How to modernize your motel phone system

Mike Langberg profile image May 16, 2024 | 8 min read

Updating your motel phones to a cloud-based system is a lofty goal. As you start mapping out the process, it’s perfectly natural to have lots of questions. Will there be hidden costs? Can I keep my same phone numbers? How will I deal with any delays? Will messy rip-and-replacements cause me to lose bookings or annoy my guests? Will our phone service go offline during the transition? The list goes on.

Instead of letting any of these concerns cause you to scuttle the project, let’s uncloud the process of switching from an analog phone system to an internet phone system. This guide will help answer these common questions:

  • What is a VoIP phone system?
  • What hardware and software will you need?
  • What are the signs that your motel’s phone system needs to be modernized?
  • Which VoIP business phone features can help you give guests a 5-star experience?
  • What are the steps to finding the best VoIP service provider?
  • What does a 5-star phone upgrade look like?

VoIP phone systems

Chances are you’re very familiar with VoIP phones, just not the terminology. That’s because VoIP phone systems go by many names: internet phone systems, cloud-based systems, IP telephony and hosted PBX systems. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, which is the set of standards that make it possible to communicate through an internet connection, rather than the traditional copper wire system. Go to business cloud phone systems to learn more.

Using VoIP technology to power your motel phone system is the key to providing staff and guests with the modern communication tools they’ve come to expect. An additional benefit is that switching to VoIP will probably dramatically lower your monthly service costs. Not only that, you can use your current phones if you want, and save some money there, too.

Hardware and software to transition to VoIP

The beauty of transitioning to a VoIP phone system is that you don’t need to purchase new equipment or software. VoIP technology works with traditional phones and since it’s cloud-based, the servers are hosted and managed by your VoIP service provider.

Although you don’t need to purchase new phones, you may want to. Upgrading to the right IP phones makes it super easy to take advantage of the advanced features you’ll be able to access with a VoIP phone system.

If you want to purchase new phones, first take an inventory of the different types of phones you’ll need for your hotel or motel. For example, guests will appreciate modern phones that can be pre-programmed with buttons to direct dial the front desk, room service or 911. And your housekeeping staff will like the sleek lines that make newer phones easier to sanitize. Determine how many phones you’ll need for your administrative staff and any call center employees. If you have meeting rooms, you may want to invest in IP conference phones.

POTS line replacement solution

Your hotel may be using traditional phone lines for elevator phones, fire alarm panels, pool phones, building entry systems, fax machines and more. Ooma AirDial® is an all-in-one solution to digitally upgrade your analog lines so you can keep these vital pieces of equipment connected when you transition to a VoIP phone system. This means you don’t have to rip out and replace the equipment or the lines. AirDial service provides everything you need—the hardware, software and cloud telephony. It even includes a remote device management web portal so you can keep track of all the pieces of equipment that are connected to your AirDial device.

Analog telephone adapters (ATAs)

Another option for traditional fax machines in your office or guest business center is to connect them to your VoIP phone system through analog telephone adapters (ATAs). Or, you can use the virtual faxing feature and get rid of those big clunky machines altogether.

Signs that it’s time to modernize your motel phone system

motel with a neon welcome vacancy sign

Not quite sure if this is the right time to transition to VoIP phone system? Here are a few telltale signs that should grab your attention faster than a neon vacancy sign:

  • You’re paying more for phone service than you did last year.
  • Call quality is poor.
  • Your 911 system provides emergency services a building address, but not the actual room and floor of the caller, as mandated by the RAY BAUM’S Act.
  • Guests are complaining that their wake-up calls are late or missed.
  • Check in and check out can only be done at the front desk.

Rest assured that a VoIP phone system can ease all of these pain points and more:

  • Monthly service for VoIP phone systems is less expensive than traditional phone systems. But the savings don’t end there. You don’t need to pay for a technician call every time you want to add a line or feature. A cloud-based system allows you to manage your system online.
  • VoIP technology provides crystal-clear call quality. How? Ooma uses an intelligent transmission technology called adaptive redundancy. It counters data packet loss, which can make a call sound garbled, by automatically transmitting redundant packets to fill in the audio blanks.
  • The requirements of the RAY BAUM’S Act, a federal law to ensure that precise location, not merely a building address, is provided to emergency services when 911 calls are made from a room in a large building.
  • Kari’s Law, passed by Congress in 2018, requires direct 911 dialing and notification capabilities in multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) that are typically found in hotels, campuses and office buildings. This statute applies to MLTS manufactured, first sold or leased, or installed after February 16, 2020.
  • VoIP opens the door so you can take advantage of advanced features, like dependable wake-up calls and the ability to check in or out online.

