Article Response May 19, 2014
by Ronald Lesniak
Faculty Member at the University of California Berkeley and a Member of the UC Berkeley teaching node for the NSF
As the former CEO of Teledex and one of the early pioneers of the latest version of the analog hotel phones, our company placed nearly a Billion dollars worth and tens of millions of these products into almost every luxury hotel guest room in over 125 different countries over the span of about 15 years. Our earliest competitors were AT&T and Northern Telecom at the outset who did not see this market as worth their time. Over time, others have entered the picture with low priced knockoffs.The reality is that the need for this phone remains in place. The emergency application spoken about is joined by the extreme ease of connectivity to hotel guest services by the guests, saving the hotels millions of dollars of operator time handing these simple connections.
I recall using one of the first VoIP telephones provided by a major communications company in a hotel in New York and it took me 5 button depressions to get to the emergency line. The voice messaging system was extremely complicated and not working well either. Simplicity should not be underestimated. Phones owned by guests with built in aps are not the simple solution and will not be ubiquitous for a long time to come.
Unfortunately today there are dozens of companies all trying to replace this simple in room convenience without a lot of traction behind any of them. I was once told by a significant hotel chain executive that “the best phone is the one no one ever hears about.” Quality service is still key the real key.
As long as there are PBX systems in hotels with many different technologies in play, there is likely going to be the need for an inexpensive solution for guest communications. We should all remember that the phone instrument is a high visibility guest amenity. Almost every day there is a room service call, wake up call or early call to the concierge for a car pick up. Every day this device is placed into service and it needs to work. As my friend Michael Gray commented, “In the early days of IP telephony, I would ask my potential customers if they would like there telephones to be as reliable as their network. The answer was almost always no, they needed the telephone to be more reliable”.
This is still true.
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