Concepta and Clean the World Partner to Create a Dynamic Online Portal for Hospitality Customers

What happens to the soap after a guest checks out of their hotel? This question posed by frequent business traveler, Shawn Seipler, inspired a green movement. He embraced the opportunity to turn one man’s trash into another’s life-saving treasure.

Clean the World is the result of that vision. It’s mission: “recycling soap to save lives.”

Concepta became a partner in that mission by providing a new automated system for interaction with their hotel partners. This automation means Clean the World can now bring on thousands more hospitality partners and improve customer service at the same time.

Responsible Profit

Clean the World has paved the way for another unique movement. In 2014, they became Florida’s first Benefits Corporation (B-Corp). A social enterprise with a charitable mission and an environmentally-conscious corporate ethos. Where many non-profits struggle with donation-based funding, this business model ensures stable funding to all their charitable programs. And business is thriving.

Complex social and environmental climates leave no shortage of need for Clean the World’s services. For a decade, the organization has provided bars of soap to the communities of developing nations. This has resulted in a 60% reduction of the death rate of children under the age of five due to hygiene-related illnesses. In addition, Clean the World’s foundation provides hygiene supplies for emergency response. When disaster strikes, whether home or abroad, victims are recipients of their hygiene kits.

Clean the World funds their mission through their hospitality partners, who pay to have hygiene products collected and recycled, and thousands of generous donors and corporations that support Clean the World’s programs. By partnering with Clean the World, businesses earn a reputation of corporate social responsibility.

Today, over 8,000 hotels participate in Clean the World’s recycling program. Participation results in a reduction of their negative environmental impact and allows them to spotlight their company's humanitarian side. Housekeepers around the world collect hygiene amenities from over 1.1 million hotel rooms daily and contribute to the diversion of over 20 million pounds of hotel waste from landfills. Combined, these efforts ease both an environmental concern and a humanitarian crisis.

It’s more than a philanthropic gesture, of course. Customer experience and hotel reputation are critical brand differentiators for travelers, especially with rates leveled by bargain apps.

“People want to know that their money is going back to a worthy cause,” explains Sandra Beauchamp, CTW’s Vice President of Marketing, Products, & Technology. “They’re starting to choose hotels based on the give-back programs they have.” Clean the World’s data is a major marketing boost for hospitality partners, who can share measurable results to share with their guests.

How It Works

The collection process is simple. The housekeeping teams gather the leftover hygiene items after a guest checks and deposit them into dedicated bins. When the bins fill up, the hotels submit a request for pickup. The bins are then swapped for empty ones and the full bins get shipped back to a Clean the World facility.

Teams of volunteers help sort the collected hygiene products. Clean the World recruits these volunteers from local businesses and organizations that emphasize volunteering as a morale boost and team-building event.

The sorted soap is then ground down, treated with a proven disinfecting process, and reformed into brand new bars. Bottles such as shampoo, conditioner, and body wash get recycled or sent to an Energy from Waste facility.

Volunteers and businesses also support Clean the World by assembling hygiene kits containing soap, shampoo, conditioner, socks, and toothbrush and toothpaste. The kits are distributed with the help of NGOs, both domestically as well as in 127 countries around the world. Hygiene kits find their way to shelters, refugee camps, schools, deployed soldiers and more.

Popularity Problems

Proof that their methods benefit all stakeholders while contributing to a cleaner environment has won Clean the World international acclaim. This has attracted the interest of many more prospective hospitality partners.

That’s great from a profit standpoint, but with substantial growth came an increased need for a tool that would help with logistics. A manual system for requesting bins, printing shipping labels and viewing impact statements would no longer suffice. They needed a tool that would create a good customer experience while streamlining logistics.

Their previous model required reliance on direct contact. A staffer had to address every request, even for a routine shipping label. This was easy to do when Clean the World was small, but as they grew it became progressively unmanageable.

Over time, the hassle experienced by hotel partners could have translated into less frequent impact updates. Room attendants, unable to see the results of their efforts, could have stopped taking the extra step of collecting the toiletries.

That’s dangerous for a program that relies on internal buy-in. If the team isn’t on board and there’s no visible impact to motivate them, the hospitality partner might lose interest in the program altogether.

Clean the World needed a better way to facilitate shipments and demonstrate impact to their growing network of partners.

The Search For The Right Developer

As enthusiastic supporters of technology, Clean the World started looking for a development partner to address the issue instead of considering a more analog solution.

“We went through a very extensive vetting process. We had 15 that we were looking at and we narrowed it down to 8, then compared them across the board,” Beauchamp said of the decision process.

Their requirements were simple but non-negotiable. As a B Corp, Clean the World needed a responsive developer with a clean reputation, someone who wouldn’t damage the brand they’ve worked hard to build. They wanted a partner with a portfolio of similarly high-volume projects that demonstrated quality and flexibility.

