People outside of the hospitality industry could go a lifetime and never know that hotels typically use specialized software to communicate and manage workflow. But such solutions can be expensive and complicated, often requiring a burdensome installation process and on-site training that can take several days. ChatPrint Hospitality Messaging Solutions, founded in Santa Barbara in 2007, offers a product that seeks to provide a more affordable, less bloated, and more effective alternative.
Founder Greg Schlosser, who has extensive (approximately 14 years) experience in hotel operations, management, and IT, believes that the current industry standard IT solutions aren’t fitting the bill, and boils it down simply.
“It’s all about the guest experience at the end of the day, how you can be more productive and efficient with your staff so that the guest experience is a great one,” Schlosser told The Daily Sound. “It takes just one great stay and you can have loyal guests come back for the rest of their lives . . . that unfortunately works the other way as well.”
ChatPrint’s software, Schlosser says, is not there to provide “200 different reports that can be run for statistical data,” other ultimately non-service-related functions that look good during a sales presentation, but prove cumbersome when system is installed.
“What ends up happening with these solutions is hotels end up paying an enormous amount of money for a system that they are using at about 5% to 10% maximum capability. We’re more about preventing a glitch,” Schlosser said. “When a guest requests, say, a rollaway bed, we want the front desk to be able to communicate it—and the housekeeping department to be able to acknowledge it—instantly. We want to help them provide that great customer service, while keeping everything very simple.”
Schlosser, 37, had a truly international upbringing. He was born in France, though has no trace of an accent due to “living in U.S. on and off for about 30 years.” His love of hotels developed through his father’s job in the pharmaceutical industry, for which the family moved frequently. Those moves took him to many places—and many hotels.
“Who doesn’t love having room service?” he joked.
He attended Taylor’s University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, shortly after which he started an internship at the Regent Kuala Lumpur, a Four Seasons hotel. He stuck with the company, staring in operations positions but ultimately ended up on the technology side of things.
“Only in the hotel industry can you start one place and be able to finish in a completely different field … the beauty of promoting within,” he said, adding that he was “very fortunate” to get hired on by Four Seasons at a young age.
Schlosser stayed with Four Seasons hotels his entire career, at least until he took the entrepreneurial plunge. All in all, he worked at five different Four Seasons hotels. He came to the Santa Barbara area in 2006 to serve as the IT director at the Four Seasons’ Biltmore.
Schlosser’s extensive time spent in hotel operations and information technology gave him the perspective that there would be a market for a simpler hotel software solution, one that echoes his personal philosophy of being extremely customer-service oriented. While he readily acknowledges that current hotel software products are great products, with lots of bells and whistles, and “look amazing in a presentation,” he says they are extremely difficult to implement.
“It’s unrealistic for your typical end-user to use all of the functionality,” he said. Schlosser envisioned a product that was simpler and more direct across the board—using the existing technology of instant messaging and integrating it into a hotel’s operations for interdepartmental communications.
ChatPrint is currently installed in 18 hotels worldwide, locations include France, Spain, Brazil, Indonesia, and Bali. Fitting with the theme of the product’s simplicity and ease of use ChatPrint is remotely installed and remotely trained.
“We don’t need to have someone physically go on site, which these other software products typically require,” said Schlosser. “”Everyone knows how to use [instant messaging]. Within a couple minutes people get it, and hotels can start using it effectively.”
ChatPrint’s staff, in fact, are located remotely. Schlosser is the only member of the five-member ChatPrint team in Santa Barbara; other team member locations include Atlanta and Paris. The key to taking the company to the next level, says Schlosser, is simply getting into more hotels. ChatPrint offers a 60-day trial for free, after which there is a monthly charge to use the system.
“The financing is simple as well,” he said. He speculates that this down economy, in which hotels have gone through some tough times, may appreciate the affordability along with the effectiveness.
While the ChatPrint team is spread out and linked via virtual office, ChatPrint’s board of directors is all local. One board member is Craig Harris, currently the president and CEO of HG Data. He may be better known as the founder and long-time CEO of the recently acquired NOZA, Inc., a philanthropy-focused research tool.
“Greg knew that I was involved in a technology startup, and he approached me a year or so ago to get some advice on launching a startup,” said Harris. “Once I learned about ChatPrint’s product and roadmap, I thought it might be a good fit for a few select angel investors in town.”
When NOZA was acquired, it afforded Harris an opportunity to do some angel investing himself, he says. “Wanting to keep things local, ChatPrint was first on my list.” When invited to join the board, he readily accepted.
As a virtual operation, Schlosser could run ChatPrint from anywhere. Schlosser’s experience with Harris speaks to the surprisingly vibrant and supportive climate for entrepreneurship in the Santa Barbara area—and his reason for keeping ChatPrint here.
“I ended up staying in Santa Barbara because I’ve met amazing people,” said Schlosser. “I’ve been introduced to phenomenal local entrepreneurs . . . after making such strong connections, it just made sense to stay in Santa Barbara. Luckily for us, our solution is so easy to use and install that it has allowed us to expand worldwide without leaving.”