When he created Knowcross 16 years ago in India, Nikhil Nath knew that he wanted to take his startup global. Today, Knowcross provides hotel-management software and technology intelligence to hotels in 40 countries, working with Two Roads Hospitality, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Kempinski Hotels, Radisson Hotel Group, IHG's Holiday Inn brand and Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts, and it has offices in London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington, D.C.
“Our focus was really international,” Karen O’Neill, president for the Americas at Knowcross, said about the company's early years. “We made headway in that space, of course initially in India, and then in Europe and Asia. We were deep-rooted in a lot of groups and international chains.” Over the years, mergers and acquisitions made the landscape smaller in one respect while new brand launches made it larger in another. “The market is really evolving and there's such a great need for this hotel operation software,” said O’Neill.
Evolving With the Industry
Knowcross’ two “anchor products,” as O’Neill calls them, are its service platform and housekeeping platform. The former is used to create tasks within the application to handle customer requirements through an automated platform, while the latter is focused on taking the processes that have been around in housekeeping departments for decades and making them more efficient.
Other products in the company’s portfolio help automate checklists for managers on duty or assist with service resolutions. “Glitch analyzes and evaluates how your hotel handles the resolution of a specific incident at the property and/or what the cost is of that resolution component," O'Neill said. "It's very useful information to know based on your employees, but also based on your guest experience, of course.” The newest service is the maintenance program, which automates, schedules and monitors all preventive-maintenance activities. All of Knowcross’ programs can be run on all kinds of mobile devices, and are “device-agnostic” when it comes to Apple vs. Android, tablet vs. phone.
Evolving with the industry, said O’Neill, means constantly examining the product set and finding ways to make hotels operate more efficiently. “We’re taking some of these processes and procedures that have been historically [handled by someone with a] clipboard,” she said. “They haven't been automated; they've been a manual process. People are still using walkie talkies. People are still printing out sheets from their property-management system in the morning and by the time they get to the other room, it's outdated. So we’re really trying to take that up a level and automate that whole approach and the systems for operational efficiency.”
But while Knowcross is looking to update existing procedures, O’Neill emphasizes that the company is not looking to be a disruptor, particularly when it comes to housekeeping solutions. “We want to think about things differently, because you're sitting on so much important information in the housekeeping platform about the status of your rooms.” Bringing information about both a hotel’s rooms and its guests together can give the hoteliers vital information about what those guests want and need. “We're allowing the staff at your property to have that true kind of 360-degree view of their rooms, but also what's experienced by the guest. And so I think that that's a very special, unique differentiator for us.
Happy to be rounding off International Housekeeping Week with the amazing staff at our newest customer - Aston Waikiki Circle Hotel. #internationalhousekeepingweek #knowcross pic.twitter.com/EfYJ2vBFbH— Knowcross (@Knowacross) September 14, 2018
Notably, said O’Neill, Knowcross’ solutions are all staff-facing, rather than balancing platforms for hoteliers with platforms for guests. “In some ways, it's a strength because we know our direction,” she said. “We've charted our course on where we want to focus, whereas some of our competition has dabbled in certain other elements, so they might have a guest-facing app and they might have a staff-facing app—and I think that that can sometimes get a little bit tricky.”
Logic In Logistics
While O’Neill was excited to join an international company like Knowcross, she was aware that the business did not have strong brand awareness in the U.S., or even in the Americas as a region. Still, the company has taken advantage of its existing international relationships to forge ahead. “As an example, the Hoxton group utilizes our platform and they have a lot of great properties all over Europe and are now launching in the U.S.,” O’Neill said. “They just opened the property in Williamsburg [in New York City]. And so they obviously knew who we were because we had done business with them.” Beyond that, the company’s sales development team is building brand awareness through cold calls and other outreach efforts to educate hoteliers about what the company offers.
Clicking With Clients
Relationships have been a mainstay in O’Neill's life, going back to the 15 years she spent at Micros Systems. “I still keep in touch with some of those same people, and I've built a reputation of being somebody who cares about the relationships that I have in the industry,” she said. The company’s offices in Washington, D.C., also make meeting clients easy because they are close to the headquarters of Marriott International, Hilton, Choice Hotels International, HMSHost, Interstate Hotels & Resorts and Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, among others. “We want to do business with the big jumbo accounts that are out there, and certainly we took that into account when we decided to move to Washington, D.C., because Marriott and Hilton are both within 15 minutes from where our headquarters are,” O’Neill said. “But that's only one segment of the business that we're trying to go after. We also go after some of the midtier accounts that are out there, everything from Omni Hotels [& Resorts] to Highgate to Interstate.”