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SPOTLIGHT ON Robert Grosz, EVP, and Chief Commercial Officer, World Cinema, Inc.

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
20 January 2021
9 min read
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Your position has been client-focused during the pandemic. Can you tell us about your commitment to your customer’s business?
Hospitality will always be about doing things that make guests happily return. We believe that technology is an important variable in that guest satisfaction equation. And the thing about technology is that it’s constantly evolving and moving. So in order to get the most from technology in the guest experience, hotel owners and operators need a reliable and trusted partner who lives and breathes technology, yet understands the unique demands and operating structure of hospitality. We have been committed to that mission even before we knew we were a technology company in the ’70s. We want our hotel partners to know that if we’re on their team, they will not lose competitive position due to technology.

Before and during this pandemic and looking towards the future when we know that travel will resume, we are deeply committed to our customer partnerships by providing innovative contactless technology, entertainment, and connectivity solutions that are imperative to deliver a safe guest experience, and ultimately help hotels to digitally transform their property and maximize value creation.

As an example, World Cinema just announced ImpruviX, a service that improves a property’s wireless connectivity by evaluating a property’s current wireless platform and then independently recommending improvements using the latest in technology, design tools, and product sets. This includes products like autonomous networks where you remove the inefficiency and inconsistency in traditional managed services models in exchange for fully automated managed services. ImpruviX is a technology partner who thinks like an owner of a hotel property and doesn’t apply a one-size-fits-all solution. It comes down to having a deep understanding of available technologies and of different types of hotel property models and then designing solutions with the lowest total cost of ownership which have the greatest positive impact on guest satisfaction. As many of our competitors have reduced staff through layoffs and furloughs, we have made significant investments in people and tools to launch a much-needed product solution in Impruvix.

On the contactless technology front, we also recently launched a Mobile Web Remote application which is part of our WorldVue integrated in-room technology platform. Mobile Web Remote is a contactless solution for hotel guests that puts their personal devices in control of their in-room technology without having to touch the hotel television remote. Guests can simply scan a bar code that appears on their in-room television screen and connect to access the WorldVue in-room entertainment system, access room service or many other features to be announced, directly from their personal device.

In addition, the new WorldVue Housekeeping App provides hotels with yet another option for managing property operations. The WorldVue Housekeeping App allows in-room notifications to guests and staff that a room has been cleaned and sanitized instantaneously. The Housekeeping App provides the hotel staff with a wide array of customizable stats for hotel management including information on whether the room is occupied; status of the room if cleaned, serviced, or sanitized; a staff code or numeric value to indicate the responsible staff for each room; instant, updated record of the time period elapsed since last housekeeping service; and the time period of when the last time the room was occupied, just to name a few.

Ultimately, our mission is to become a hotel or property owner’s trusted partner and first choice for in-room entertainment solutions, connectivity experiences, and any technology which has a positive impact on guests or property associates.

How has your partnership with DISH enabled you to expand your services?
WCI and DISH have been doing business together since 1998, which was just shortly after they launched their first DBS satellite. We chose DISH originally because we were like-minded. Both companies have an entrepreneurial spirit which motivates us to think outside the box to best serve the end-customer. DISH experienced incredible growth in the residential market which created opportunities to help redesign how video content was delivered to a hotel environment. In 2014 we began using their SMARTBOX® technology to deploy a low-cost, but highly reliable and adaptable solution for fully encrypted in-room video. DISH’s commitment to the hospitality industry goes far beyond just their programming that we are proud to deliver, but into also providing the industry with their industry-leading SMARTBOX® and Evolve set-top-box which they designed exclusively for hotels.

Over the past 5 years, we have seen costs to both deploy and operate in-room linear television content fall, while new guest demands for non-linear or time shifted content, interactive information services, streaming, and casting of content from guest devices to in-room displays have driven demand. DISH has been a steadfast partner, always sharing their market intelligence and observations on how people watch television, where technology is going, what trends drive the commercial relationship with copyright owners, and multichannel pay video distribution.

In our opinion, DISH still has that entrepreneurial spirit and we believe that they have a few exciting hands to play in the technology universe which will ultimately benefit the consumer, guest, and hotel owners alike.

How are you able to customize the guest entertainment experience without adding to the hotel’s balance sheet?
As a longtime partner and trusted technology provider to properties nationwide, we understand what’s it’s like for our customers to make technology choices with an eye towards financial stability.