Also important was the potential for long-term collaboration. “We didn’t look at this as one project. We have a lot of technologies we want to do going forward, so we want someone we can grow with,” says Rob Keefe, Manager of Products and Business Development at Clean the World.

Based on these requirements, the team settled on fellow Orlando business Concepta. Proximity tipped the balance in Concepta’s favor. Their downtown office gives the team a physical location to meet and talk over issues.

Programming Around Bottlenecks

After identifying the main bottlenecks in Clean the World’s process, Concepta went to work on an ambitious solution. They designed a digital platform that provides hospitality partners real-time, round-the-clock, direct access to Clean the World’s services.

Requesting new bins is now an automated process that generates shipping labels and orders new bins on demand. The need for frequent direct contact has been eliminated. Hotel staff can simply sign in, print labels, and schedule the exact bins they need.

Most exciting is the responsive Impact Portal. Partners can pull up live, site-specific metrics illustrating exactly how much they’ve accomplished. The feature was one of Clean the World’s priorities, says Beauchamp.

“A big part of our service is the impact statements. Hotels want to know their impact: how much waste they’ve diverted, and how many bars of soap have been distributed because of their hard work. We want to show room attendants the results of their efforts, so we can make a huge difference in the lives of the people we serve. Soap really does save lives!”

Results That Shine

The online portal went live December 4, 2018, and the impact has been transformative. Where once 10 people were responsible for adding new partners manually, onboarding is now an efficiently automated process. In one day, Clean the World onboarded over 4,000 hotels - a feat which would have been impossible under the old system.

“It’s a turnkey process,” Beauchamp explains. “They get started faster, they can send their soap in faster, and we can process and get it out faster.”

She adds that the impact statements are a huge success with hospitality partners. “It’s like a competition now. They say, ‘I want to get to 1,000 bars!’ or ‘Let’s do a million by the end of the year!’ Knowing how many bars they’ve shipped, how much waste they’ve diverted, that keeps them invested.”

In a year’s time, Clean the World’s online portal has nearly 20,000 users, with more than 60,000 sessions logged so far. The self-service option has been a big hit. Users are spending a consistent average of 5 minutes on the portal per visit, which surprised the CTW team. “I expected that at first, because we have training videos on there. But we’ve maintained a 5-minute average visit. That’s great! It means people are staying involved and engaged.”

Freed from tedious tasks, Clean the World can focus their efforts on higher quality customer service. “We still get calls, but they’re more technical,” Beauchamp says. “The nice thing is that now it’s quality conversations we’re having with our clients.”

Next Steps

Concepta and Clean the World plan to use the portal to automate even more processes. Today, hospitality partners are able to upgrade their accounts through the portal. For example, some only use the soap recycling program. They’ll are now able to upgrade to bottled amenities right within the app.

There’s also an in-app retail store in the works. The store would offer shirts for crew members, recognition items for top performers, marketing materials, and other products to help hospitality partners make the most of Clean the World’s services.

Beauchamp has also anticipated a need for the dashboard to be customizable on an individual level. Hospitality partners will be able to adjust what they see and arrange things to fit into their unique workflows.

For now, the portal is living up to Clean the World’s high expectations. Beauchamp was enthusiastic about the wider benefits it provides to hospitality partners. “Of course, they can get an answer more quickly, cut down the time to service, but it’s also a chance to see the exciting things Clean the World is doing. They’re able to see their dollars being utilized in a meaningful way. Clean the World partners are able to engage with us better than ever before. Any time there’s a hygiene crisis, we respond, and our partners are a part of that story.”

Founder and CEO Shawn Seipler says, “The development of the portal has been an instrumental component of the onboarding process. Partners can see their real-time impact and Clean the World can allocate more resources to our mission: recycling soap to save lives.”

That’s the real impact of the portal: more resources being diverted from landfills and sent where they’re most needed. It’s a win for Clean the World, a win for the hotels and resorts involved, and a win for the planet.

Kingdom Strollers: How Technology Helped Make Strollers Big Business In Orlando

Kingdom Strollers started out of a condo in central Florida as a small family business in 2010. It is now a well-oiled, data machine, looking to implement business intelligence solutions next for features like up-selling opportunities on insurance, beverages and other add-ons and better visualization in forecasting inventory levels. Their investment in technology made them an industry leader in Orlando tourism.

SMB/SMEs have many start-up costs that are a priority. Investing in digital and business intelligence tools seems like something that can be developed later, yet delaying the launch of complementary technology can actually be the reason a business rapidly stagnates.

From a rented 6,700 square-foot space to a newly built, 16-000 square foot warehouse they can call their own, Kingdom Strollers can clearly see the return on investment from digitizing the business.

