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Hospitality Tech and the Guest Experience: 5 Questions for Our VP of Hospitality, Connie Rheams

Beekeeper’s very own, VP of Hospitality, Connie Rheams sat down with the folks at techtalk.travel for an in-depth interview about her journey and experiences in the hotel tech industry.

In case you haven’t yet heard of Connie Rheams, let us fill you in a bit. Connie is a highly respected visionary and proven leader in the hospitality space, being recognized in 2014 by the Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals as one of the hospitality technology industry’s most notable and influential female IT executives.

Before we dive into her interview, let’s explore how this hospitality industry powerhouse came to be part of the Beekeeper hive. She says,

I got a call from Beekeeper and they said ‘You’re so passionate about the guest experience, and what we think makes a difference in the guest experience is the employee side of the equation (EX = CX). And so we’re creating technology to help empower the employee workforce. Come join us.’

We’re beyond thrilled that she accepted, and Connie has been an integral part of the hive ever since.

Keep reading to learn more about Connie and her experience in the hospitality industry.

1. Let’s talk about how you became inspired to get into the hotel space. What was it that drove you to get into hospitality tech?

As a teenager, I lived in a small town, and I always knew that I wanted to get out and see the world. I was inspired to enter into the hospitality industry by a personal passion to explore.

I started out in the hospitality industry working for American Airlines, and I stayed with them for 15 years in roles including revenue management, reservation center management, international operations, training and development. Towards the end of my time there, my last role was running what is now Sabre Hospitality, one of the leading technology providers for the hospitality industry.

My experience working with Sabre sealed the deal. I fell in love with hospitality and put airlines behind me. I became fascinated with hotel tech — everything from back office solutions, all the way to front office solutions and also central solutions.

2. In terms of what Beekeeper is offering, you’ve got internal communication tools. What else can you provide to hotel staff that will essentially make their day more efficient, and ultimately more effective for their guests?

Beekeeper provides a mobile app for employees. Before, hotel employees were creating WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups or texting to communicate with each other. So when they leave the company, they still have access to confidential, internal information, which is a real problem for security and brings up data privacy concerns. Beekeeper provides that one platform which connects the entire workforce at a hotel, or at a company.

A little known fact is that typically at a hotel company, 80% of employees don’t have a corporate email address. If they don’t have an email address or sit behind a desk, how can management communicate with them effectively and how can you get their input? These are the people who are interacting directly with guests. They need a way to connect with each other and share information. That’s what we’re doing at Beekeeper.

3. What would you say are some of the biggest pain points when it comes to staff communication in a hotel? And how does Beekeeper help solve these problems?

The first communication issue many hotels face is language barriers. There are many different languages being spoken on any given hotel property. Having the ability to break down these language barriers and be able to communicate in virtually any language is game changing. Even for employees who might be hearing impaired, Beekeeper gives them a way to communicate with the rest of the company and connect with their peers.

See how Beekeeper helped a hearing impaired hotel employee at Mandarin Oriental Hotel communicate with the rest of his team. His first message he wrote in Beekeeper was, “I have a voice now. I can connect with all of you.”

Second, we break down the internal silos that hotels often have. A big pain point for hotel employees is a lack of professional advancement opportunities. A lot of employees ask themselves, “Is there really a career here for me?” The truth is, a careers page doesn’t cut it anymore. Hotel employees really need to know that they have a future, and that you’re investing in that future.

Finally, the last pain point I want to bring up is the need for real-time communication, particularly during a crisis situation. When hurricane Irma hit Florida, the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami had to communicate important updates about closures, damages, and when the hotel would be ready to reopen to their entire staff.

Not only was management able to communicate these updates with the rest of the company in real time, but with Beekeeper, employees also had a way to connect directly with each other.

4. What are some of the biggest challenges that companies face when it comes to integrating with other providers in the hospitality space?

We’re really a comprehensive product that can be used as a standalone SaaS platform without any integrations. Now, if you want to take it to the next level with Beekeeper, we’ve done some very cool things where we’ve integrated with HRS systems and shift management systems. This integration with shift management software has allowed managers to display employee schedules within the Beekeeper app.

We’re also looking at integrations into task management systems that would allow ALL hotel employees to do things like automatically open a maintenance ticket when something in the hotel needs to be repaired.

The idea is to give frontline employees one, central hub for all their communication. At the same time, the company is able to promote their culture, internal activities, and share best practices. By simplifying workflows for the employees, they can focus on providing an excellent guest experience.

5. What advice would you give to a graduating student from hotel school that might be interested in working in hospitality and potentially even moving in to the technology sector?

I often advocate to students at universities to get into hospitality tech. We are the cool kids! Seriously, with the high level of focus on taking everything digital and being in the position to deliver personalized experiences all along the customer journey, technology is now more important than ever.

Students need to really wrap their minds around that full, 360-degree view of the guest experience, and learn all of the technologies that go along with it. They also need to understand all the processes, and all the people operations along the way. A holistic understanding of the hospitality business will give them the direction they need to carve out their career path.

Final word of advice?

I don’t believe in limitations. I think every person should set their own path. I was a small town girl who had a passion for adventure and seeing the world and I was able to connect that with my professional life which has been immensely rewarding. Follow your passion!

Check out the full interview here