SAN FRANCISCO—Are hotel employees left behind in the technology revolution? Inkling founder and CEO Matt MacInnis says a resounding yes. His solution: an end-to-end platform for mobile learning content. It serves as a field workforce enablement platform that allows enterprises to communicate more efficiently with distributed workers and their managers, and it lets those managers coordinate with their own employees through messaging and task management.
“Working across a number of industries, the opportunity is massive for mobile devices to change the work lives of tens of millions of people,” said MacInnis. “No one wants to read a manual about how to do their job. We need to engage them with video and let them chat with their boss the same way they chat with their friends. At the same time, we need to start gathering data that drives business insight about these employees.”
The cloud publishing company, based here, launched in 2009 and initially focused on the publishing industry—textbooks, consumer books, etc. When a major coffee chain inquired about the software, it was a turning point that would lead to solving a much more valuable problem, explained MacInnis.
“As it turns out, they were shipping binders every quarter to their district managers, and they wanted to move that communication to iPads. Dumping PDFs onto the devices wasn’t going to cut it,” said MacInnis. “Along with other big-name customers, they opened our eyes to the opportunity to serve field workers on mobile devices. Most of these field workers have effectively been left untouched by information technology. So there’s an obvious business opportunity to help enterprises better deal with these workers.”
Inkling prides itself on its holistic approach to serving the client and the software’s ease of use, which fosters engagement and stickiness among users, according to MacInnis. The platform is designed to replace PDFs, binders, WhatsApp, SMS and paper worksheets in order to drive workflow above and within hotels.
“It’s a tough balance to achieve, but it gets back to our heritage as a consumer company. Employees actually use the product, and that’s what ultimately drives value for our customers,” he said. “If you’re putting mobile devices in their hands, you need Inkling, or something like it. The benefit behind the execution utility itself is the real-time data you get back at the home office. We can show you who is engaging with the system, what they’re up to, and even build dashboards that show correlations between CSAT, revenue or other KPIs that you want to associate with employee behavior.”
Managing effective communication and coordination between teams has its operational challenges, especially when there numerous people and levels of hierarchy involved. MacInnis noted that uncontrolled mobile device use, and the use of unsanctioned chat software can introduce risk and inefficiency.
“This all translates into labor cost, of course, and guest satisfaction problems. When tasks aren’t done right, aren’t done on time or aren’t done at all, that costs money in one form or another. In hospitality, it’s about customers showing up and having a consistent experience in line with the brand promise. That requires excellence in team performance,” he said. “By helping companies better coordinate and measure their field organizations, whether it’s at the corporate headquarters level or just a single operator with a few locations, the visibility we provide drives operational excellence. And that ultimately drives profit.”
While it’s pertinent today, MacInnis also sees field operations management as a big concept in the future.
“When a VIP customer enters the lobby, everyone in the lobby should instantly receive a notification on their watch that this particular person has arrived, who they are and when they were last in the hotel,” he said. “The data for that magical moment is available already; it just has nowhere to go. Inkling is that last mile, brought together with all the other things that people need to work with one another every day.”