Hyatt Regency Chicago Conquers Internal Comms

You can imagine that at the largest Hyatt property in the world, the Hyatt Regency Chicago, keeping things running smoothly can be challenging, to say the least. With 2,019 rooms spread across two towers, and 228,000 square feet of meeting space, operating this Hyatt property requires over 1,100 employees, 300 to 400 of whom are managers. At such a scope, ease of communications is key to business success.

But, until recently, Hyatt Regency Chicago had struggled with fragmented and siloed communications -- some employees relied on two-way radios to stay in touch with each other while others favored email, texting, Lync/Skype for Business messaging, or VoIP calls, depending on their roles. Having employees using a wide variety of communications led to gaps and trouble knowing how to get a hold of people as needed -- a big problem for a hospitality business.

The open nature of radio communications, popular among housekeeping staff, caused another issue. While the housekeeping department does have an office staff for preparatory management work, staff is out on the floor in public space. Radios aren't overly discreet, which means the guest experience could potentially be negatively impacted.

To boost operational efficiency and improve the guest experience, the hotel was going to need a better, more consistent way of bringing teams together and facilitating communications among employees as they roamed the property. The hotel found its answer in Lua, a mobile-first enterprise messaging solution that it has run through multiphase proof-of-concept (PoC) and pilot tests, and is now committed to deploying in production.

To get the 411 on this communications success story, I spoke with Eduard Torres, senior IT director at Hyatt Regency Chicago.

This past January, Hyatt Regency Chicago launched PoC testing with about 40 to 50 employees in its rooms division. During this phase, it paid particular attention to change management, and discussion of use cases, Torres said. The team then identified Lua's pros and cons and compared that to its existing solution set.

Continuing the pilot, in February the hotel roughly doubled the number of Lua users to 100, "and the implementation process went flawlessly," Torres said.

Today roughly 240 employees use Lua, and Hyatt is looking at how else it might leverage the messaging solution. Toward that end, it is piloting the use of Lua among employees at other hotels across the continent. "It could even be extended globally," Torres said.

"We are a service industry, so our first and foremost objective is to service our guests in the best possible way as efficient as possible. Obviously communication is an extremely important part of that. Where previously we might have been using a voice over IP solution on a smart device or a two-way radio, it's not as discreet as a simplified messaging platform. ... We really want the magic to happen seamlessly so that our guests don't even realize that these things are done. So they're getting top-level service without realizing how it's happening."

Hyatt Regency Chicago employees immediately got on board with Lua, and adoption was "better than anticipated," Torres said. Lua is especially intuitive -- it simply works, he added.

One of the ways in which Hyatt has benefitted from Lua is in improved accountability. For example, should perhaps a drink be spilled on the floor, the floor manager or employee who discovers the problem can send out a group message to the appropriate team to have it cleaned up immediately. Lua shows exactly when the message was received and read by team members, so managers can identify exactly how long it took for a person to respond to a situation.

"This is something that I think is very powerful," Torres said. "If you send me a message and I know that you know that I just read it, I'm not going to sit on it. I want to be able to respond quickly because that's the proper thing to do."

In another use case, imagine a scenario in which a line of customers has formed in front of a hotel lobby coffee stand. Staff could send a broadcast message to the food and beverage department alerting the team to the long line and calling for action to get additional resources to the floor. This is another example Torres shared that illustrates how the improved accountability and efficiency that comes with Lua has improved the guest experience.

"One of the things that really stood out for us is where the Lua implementation inadvertently addressed gaps that we may not have even realized were there," Torres said. "Having Lua at all of the front office managers' fingertips and at all of the housekeeping department managers' fingertips really facilitates communication in such a way where the front desk knows exactly what's happening at the housekeeping department. Housekeeping knows exactly what's happening at the front desk department."

Further, with such a large staff, keeping track of who is working at what times -- and so who to notify about a problem -- can be difficult. Now when an issue crops up -- say a poolside chair breaks -- an employee can take a picture of the damage and send it as an attachment in a message to an entire department. This means that whoever is working at the time will handle the issue and the sender does not need to first track down the staff schedule to see who is working.

"There's always someone to react," Torres said.

Outside of front desk and housekeeping operations, Lua has proven especially useful in the hotel's convention and events business. With its previous communications strategy, Hyatt rented push-to-talk phones to partners working in the events space so staff and external event planners could connect. But this arrangement did not allow easy group calling. Communications was limited to information shared within that push-to-talk platform. With Lua, the event coordinators can define who among Hyatt's many meeting planners, staff members, AV contacts, room contacts, sales managers, and others are involved in any given event, and send messages or initiate group calls with the click of a button.

"We were able to really connect a multitude of resources to our meeting planners," Torres said.

Hyatt and Lua: Moving Forward

The following data points, collected in April (four months into the trial), illustrate how Lua is being used at the Hyatt Regency Chicago:

The hotel signed a contract with Lua in April, after the extended four-month trial, and currently have roughly 240 users.

Beyond the pilot mentioned above, Torres couldn't comment on whether Lua might be extended across Hyatt locations. He did, however, acknowledge that he thinks the enterprise messaging platform could play a role in the future as the hotel chain develops a uniform global communications strategy.

"If we look at our success rate at Hyatt Regency Chicago, it's pretty impressive. But we are a very big hotel, and maybe the complexities of running such a big hotel is part of the reason why this is working so well. One size may not fit all, and that's why my personal opinion for Hyatt's global strategy is to find something that can serve the purpose of a 200-room hotel all the way up to a 2,000-room hotel."

Regardless of whether Lua use is extended to other Hyatt locations, it's clear that Hyatt Regency Chicago has found its sweet spot with this new mobile-first communication solution, and it's another mobile success story in the books!

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