Kingdom Strollers, a stroller and crib rental company serving tourists and one of only a few Disney-preferred providers, has seen its revenue grow 40 percent year over year since working with Concepta on custom web development. This included adding abilities such as inventory tracking, online booking, delivery updates and travel agent referral tracking to its website.

The owner, Matthew Wilhite, knows the world of stroller rentals is not a glamorous one. The investment in technology made the company considerably more “attractive” though.

There is a lot of tracking involved with one simple order, from checking an inventory constantly in flux, to ensuring on-time delivery and knowing the exact stroller location drop-off. One major pain point for the company was constant updates to an order, all previously done through countless phone calls and changes to the master spreadsheet. Now, the order and update process is managed through the website—a win for the company and the customers.

Many small-to-medium size businesses struggle to update their processes as their business grows, not realizing that custom options for automation, insights and analytics are affordable. Kingdom Strollers prioritized the digital transformation of the business early.

Is There A Place for AI in Small to Medium Businesses?

Many small to medium business owners view artificial intelligence as something only huge corporations need.

In reality, it can help position them to compete with those corporations on a whole new level.

It seems like everyone in the business world is launching artificial intelligence programs.

That’s partly because nearly everyone is. 61% of businesses have already begun using some form of artificial intelligence, many of those focusing on predictive analytics and machine learning.

71% report they plan to expand their use of predictive analytics and other AI applications over the next year.

For most companies the decision to adopt AI is an easy one.

For small to medium businesses (SMBs), though, there are tough questions to answer.

Even successful SMBs don’t have the same depth of financial resources as a multinational corporation.

They need to invest cautiously, and artificial intelligence can sound like a science fiction daydream.

That’s unfortunate, because artificial intelligence is fast becoming the kind of tool that can help small to medium businesses keep up with their larger competitors.

Read on to explore the things keeping SMBs from investing in artificial intelligence. then find out how to get past them and what technologies are best suited for small to medium businesses.

Practical Artificial Intelligence

“Artificial Intelligence” brings to mind futuristic robots and complex movie plots, but the reality is much simpler.

The term refers to teaching machines to “think” and interpret information like humans do. Humans have very flexible minds.

They can handle a variety of rapidly-changing topics and navigate difficult conditions that confuse computers (although computers have a greater ability to process repetitive data quickly and accurately).

Modern artificial intelligence has come a long way.

It can’t quite mimic human thought yet, but there have been some exciting advances using AI techniques like machine learning and deep learning that show potential for nuanced processing.

The technology is proving its value as an enterprise tool, too.

There are a few common applications that some people don’t realize are based on artificial intelligence:

  • Predictive analytics, especially embedded features in enterprise software
  • Chatbots on websites or social media pages
  • Intelligent assistants in office and productivity software
  • Recommendation engines used for suggesting Netflix titles and upselling in ecommerce

What Holds SMBs Back

Even as larger companies move to wider integrations of artificial technologies, small to medium businesses are slow to adopt.

Their hesitation is understandable – after all, a failed technology project could threaten the future of their company – but it also holds them back.

The truth is, many of their concerns aren’t as serious as they think.

The issues have practical workarounds or can otherwise be mitigated through proper planning.

Here’s why the leading reasons SMBs aren’t adopting artificial intelligence don’t have to be unmovable roadblocks to progress and how they can be overcome.

AI is too expensive

Industry news reports tend to cover high-end artificial intelligence ventures done by major international corporations, with price tags in the millions (or occasionally billions).

That kind of investment is an intimidating prospect for an SMB who just needs a better way to utilize their data.

The thing is, those programs usually involve the most difficult and expensive forms of AI.

Experimental programming, complex interactions, sensitive health information, government-regulated data, huge amounts of simultaneous users, and other complicating factors raise the costs above the average for enterprise AI projects.

SMBs don’t need the same amount of scale or infrastructure. Their modest needs can be met at a much more reasonable price point.

There is no “usual” price for AI. The costs associated with artificial intelligence are based on many factors, including safety and regulatory protocols and the complexity of necessary interactions.

To build an estimate, developers will ask questions such as:

  • Does the program need access to sensitive information?
  • Is it designed to address a specific set of circumstances or is it more a broad-spectrum tool?
  • What level of interaction with humans is desired?
  • What’s the scale involved?
  • Will the AI need to perform complex actions?

Even when a full artificial intelligence program is out of reach, there are ways to integrate AI on a limited budget.

For one thing, AI is included in many enterprise software packages. Most companies already have access to some AI tools, even if they don’t realize it.

Targeting tools in email marketing software and personal assistants on smartphones are both driven by artificial intelligence.

More in-depth AI toolsets are often available with a reasonably-priced software upgrade to enterprise level from free or lower-tier accounts.

It’s work checking with vendors to see what’s within reach.

