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Red Lion Hotels finds the right connection.

When Red Lion Hotels and Inns took over management of the Red Lion Hotel Denver at Stapleton Airport last year, the property had already received a $13 million, top-to-bottom facelift of 576 guest rooms and features such as its magnificent lobby of marble and rare wood paneling.

But the new management was not happy with other features of the hotel less visible to guests, particularly an obsolete phone system.

So Red Lion moved quickly to provide the hotel with the guest service it considers vital to its commitment to attracting business travelers--a state-of-the-art phone system that turns guest rooms into offices on the road.

The phone system is the most recent accomplishment of a partnership between Red Lion Hotels and Inns and US West Large Business Services, which has given the hotel chain a telecomm capability second to none.

The Denver Red Lion Hotel is the latest to be taken over by the fast-growing 51-hotel chain. Red Lion owns most of the hotels, located in 10 western states. The Denver property, however, is owned by Cigna Corp., which signed a management agreement with Red Lion.

"The phone system we found when we went in was ancient in technological terms," says US West Account Manager Jim Linkous. "It was at least 16 years old and had long since become obsolete."

"The business traveler is the heart and soul of the hospitality industry," says Clifford D. Barry, Red Lion Hotels and Inns' vice president/systems, "and the business traveler is mainly interested in two things: comfort and convenience.

"Sure, other hotel chains can look at some of the features we offer and say, 'We have that,' but in terms of the whole package, and the reliability, I don't know who can beat us."

Reliability was the major problem with the old system. It was plagued by breakdowns, a serious problem for business travelers. It did not have such basic features as message waiting, and it gave callers problems in using telephone credit cards. Worse, it was sometimes unable to complete long-distance calls. The new system ends those problems and offers a variety of new conveniences, including a data port on the guest phones for portable PCs.

One unique feature automatically alerts the front desk and identifies the room from which a 911 call is dialed. In the past, an emergency dispatcher could identify only the hotel. Hotel guests dialing 911 might be unable to speak, because of a medical condition or other situation.

NEC developed the feature in response to a request from Red Lion for added security. It allows hotel personnel to immediately direct responding police, rescue or fire units to the room in which the emergency is occurring, saving precious minutes. The system is manned 24 hours a day.

The new Denver phone system is hooked into Red Lion's computerized property management system, so calls are automatically entered on the bill, speeding checkout and eliminating erroneous billing. A new automatic call distribution (ACD) system also makes the reservation process faster and easier.

When a guest calls room service or housekeeping, the room number and guest's name are displayed on the receiving console. That ensures delivery of services to the right room, even if the guest gives the wrong room number, and allows hotel employees to greet the guest by name, another opportunity for personal service, says Barry.

The new system can deliver all wakeup calls within a minute or so of the time requested, regardless of the volume, with a voice message instead of a ring.

"That may seem like a small item," he says, "but it is important, particularly to the airline crews that stay at our locations near airports. Like so many other small items, it can be the one that decides whether a guest chooses Red Lion or some other hotel next time."

The upgraded telecomm system improves the hotel's ability to serve meetings and conventions.

"If a company plans a trade show and needs to demonstrate 12 new brands of fax machines," says Linkous, "we can have new lines installed faster than they can get the tables up and the fax machines on them."

US West supplied dial tone and equipment to Red Lion in the hotels within its service territory for over 22 years, but Red Lion viewed them strictly as a supplier, Barry says.

Three years ago, Red Lion began to draw on the telco's expertise as a consultant and problem-solver. Red Lion's new emphasis on its telecomm systems led to a working relationship with US West that cut average installation time in half, with greatly reduced maintenance problems. Linkous says that system installation in the Denver hotel, for example, took just a month, compared to an industry average of two months for a system of that size.

In the past four years, a voice mail system and an ACD for central reservations at corporate headquarters and a variety of the latest digital equipment have been installed at 23 Red Lion Hotels, improving overall voice quality. The RBOC provides maintenance service for all 36 locations.

Other plans include network improvements to increase communications speed and reliability. Hotel management are also investigating installation of a network reservation system and exploring videoconferencing.

"Today we can point to the reliability and currentness of our telecomm equipment as one of our most valuable assets," says Barry.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:upgrading of telecommunication system
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:888
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