The hospitality industry is fast paced and highly competitive, with tight profit margins. Effective use of technology, from initial deployments to ongoing support, impacts customer satisfaction as well as the bottom line.

While the food and drink keep the guests satisfied their overall experience is also dependent on the infrastructure of the venue, everything from the lighting and atmosphere to the Information Technology (IT), information security and payment systems. In addition to which the hospitality industry needs to protect itself from the rising wave of cybercrime.

The 2013 Trustwave Global Security Reporthighlighted that Australia is now the second largest target for cybercriminals and that retail, food & beverage and hospitality represent the three most compromised industries.

Let’s look at how an efficient system can pay dividends for a smart venue owner by lowering costs while improving customer service, staff productivity and security.

A typical IT system in a hospitality venue might be set up as follows:

  • Three payment terminals (two behind the bar, one in the dining area)
  • Three phone lines for the payment terminals to connect to the bank
  • A third phone line for another payment terminal with a shared connection to a telephone for reservations or customer enquiries
  • One broadband Internet connection for the back office computers, used for ordering and accounting.

This scenario merits some consideration. It’s a complex system that was set up with the intention of making things easy.

Unfortunately, multiple devices sharing lines are complicating matters, and preventing the venue from getting the full value out of its IT system.

It’s too much of everything: too much complexity, too many shared connections, and most importantly for the venue owner, too much money.

The three phone lines for the payment terminals to connect to the bank aren’t efficient, and are actually a hidden cost to the business. Margins in the service industry can be razor thin, and driving down costs is an imperative for any business owner.

What’s the alternative?

A MerchantSecure Network Security, Management & Productivity Solution could be set up. MerchantSecure is a fully managed network security and compliance service, allowing businesses to focus their attention on their day-to-day operations. Using the MerchantSecure Network Security, Management & Productivity service, all the site’s devices can be connected through a single appliance connected directly via secure public broadband, that’s easier, faster, and cheaper to administer.

It binds together all the disparate elements into one integrated system that works together to help the business run efficiently. By removing all but one phone line and taking advantage of an Internet-based IP system with a network security appliance, the connection speed improves so card transactions sail through in seconds.

The venue can eliminate the multiple phone lines and instead use just one Internet connection. In addition to which the MerchantSecure appliance has an inbuilt 3G back up facility to ensure business processes can continue uninterrupted even when fixed lines go down.

What’s more, the MerchantSecure service keeps sensitive information such as cardholder data separated from the rest of the computer system, so that the venue meets new security measures to protect customer card information called the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).

The MerchantSecure appliance has an option to provide secure wireless (Wi-Fi) Internet access – a great value add-on that can enhance guest experience and encourage longer stays in the dining area. The system also incorporates monitoring, so management knows what sites are accessed, when, by whom and for how long. This is known as the Guardian Content Filtering feature and it permits blocked or restricted Internet access through customisable settings and an easy to use interface. This not only provides an appropriate customer experience it can also be configured to improve staff productivity by restricting staff access to non-work related sites during working hours, while restricting access to web sites which may harbour dangerous malware.

MerchantSecure units are administered over the Internet through a Central Management System (CMS), so network configurations and settings can be remotely adjusted from anywhere, anytime. This means that if a technical issue should arise, it can be dealt with remotely without the need for an on-site technician. MerchantSecure network appliances are plug-and-play, so non-technical staff can connect and set up the basic functionality without the need for a costly onsite engineers.

In short, it’s a simpler system that reduces costs, improves payment processing response times, increases security and staff productivity while improving the customer experience – padding the bottom line of the venue owner.

Upgrading to a service such as MerchantSecure can increase customer satisfaction, reduce costs, secure the business infrastructure, increase staff productivity, foster a better working environment and broaden service options. It’s a compelling opportunity for hospitality businesses and a great way to get the edge over the competition.

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