about his sleepless night. With little sympathy I listened because I knew he was having a good time until he told me what was keeping him awake. "Call room service," I told him. Seems like they couldn't figure out how to turn down the glowing light on the Cisco IP phones that the rooms are equipped with. He couldn't figure it out either--aside from putting pillows over the phones.Having written about large screen IP phones several times, I warned before that telephony ergonomics isn't something you screw around with and I don't care how "traditional" it sounds or looks. Traditional works.

We've installed numerous telephony solutions in the under 100-room market in our area and our TDM and IP phones all have the software option to turn off the backlit displays once the handsets are idle. These phones make excellent nightlights, just not for guest rooms. It may be okay to leave them on in some cases in suites where it doesn't disturb the guests sleeping. Certainly, folks are aware of the studies suggesting that sleeping under artificial lighting isn't healthy? Humans have internal circadian clocks and artificial disrupts our circadian rhythm.

Large screen phones and phones equipped with backlights have great applications but they're not for all applications. Hospitality is a defined market with rules that you don't break and in NEC Defines Hospitality, Kevin Ruhman of NEC discusses what's important in the higher end market. I contacted the Mandarin Oriental of Boston and they assured me that their NEC solution does in fact turn off the backlight in the guest rooms automatically after one minute.

It doesn't matter how technologically savvy the guests are because if they can't turn down the lights on the phones they may or may not complain and just unplug the phones or throw a pillow or blanket over them. But will they book that hotel again? I remember the long winter days training in Downers Grove, Illinois and the hard lesson about PBX clocks--"timing is everything." So it is with humans and the last thing you want to do is to light up guest rooms with artificial light emanating from a telephone that messes around with internal human clocks. Transition those phones from being potential revenue devices, business tools or amenities into lost customers becoming disgruntled because they can't turn the phone lights off-that's sure to win the wrong kind traction in a market that is more than fickle. For those that are tech savvy you may still end up calling room service to down the phone lights along with the bed.