Business phone features for a 5-star phone upgrade

To understand just how an expanded range of phone options can affect your hotel or motel, let’s walk through some advanced business phone features. This list breaks them down by three very important groups—your guests, your direct-service employees and your management team.

Features to delight guests

  • Tailored messages by guest profiles: Welcome VIP guests and loyalty members with special messages and offers
  • Guest-centric wake-up call service
  • Voicemail options
  • Automatic notifications of amenities, events, loyalty discounts and anticipated service impacts in the event of a maintenance issue—you can even retract unheard voice messages when the issue is resolved
  • Voicemail messages about checkout procedures sent the day before they check out
  • Improved safety: Help EMT find guests easily with E911 and comply with safety legislation
  • Direct-dial phone buttons to reach the concierge desk, room service, front desk, airport shuttle
bellhop smiles as he looks at his smartphone and holds the handle of a guest's suitcase

Features to motivate hard-working staff to provide a great guest experience

  • Technology, like mobile apps, to communicate more effectively and quickly when serving guests or when collaborating to resolve day-to-day challenges
  • Empowerment to automate room statuses, schedule wake-up calls, reset text-message lights, apply mini bar charges and set additional guest-centric information such as class of service, do not disturb and phone name displays
  • Integration with property management systems, like Opera, Maestro, Infor, Marriott Full Service, OnQ for Hilton, WynGuest and RoomKey, making it easy to create bills, as well as personalizing call and internet pricing
smartphone app showing service information for a hotel guest

Phone Features to delight management

  • Easy to monitor and manage/customize phone features
  • Unlimited calling in the U.S., Mexico and Canada
  • 99.999% availability of the phone service
  • Backup internet options, like Ooma Connect, to keep your hotel running
  • Ability to create a safer environment by sending audio and text-based alerts that an emergency call was made so staff can direct guests and emergency services
  • Seamless, hassle-free call center booking experiences
  • Web-based reporting tools for insights on improvement opportunities for cost management, departmental usage, fraud detection, and auditing and reconciliation processes

Steps to make the transition

Once you have a good idea of the features you and your team want, it’s time to compare and evaluate service plans from different providers. This can be a daunting task given the number of VoIP business services out there. To make this more manageable, seek referrals from sources you respect. Ask your business networking groups for recommendations. Search for unbiased lists of the best business phone services, like PC Magazine’s Business Choice Awards–PCMag polls its readers every year. More than likely, you’ll find a handful of company names keep popping up, so add them to your short list to research further.

Make sure each provider on your final list offers the features that you want and then start checking their references. Look for online customer reviews and testimonials, and when you get close to making a decision, ask a sales representative if you can speak to some of their customers.

What does a five-star phone upgrade look like?

Basically it comes down to support before, during and after moving to your new provider.

Look for a knowledgeable partner who will help you assess your hotel’s communication needs. Sure, you’ve already got a good idea of what they are, but it’s helpful to have someone confirm that you are on the right path. For example, Ooma Hospitality provides a concierge style white glove service for deployment so that you get off to a solid start.

Another thing to look for is a service provider who will deploy your new phone system at a time that works for your motel or hotel, not what’s most convenient for the provider. Most likely this will be late at night to minimize disruption to your guests and team. Your provider should be able to give you clear expectations from beginning to end, including estimated timeframes. Keep in mind that you don’t have to transition your entire facility at once—you can schedule the work in phases.

And last, but definitely not least, look for a provider with a great reputation for providing round-the-clock support. After all, the hospitality industry operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year and so should your phone service provider.

The bottom line is you want a provider who listens to your concerns and will work to resolve any hiccups as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Ready to modernize your motel phones?

Ooma offers two VoIP phone services—Ooma Office for smaller motels with simpler needs and Ooma Hospitality for larger motels and hotels wanting more robust communication features. Go to ooma.com/business/phone-service/hospitality-services/ for more information or give us a call at (866) 747-6887. An Ooma representative can answer any questions and help you navigate which service will be the best fit for your motel or hotel.

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