Photo courtesy of ALICE
As technology develops, more and more hotels are building apps that allow guests to request services and amenities on their smartphone.
But a company called ALICE is taking it a step farther: allow hotel staff to track and complete each service request on a single mobile platform.
It is such a popular idea, in fact, that ALICE just secured $3 million in seed funding, courtesy of principals of Tishman Realty, the founders of NeueHouse, 645 Ventures, and the founding team of Seamless Web: Jason Finger, Todd Arky and Paul Appelbaum.
ALICE has also developed partnerships with several significant hotel groups and hospitality properties, including Shangri-La’s Hotel Jen, Bespoke Hotels, The Setai (Miami Beach), The Gansevoort Hotel Group, Standard Hotels and Sixty Hotels.
ALICE President and Co-Founder Alex Shashou, who formed ALICE with CEO Justin Effron and CTO Dmitry Koltunov, knows all about the pains of tracking and efficiently completing guest requests as a hotel staff member. He grew up in hotels, given his family operated three hotel chains in the UK, and he spent every summer working in them when he was younger.
It finally came to a head when Shashou was traveling with one of the co-founders and the sluggish and inefficient process of request management—from the standpoint of both hotelier and guest—became too much to bear. To ask for extra towels, for example, a guest shouldn’t have to track down housekeeping or wait for a front desk agent to radio the housekeeping department…and then wait for the housekeeping department to radio the housekeepers.
It prompted ALICE to interview 500 hotel managers and employees throughout the hospitality industry. The feedback led to the formation of ALICE in 2013.
“What we realized is there’s a lack of mobile technology on the guest side but the real inefficiency you’re experiencing is coming from the back end,” Shashou told TravelPulse. “The hotel could be running anywhere from three to five systems and they’re all disconnected legacy systems. So, we started out making a guest app, but we really quickly realized that there was an equivalent if not greater need to solve the back end piece at the same time.”
The response, Shashou said, has been “phenomenal.”
“In two years, we’ve become extremely big with about 25 partners,” Shashou said. “I think it’s because they share the same vision as us. The idea is to build that one solution for the entire hotel. And that’s a pain point that they’ve experienced: From an ownership level, if you’re running 100 hotels, 1,000 hotels, it’s a very hard operation to manage if you’re having to use five different systems to find out what’s happening on a property-by-property level.”
The platform is incredibly detailed, too. For example, hoteliers can track the average response time by employee and the average response time by facility, all on one screen.
The Setai, Miami Beach became the first hotel in the U.S. to allow guests to order straight from their pool and beach chairs, whether that’s requesting extra items or some food from the restaurant.
“After decades of managing hotels, I’ve experienced firsthand shortcomings that the industry faces in effectively utilizing technology,” said Alex Furrer, resident manager at The Setai, via a press release. “ALICE has developed a revolutionary mobile solution to unify guest management across our entire hotel…Our experience has been so successful with ALICE that we received an Inn Key Award in recognition of guest relations.”
ALICE also allows guests to request services and amenities before they even arrive at the hotel, making the platform particularly smart in the new world of personalized and online marketing where marketers attempt to follow consumers through every step of their journey.
“You’re most excited when you book your hotel but you don’t connect with your hotel until you actually arrive two months later. So, we bridge that gap,” Shashou said. “So, you book The Setai and immediately you get an email from us saying, ‘Welcome to the Setai. Would you like to start managing your stay before you arrive?’”
It can also be helpful in places such as, say, Miami Beach where you may want to make a restaurant reservation well in advance.
“Why does it stop when you make the booking?,” Shashou added. “Why not complete that journey? When you’re most excited, that’s your best point to start engaging with your hotel. Let them keep your excitement up all the way through your stay.”
Heck, even those who were at first a bit adverse to technology are jumping on board with ALICE.
Karl Finegan, one of the founding investors and board members of Neuehouse, said, “I was initially concerned about technology getting in the way of the luxury experience, but when I finally used ALICE at The Setai, I realized that this was the future. We were so inspired by the potential here that we tracked the team down and convinced them to take our investment capital.”
Funds from this financing round will be used to advance product development, expand the team and enable the company to continue to scale.
ALICE is also planning on integrating more languages into the platform by the end of February.
For more information, visit www.AliceApp.com.