Industry  |  19 May 2022  |  Richard Valtr  |  3 minute read

Why convenience shouldn’t be a dirty word

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There’s a school of thought that says convenience is lazy. Maybe even bad for society. I don’t subscribe to this point of view, and neither does Mews. 

If anything, it’s the ‘convenience is bad’ viewpoint that’s lazy. The idea that manual work is somehow inherently ennobling or particularly meritorious has been around for centuries. Back in the days of the Enlightenment, my quasi-namesake Voltaire maintained that the only true worthwhile thing is manual labor. Even in modern culture this ideal of hard work remains. It’s borne out in Bruce Springsteen’s frequent tributes to blue collar workers, for instance, something all the more impressive because – by his own admission – he’s never done a day of hard labor in his life. 

 

What's wrong with convenience?

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with manual work. But there’s also nothing inherently wrong with convenience. Why is this so relevant to us? Convenience goes hand in hand with technology, which is what Mews specializes in. Technology is often the fall guy when it comes to convenience; it gets blamed for people becoming lazy and losing the ability to manually perform tasks that are now no longer relevant to modern life. People worry that in the absence of manual labor everyone will just become the dystopic vision of humanity that they saw in WALL-E. 

We’re not shy about making lives more convenient for our hoteliers and their guests. It’s always been at the core of what we do. Eliminating the night audit is a great example – by rethinking how a hospitality cloud should work, we got rid of this manual, time-consuming job. It’s the same with the online check-in – we’re eliminating the need for someone to have to spend their time trapped behind a desk, doing data entry and masquerading it as guest experience and conversation. 

Throughout our lives, we’re often cornered into doing things that are boring or annoying, and we accept them as ‘character-building’. Whether that’s typing passport details into a computer, filling in your tax returns, or waiting in line all day at the DMV to renew your driver’s license, there’s no real value in spending hours doing this yourself versus a machine doing most of the work for you.  

It often feels like purgatory, as if our interactions with any regulation must inflict pain on the end-user. Why? We should actively want our lives and administrative processes to be painless, seamless and convenient. Too many hoteliers and business owners buy into this too, focusing too little on UX and a certain occupational “lightness” in favor of a never-ending barrage of SOPs, processes, and paper-pushing and collecting. 

Back when Mews started, so many hoteliers were resistant to automation. The prevailing idea was that the manual work and the hard work validated what they were doing, perhaps coupled with a distrust for the new(ish) technology. I remember doing a pitch where the hotelier didn’t want to connect a channel manager because they were adamant that retyping the faxes from the OTAs into the system meant that they would remember their guests’ names better. Needless to say, our success since then and our rapid growth path is an indication that this mindset is changing. 

 

Convenience and the gift of time

“But people have it too easy now. We’ll soon all become brain dead drones.” Again, no. Firstly, that’s doing a disservice to the technology and the people who have built it. We should celebrate these achievements. Secondly, you need to think about what this convenience gives you: time. More time to use your brain creatively. More time to problem solve. More time to be sociable and spend with guests. 

Free time isn’t the enemy. It’s the enabler. If you and your teams are spending too much time on menial tasks, you need to reprioritize. Convenience through automation gives us more time, which in turn can be used to learn new skills or test new ways of working. Imagine you suddenly have an extra free hour every day because you no longer have to manually compile your reports; you could use this time to devise a new marketing campaign or research a new integration. 

Within hospitality, convenience can actually make your team’s roles more blended and diverse. If you can automate every task at reception, what’s stopping your front desk team from stepping out from behind the desk and acting as concierges or training them to upsell and use techniques from some of the best customer success professionals? And why can’t a reservations agent also become a good revenue manager? If we optimize our workplaces for trust, service delivery and ambience-creation, and use maximum automation to enable this, then we can focus on how to make every stay remarkably convenient. 

Technology is also helping to democratize the workplace by lowering the barriers of entry. It means you no longer have to hire someone with years of experience in using a specific system; instead, you can reach a broader demographic and hire people based on more valuable human skills like their ability to make connections, something particularly important in hospitality.  

If we embrace technology and convenience in this way, so much is possible. It gives us the space to strive for more, rather than commit to existing structures and mindsets. Younger generations now grow up with the expectation that technology will handle the easy stuff – this isn’t lazy. It’s logical. 

Farmers don’t miss the days where they had to sow every seed by hand. Just like hoteliers soon won’t miss the days where they had to manually manage every reservation, adjust every rate, and process every payment. 

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Richard Valtr | 19 May 2022

Richard founded Mews in 2012 and has since become one of hospitality's true innovators and thought leaders.

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