In fact, we designed ImpruviX with that in mind. ImpruviX is a single-source solution that standardizes on custom-engineered design, not on proprietary technology or third-party vendors. This allows ImpruviX to align to meet specific and unique needs of a specific property owner, using multiple and integrated technologies to address specific property needs.

Technology is constantly changing, and as a technology partner, World Cinema promises to be our customers’ chief catalyst and advisor to optimize the value of their asset through technology.

How will technology assist hotels in streamlining their operations so that they are safe and smart?

Hotels can use smart contactless technology such as our WorldVue platform – with features I’ve mentioned such as Mobile Web Remote and our Housekeeping App. Additional examples include:

  • Smart Room Technology: Integrates with major smart room devices to control lights, thermostats, locks, ceiling fans, window treatments, etc. Guests can also use voice commands to request cleaning, room service, and more from the in-room Amazon Alexa device
  • Localized Narrowcast Streaming: Allows a hotel to provide a high-quality video and audio stream of local events, venues (the bar or event center), or group keynotes exclusively to hotel guests
    Contactless Interactive Channel Guide: Customizable channel line-ups so guests can watch channels, networks, and shows as if they are at home
  • Contactless Folio Review Check-out: Allows guests to view their bill, all charges, and check-out directly from their device or in-room television
  • Popular Streaming Apps for In-Room Entertainment: The latest apps available for guests. The WorldVue platform includes brand-standard apps such as HBO, Showtime, etc. All guest credentials are then automatically cleared upon check-out
  • Secured and Managed Casting: ChromeCast powered by WorldVue allows guests to use the apps on their personal device for their viewing pleasure with a simple three-step process. No set-top box is required – truly the most convenient hotel TV network available
  • Guest Room Messaging: Provide guests with important property or event updates directly to their in-room television
  • In-House Channel/Custom Property Menu: Hotels have the opportunity to customize their hotel menu screen to showcase amenities, property highlights such as restaurant, pool, map, etc. from the in-room television through text, photos, looping videos
  • In-Room Concierge: Guests can order room service, more towels, or even book spa appointments or make dinner reservations right from their guest room TV. No need to pick up the phone when you have the most advanced room entertainment and hospitality technology at your fingertips
  • Updated Flight Data: Updated flight information from nearby airports
  • Soothing Music: Guests can take advantage of the additional features of WorldVue® such as Soothing Music providing ambient sounds to ensure a better night’s sleep

These technology choices help hotels to digitally transform and provide safe, contactless experiences for their employees and guests.

Do you have any exciting projects for 2021?
We believe that the transformation velocity of most business and customer experiences has increased throughout 2020. Those businesses that aren’t leveraging technologies that digitize a customer experience will find it increasingly difficult to survive.

In 2021, we will continue to evolve our business to best enable owners of hotels and other multifamily and guest properties to capitalize on new opportunities generated from technology projects.

With WCI, it starts with our employees and contractors. We have made significant investments in increasing the caliber and capabilities of our team. In 2021 we are launching a learning and development program called WCI University to give our team a consistent and cutting-edge training and development resource. We believe the value we provide our customers is directly proportionate to the investment we make in our employees. We attract excellent people with a dynamic and successful business model. We keep those people by letting them flourish and deliver value in an environment that not only encourages continuous improvement but requires it.

Another focus of the new year is an expansion of the value we offer our clients. To get technology deployments right requires that multiple vendors work well together and can collaborate to deliver a complete and successful technology strategy. For example, the convergence of applications on a single Internet Protocol core network requires that a property owner chooses multiple vendors who can act seamlessly in unison. The strength of the entire technology strategy is only as strong as its weakest link. We believe that risk is minimized when a single lead technology partner has the understanding, authority, and respect of each vendor. When problems arise, things have to be communicated, escalated, and resolved with minimal customer interference. We will form tight integrations through acquisitions or partnerships with best of breed suppliers across the technology spectrum. In 2021 we will perfect the wide spectrum of competencies required to execute an advanced technology strategy. From technology architecture to deployment, to change management, and break-fix resolution. All with foundational skills of clear and reliable communication and a culture of accountability.

Over the past 8 months, WCI has worked diligently on aiding our customers with some sort of bill relief. Our accounting team was responding to customers at all hours of the day and night, listening to their concerns and providing properties with financial options to assist them while this pandemic is leaving their hotels partially or totally closed.

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