As of late summer 2022, SMARTments runs eight properties with 1,038 units across tier one and two cities in Germany and Austria.
Whether for a leisure or work trip, SMARTments offers a variety of attractive accommodation options for stays ranging from a few days to several months. The modern serviced apartments and studios are always close to their respective city’s key business, entertainment or lifestyle hubs. This, along with SMARTments’ dedication to a tech-driven, smooth guest journey, makes them the ideal choice for travelers who seek comfort and convenience.
We recently had a chat with Daniel Zawe, Managing Director, and Markus Leu, Director of Operations at SMARTments. They highlighted how Apaleo’s API-first property management platform helped them automate most manual processes, save vast amounts of time and offer travelers a digitalized guest journey.
Challenge: Losing time with repetitive manual tasks and a lack of customization options throughout the guest journey
In the past, the teams at SMARTments’ properties handled many tasks manually during the arrival process. That included filing registration cards, processing credit cards and creating room keys. This created a drawn-out check-in process for guests and left receptionists little time for quality interactions. To speed things up and allow travelers to skip the front desk, Daniel and Markus implemented self-service check-in kiosks integrated with their legacy PMS. However, this solution didn’t yield satisfactory results – neither for the guests nor for the team.
“Our previous PMS provider didn’t make it easy to automate repetitive tasks or customize the guest journey. We thought the kiosk might address this issue by giving guests the flexibility to choose a self-check-in. But the system was too error-prone and didn’t lighten our team’s load or create a better guest experience the way we had hoped,” says Markus.
Solution: Increased level of automation via Apaleo’s API-first hotel management platform
Apaleo’s API-first approach proved to be the ideal solution. First, the Apaleo PMS allowed SMARTments to digitalize and automate several steps of the check-in process via the integration with Straiv or hotelbird, depending on the property. This included tasks like processing registration cards, taking payment details and sending a welcome email with hotel information. Now, travelers can take care of these formalities before even walking through the door.
Apaleo’s connection to the property’s access systems adds an extra level of convenience. It gives guests the option of using a mobile key instead of having to pick up a key card at the front desk. In Q3, 2022, nearly 20% used this option.
“Automating large parts of check-in makes the arrival process smoother for our staff and guests. Saving time on these manual tasks also leaves our team more time to be real hosts rather than just do administrative tasks. This creates a better experience for the guests because our receptionists can take the time to provide more attentive service,” Markus explains.
Result: A personalized, efficient guest journey where nearly 100% of check-ins are now digital
Since implementing Apaleo and its integration partners, SMARTments have been able to cut back on manual tasks during check-in by 70%. On top of that, nearly 100% of travelers use the brand’s digital check-in option and 72.6% complete all formalities pre-arrival.
“Considering that we had over 7,000 reservations in Q3, 2022, it’s easy to see how much time this new approach saves us. And looking at the high adoption rate, it’s clear that our guests appreciate our new arrival process as much as we do,” says Daniel.
Challenge: Cumbersome reports made it difficult and time-consuming to access, analyze and act on data
Reporting and data analysis were major challenges for SMARTments prior to using Apaleo. Their previous system offered hardly any options to customize reports. This meant the team had to download pre-set reports and comb through them to find the specific data points they needed. That was difficult as the data extracts usually came in the form of massive poorly formatted files.
“Trying to get data from our old system was frustrating. Manually going through and combining huge spreadsheets to answer a simple question could take us hours or even days. The worst was that data points often didn’t even match from one report to the next. That meant we regularly had to make an educated guess rather than a data-driven decision,” says Markus.
Solution: A well-integrated system where data flows freely between tools
Apaleo makes it much easier for SMARTments to access, extract and analyze their data. In a few clicks, the team can choose which information they want and download only the relevant data points. Thanks to Apaleo’s open API, these insights can flow directly into PowerBI by Microsoft, SMARTments’ business and market intelligence tool. Here, the team can quickly create the customized reports they need for a detailed performance analysis.
“We wanted a system that gives us access to the insights we need when we need them. Apaleo offers exactly that. Its reporting is fast, clear and straightforward. And since Apaleo shares data with our other BI tools, we can now review all the information in one place,” Daniel elaborates.
Result: Fast, accurate reporting and quick, informed decisions
The ability to create comprehensive yet easy-to-digest reports by integrating Apaleo to PowerBI saves the SMARTments team tremendous amounts of time. Instead of having to spend up to twelve hours manually combing through data extracts to collate relevant points, now they can pull the needed reports in minutes. That leaves more time to analyze results and develop new strategies to boost sales and revenue.
“Quick access to data makes it easier to answer questions during ExCom, owner and investor meetings. The deeper and more reliable insights also allow us to better analyze our revenue management and distribution. For example, now we have the numbers to prove which guest segments and booking channels bring the most profitable business. As a result, we concentrate more on them to boost overall profitability,” Daniel goes on to say.
Challenge: Lacking customer support negatively impacts operations and business results
Getting the needed support wasn’t always easy with SMARTments’ old PMS provider. While the team did their best to respond, some issues simply couldn’t be resolved adequately.
“Even after around two years of back and forth, the check-in kiosk still didn’t work flawlessly. That negatively impacted the guest experience and created extra work for our team. The above-mentioned reporting issues couldn’t be corrected either, which made it hard to get accurate data. Having experienced these issues made it especially important for us that our new PMS partner would provide knowledgeable, reliable and quick support,” Daniel says.
Solution: Quick responses, a supportive community and a high degree of autonomy
Apaleo offers SMARTments support in several ways. First, the in-house team responds to questions and issues regarding the Apaleo platform itself. Second, all of Apaleo’s integration partners are known for their dedication to customer support. That way the SMARTments team can be sure that all providers in the Apaleo Store will offer the needed help and guidance. Third, the Apaleo Community of hospitality and hotel tech experts offers a place to exchange ideas and get answers to practical questions.
Finally, Apaleo offers SMARTments a high degree of independence when it comes to modifying their tech stack and individual settings. The platform makes it easy for them to test and add new solutions in a few clicks or change how their existing tools work together. But of course, the customer success team is always ready to offer the needed support and guidance along the way.
Result: A strong and effective collaboration fuels a smooth transition
From the beginning, Daniel and Markus appreciated the open communication and quick responses from Apaleo’s team. This made the transition of all SMARTments properties to the new PMS easier than expected. It also allowed them to quickly implement their new tech stack and create the digital guest journey they had envisioned. Today, they’re often able to make changes on their own, which again saves time and leaves them in full control of their tech set-up.
“So far, everything we’ve done with Apaleo has been amazing. The customer success team is extremely helpful and has made the effort to build a strong personal relationship with us. We often share ideas for new solutions or approaches with them because we know they take our feedback seriously and act on it. By now, Apaleo has become more than a tech supplier for us. They’ve become our trusted partners for the long haul,” concludes Daniel.
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Given their great results with Apaleo so far, it’ll be exciting to see where SMARTments go from here. Daniel and Markus already shared plans around implementing and integrating their guest app to create an even more customized experience for travelers. A new housekeeping tool that will help staff communicate more effectively and streamline operations is also on their minds. And with Apaleo’s ever-growing list of forward-thinking tech partners, new opportunities to innovate will keep presenting themselves.
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