Lessons from the Road: What Fleets Can Learn from the Hotel Industry

January 9th, 2023 | by Mark Thomas, EVP of Marketing and Alliances | Posted in: Insight on Things

It’s been a long day. After an early morning flight and a day full of business meetings, you anxiously return to your hotel to kick off your shoes and get some much-needed rest. As you prepare to scan your keycard and punch the button of your floor, you begin searching your pockets to locate your key. And…it’s not there. You look in your bag, your coat pockets, and even the floor. Nothing. After an obligatory sigh, you head back to the check-in desk, and ask for another keycard, knowing that only a couple of minutes wait between you and relaxation.

Digital keys are transforming fleets, much like hotels

The evolution of physical keys

In today’s world, the above scenario is all too common, yet not one for concern or panic. Decades ago, when hotels issued physical keys, that was not the case. Typically, one metal key – often on a keychain with a room number – was given, no matter how many guests were in the room. Whenever guests left the hotel, they dropped their key off at the front desk for safekeeping, making the same stop when they returned to pick up their key. If that key was lost or, even worse, stolen, the result was not only the guest’s fear of a stranger accessing their room, but also the cost to the hotel of paying to make a replacement key.

Fast-forward to the digital age we now live in. Thanks to technology, inexpensive plastic keycards are the norm. The most modern hotels are even doing away with check-in counters altogether, allowing customers to check themselves in via kiosks and create their own keycards without waiting in line or needing assistance from hotel staff.

A pivotal step in digital transformation for hotels

The replacement of physical keys dedicated to a specific room was a key step in digital transformation for the hotel industry. Introducing a more digitally innovative way to access rooms has benefited hotels in several major ways:

  • Savings on operational costs. By not needing additional staff to hand out physical keys or dispatch locksmiths in a lockout emergency, the dollars tied to managing physical keys decreased. Those saved dollars could then be reallocated, along with hotel resources, to work on higher-priority projects that have a direct positive impact on overall operations.
  • Increase in customer service. By using inexpensive NFC-based (near-field communication) keycards that can fit into a wallet or pocket, guests can easily access their room.
  • Improved security and efficiency. In the event of a lost or stolen keycard, it can remotely and automatically be deactivated, removing the threat of unauthorized room access. And issuing a new keycard can happen in a few minutes with minimal costs associated with replacement, creating increased productivity and efficiency, which ultimately leads to happier customers.

Looking back on how technology has shaped the hotel industry, using a physical key for hotel rooms seems quaint and antiquated now. Yet when we look at fleets of vehicles, such as those used for rental and delivery services, expensive key fobs are still being used rather than inexpensive NFC-based keycards or smartphone-based digital keys, which are issued to a specific driver instead of a specific vehicle.

NFC access card for fleet vehicles

How digital keys can transform fleet-based businesses

So, how can fleets take a nod from the hotel industry when it comes to using keyless technology to improve the overall driver experience while saving on operational costs? These insights highlight the benefits of digitization for fleets:

Insight #1: Saving time and money is the name of the game.

When you implement solutions that help maximize productivity and streamline processes, you create opportunities to reallocate critical resources and dollars to higher-priority projects. For fleets, digitizing keys means removing the manual work often associated with physical key management, improving safety, reducing costs, and maximizing efficiencies.

Insight #2: Digitization doesn’t replace humans.

Sometimes people think that when technology is introduced to simplify a process, workers’ jobs are lost. This isn’t the case with digitizing key management. When hotels replaced physical keys, they improved their processes tenfold, allowing staff previously dedicated to managing the check-in and key management process to develop other skills and take on additional tasks. Fleets can do the same – think of all the time that can be saved when keys are digitized and no one has to track down keys to a parking lot full of vehicles.

Insight #3: Customer service is key.

With hotels, as in most service-based industries, customer service is key. When hotels digitized room keys, everyone from hotel staff to guests became happier – processes got smoother, time became more manageable, and money was saved. The same holds true for fleets. Being able to digitize vehicle keys means implementing technology that not only improves overall operations but also keeps customers happier along the way through increased productivity and efficiency.

Insight #4: Driver happiness often increases with digital keys.

Using a digital key, even for vehicles that are operated by only one driver each day, is a time saver, often resulting in happier, more satisfied employees. With the proximity locking capabilities of a keyless access solution enabled, drivers simply exit the vehicle, resulting in the vehicle locking itself. For delivery drivers, this means precious time is saved on each delivery, increasing efficiency and productivity. And on days with adverse weather conditions, drivers can keep the AC running when it’s too hot and the heat on when it’s too cold, so they stay comfortable throughout their journey.

Insight #5: Safety first, always.

Digitizing hotel room keys not only impacted productivity, it also improved safety. Gone were the days of lost or stolen room keys and worrying about break-ins or thefts. The exact same thinking applies to fleets. When a vehicle’s physical key is lost or stolen, the driver, the vehicle, and the cargo they transport become vulnerable to bad actors looking to do harm. With the implementation of digital keys, however, access can be automatically and remotely granted or revoked based on job role, and vehicles can be immobilized to prevent potential thefts.

When hotels made the innovative decision to digitize room keys, they kick-started a digital transformation journey for the entire industry. By replacing physical keys with digital keycards and now implementing self-check-in kiosks, customer service soared, creating back-end efficiencies that improved productivity and saved money.

Fleets can do the same by digitizing each vehicle’s key, moving it to the cloud, and allowing it to be managed automatically. This move often begins a fleet’s digital transformation journey, creating opportunities to enhance security and control, improve operational efficiencies, and uncover critical cost savings.

Click here to learn more about how the Ridecell fleet automation and mobility solution helps enhance fleet operations, increase productivity, and improve customer service.

Mark Thomas, Executive VP of Alliances & Marketing, Ridecell

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