Sheraton: technology can make the difference


Sheraton is at the top because of their ongoing efforts in the areas of communication, flexibility and innovation.

Isabelle Verhaeghe


Olivier Uytterhoeven, MIS manager at Brussels Complex for the Starwood group, is responsible for ICT there: "There are five hotels within the Starwood group in Belgium. That means a lot of communication. It is primarily mobile communication, essentially because we have employees distributed across the five hotels. We aim to be pioneers in this area, because we know that technology really can make the difference. For example, we were the first company in Belgium to introduce BlackBerrys. We immediately knew BlackBerrys were not just a craze. The ability to read your e-mails on your mobile is vital for the many employees who move backwards and forwards between the five hotels."


And you were the first Orange customer to replace DECT devices with GSM mobiles. All your employees have a GSM mobile.

Isabelle Verhaeghe


The power of belonging

Some hotel employees are on the road a lot, others always work in the same hotel, others work in different hotels, etc. With this in mind, Sheraton wanted to develop a solution that would take these different profiles into account.


All employees have a mobile and just as in the past they can be contacted via their four-digit short code, even on their mobiles. A Sheraton employee, for example, can be contacted on his mobile at home using a short code, and he can call his colleague from home using a short code.

Isabelle Verhaeghe

Hotel employees find this solution helpful, because they all have fixed telephony features on their mobiles even outside hotel areas, including Conference Call and Call Forwarding, as well as the usual features of a mobile phone: a 'missed calls' summary, an address book, full SMS functionality, etc.

Significantly, Sheraton also maintains sophisticated cost controls. Isabelle Verhaeghe comments again: "Sheraton has created a profile for each type of user: some employees can only make calls within hotel areas, others can only dial Sheraton's own fixed and mobile numbers, others can make unlimited calls, etc."

Orange has brought the five hotels in the Starwood group that lie within Brussels into a single virtual zone within the Orange mobile network. This solution automatically leads to savings. Isabelle Verhaeghe: "Within this zone the employees can use mobiles to call national and international land lines at our attractive fixed telephony tariffs. Using our fleet option, employees can call each other free of charge within Belgium, regardless of whether they are using a land line or a mobile. That is true even if one of them is travelling."

In a hotel, of course, the guests always come first. According to Olivier Uytterhoeven, technology has a vital part to play in maintaining customer focus, especially since most of their guests are business people, certainly at Sheraton hotels: "Today's customers know exactly what they want. Top of the list is their desire to have the best communication facilities throughout the hotel: fast internet in their room and Wi-Fi and telephony throughout the hotel. The customer wants to come into the lobby already talking on the phone, take the lift to the 12th floor and continue talking on his mobile all the way. That seems quite easy and logical. For our guests, they see all this as simply a commodity, and to a certain extent that is true. Nevertheless there is a whole infrastructure behind it. Thanks to Orange we can guarantee seamless communication throughout the hotel. We also use their services for fixed telephony and Internet connections."


The coverage within the hotels is certainly important. We carry out measurements within the hotels and to achieve optimum coverage, we install extra aerials inside the building where necessary.

Isabelle Verhaeghe



One of the strengths of the Starwood group, and the Sheraton Brussels Airport in particular, is flexibility. "We are running the only hotel at Zaventem airport. This is a place where business people come and go. It is also a unique venue for meetings, where people have very specific needs", explains Olivier Uytterhoeven. "Often there are significant challenges in terms of bandwidth or connectivity. At a conference, our customers need to be able to give presentations using live internet, they expect to have unique IP addresses for 400 to 500 people, they expect a number of dedicated lines, personalized messages in hotel rooms, etc. In each situation we try to deliver exactly what the customer wants. That is one of our key strengths."

Orange turns out to be the perfect partner for all this. "Orange is just as flexible as we are in terms of the service they provide. They have offered us solutions and a contract that are perfectly tailored to our needs. In that way we can serve our customers within a well-controlled cost base."

And if, for example, we ask Orange to increase the bandwidth, activate a SIM card or open a conference line, Orange respods very quickly," he says. "Their guaranteed service and fast response times are clear benefits. And on top of that, there's the fact that we have only one contact with a great level of flexibility. It's no coincidence that we have been working with Isabelle for nine years!"



Guests expect more from a hotel than just a perfect, flexible service. "In the past hotels have always pioneered new trends. That was where you found the latest television and the softest bedclothes. In terms of technology, however, hotels have increasingly been lagging behind. In the Starwood group, we are trying to make a difference in exactly that area", says Olivier Uytterhoeven. "We offer guests at the Aloft Brussels Schuman hotel a self-service check-in so that they can check themselves in quickly and efficiently and go straight to their rooms."

And there is much more. "For example, we are working on an iPhone application that regular guests can use to open the door to their hotel room using their smartphone. That is one way of strengthening our bond with our customers", he says. "In our sector, that is what it is all about", concludes Olivier Uytterhoeven. "For a hotel, customer loyalty is vital."


Joining forces

For Olivier Uytterhoeven, the rapid change that is constantly taking place in the ICT sector is a challenge that he relishes: "The only way to stay up to date in this constantly changing world is to be flexible, anticipating what customers will want and responding to it. That is difficult but exciting. Always keeping ahead of the latest developments is essential. Orange helps us a lot with that."


What is important to us is to meet together on a regular basis and provide updates on our latest products and services, as well as new developments. It is equally important that they tell us the directions in which they want to go and describe the telecom needs they would like to meet.

Isabelle Verhaeghe

Finally, Olivier Uytterhoeven mentions another important point: "Orange works with an ecosystem of different partners, not just with one mega-partner. That makes them unique in the market. It gives us a much wider choice and greater flexibility. Looking beyond your own front door is yet another way to join forces."

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