citizenM is an innovative hotel concept that has won numerous industry awards since its launch at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport in summer 2008. It established a unique brand of affordable luxury for the contemporary mobile citizen. In autumn 2010, citizenM moved into the UK market with a new-build hotel in Glasgow. One London property followed in 2012 and more sites are due to open in New York, Rotterdam and Paris in 2013-14.
The success of citizenM is built on a unique guest experience as much as on low operating costs. In traditional hospitality concepts, combining the two seems like trying to square the circle, as the further refinement of guest amenities would inevitably lead to higher costs.
Together with Swisscom, citizenM ventured a novel approach based on the efficient use of IP networking technology: A unified IP network environment allows different applications to actually “talk to one another” and permits a high level of guest personalization. At the same time, the clustering of all guest and hotel applications into a single network enables the hotel group to reduce its IT operations and maintenance costs to a minimum.
All IT assets are remotely monitored through Swisscom’s specialized network operations. Service issues are pro-actively resolved and referred to the competent party where required, be it a local Swisscom partner or the respective application provider.
In autumn 2009, Swisscom was instructed to advise citizenM on the most efficient use of technology for its Glasgow hotel project. From a catalogue of IP-compliant technologies, citizenM chose its preferred service providers for its PBX system, the room lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), while IPTV and HSIA services were sourced directly from Swisscom.
Subsequently, Swisscom built an integrated wired and wireless infrastructure for citizenM Glasgow that accommodates all chosen applications as well as more than 800 onsite hardware assets, including the hotel’s check-in e-kiosks and CCTV cameras, streamers and LAN switches as well as all IPTV devices, room controllers and telephones. Several network layers were interfaced as to become fully interoperable. For instance, data obtained from the guest’s online room reservation are available at check-in and in the guest room, while additional user settings and preferences are fed back into citizenM’s back-office systems.
Building on the previous Glasgow experience, the new citizenM hotel on London’s South Bank could be deployed in less than 2 months’ time between April and June 2012, while introducing customized room tablets as an additional element to all guest rooms.
Swisscom moreover enables citizenM to make use of virtualized applications and the benefits of cloud computing: The chain’s Property Management System and CRM (provided by Hetras) reside in a remotely hosted data center and now serves as a central resource for all citizenM properties. Likewise, the hotel PBX telephone system (a software based solution provided by NEC) has been moved ‘into the computing cloud’ – and can be used for any forthcoming citizenM hotels without incurring any further set-up costs.
Remote solution hosting allows citizenM to streamline its costs, benefit from economies of scale and also provides a foundation for further business expansion across the citizenM hotel group. Cloud computing clearly facilitates the chain’s aggressive expansion throughout Europe, North America and Asia.
By not having to deal with IT, process cash or check-in paperwork, front of house staff are freed up to concentrate on serving their guests. In terms of labor ratios, the hotel employs one full-time employee for every five rooms compared to the industry average of one full-time employee for every two rooms: a 60% savings on this important cost element.
Guests value citizenM’s service improvements: They can check in autonomously at an e-kiosk without having to wait for the next available front desk clerk; they can pay at the canteen cashier simply by scanning their RFID room card; and they control their room settings – temperature, ambiance, entertainment, wake-up calls – through a handy room tablet. Human touch and attention is found where guests appreciate it most: at the bar and in the public area that invites them to make themselves feel at home.
Says Michael Levie, Partner and COO of citizenM: “Swisscom is our single partner for all IT needs. Working with a professional service provider in this specialized area allows us to focus 100% on our guests.”