The rise of reusable code and powerful development frameworks has put small-scale custom solutions within reach, as well.

Developers have platform options for creating analytics dashboards and chatbots that makes the costs approachable for SMBs.

AI isn’t ready for enterprise because the projects fail too often

Project failure is a daunting prospect for SMBs, who usually have a longer list of desired business improvements than they have capital to spend.

They need to prioritize projects because they can’t do everything they’d like.

Investing in AI means putting another project on hold, something they aren’t willing to do when it seems like all they hear about is failed artificial intelligence projects.

It’s easy to become discouraged by high-profile AI failures or assume tools are overhyped, because some projects do fail and some tools are overhyped.

Artificial intelligence is at a point in the Hype Cycle where its applications are being rigorously tested, and some won’t make it through to becoming everyday technologies.

However, project failure is more often an organizational issue instead of a technological one.

Projects fail for a variety of reasons, most commonly:

  • A weak discovery process results in a weak final product.
  • Internal adoption rates are too low to realize the project’s potential.
  • Misaligned business goals lead to the company creating a product that no longer fits within their workflows.
  • The company experiences an outsourcing failure or developer issues.

Avoiding these issues is somewhere small to medium businesses may have an edge over larger corporations. Why?

  • Pushing internal adoption on a small team is more effective because the company leadership can personally talk to everyone (or at least every team leader) to convince them of a project’s value.
  • There is less opportunity for confusion over business needs and goals.
  • The development process has fewer moving parts, so it’s easier to make needs clear during discovery.

What SMBs need to watch out for is the tendency to default to the lowest bidder, especially when outsourcing overseas.

If they focus on quality as much as price, they’re more likely to get a quality return on their investment.

Choosing Agile development methods is another way to ensure a positive outcome.

Developers who use Agile and conduct a thorough discovery are actually seeing a rise in project success rates, and have been for a couple of years.

AI isn’t practical for a small to medium business; it only works for massive corporations.

Many SMB owners see AI as something that can’t help their business.

They assume they don’t have enough data to process or that the impact of AI won’t be noticeable at a smaller scale.

A lot of those same owners would be surprised to realize how much data they already have – data which is going untapped.

Putting that data to work might result in smaller gains, but proportionately those gains matter more.

One interesting thing about AI is that is has opposite benefits for SMBs and larger companies.

It helps giant companies operate with the personalization of an SMB while allowing SMBs to function with the efficiency of a massive corporation.

That is, it gives small to medium businesses the edge they need to “punch outside their weight class” when it comes to competing for market share.

While there are some AI applications that won’t help smaller-scale businesses, there are many more that will.

A small bookshop with five employees wouldn’t get value from predictive scheduling software, but they could see an impressive return on predictive ordering and email marketing programs.

AI doesn’t apply to this industry

There’s a perception that artificial intelligence is only for high-tech fields like software development or banking.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. AI can be applied anywhere where data is generated – that is, everywhere – to improve efficiency, guide decision making, and maximize the impact of marketing and sales campaigns.

Some examples:

  • A cleaning company uses AI to intelligently manage their leads and upsell current clients.
  • A stroller rental company builds an AI-powered solution to manage their inventory and give customers more options for customizing deliveries.
  • A vacation rental agency uses price optimization to get the best possible pricing on rentals for owners.
  • A landscaping company decides where to expand based on data gathered from predictive analytics tools.

These are all small but important decisions, and they’re made easier using insights gathered by artificial intelligence.

AI is too hard to learn

SMBs tend to have long-time employees in leadership positions with lower turnover in mid-level roles.

They often hesitate to push something that seems high-tech or confusing due to established relationships with employees.

These fears are large unfounded. Building enterprise AI tools is complicated.

Using them is less so, especially with custom tools created specifically for non-technicians.

Most enterprise AI software is designed to be user-friendly at an operator level, so the on-boarding process would likely be much less complicated than SMBs might expect.

Where there are problems, there are well-established training solutions.

The most popular AI tools have online classes at a variety of price points, from free YouTube tutorials to subscription-based professional development platforms.

Developers generally offer training and support packages for their software at reasonable rates.

With so many options even the most technophobic staffer can find a way to get on board with new tools, especially once they realize how much easier AI makes their job.

Staying In The Game With AI

Larger companies are already investing in artificial intelligence.

As they do, they’re gaining a lot of advantages traditionally enjoyed by SMBs, like personalized service and shorter response times to changing local market conditions.

Small to medium businesses have a choice. They can make the AI investment that will help them stay competitive or risk losing their customer base to larger, better-informed companies.

At the end of the day, that isn’t much of a choice at all.

Artificial intelligence doesn’t have to be a headache. Concepta can help you build an intelligent business intelligence solution that fits your needs- and your budget. Schedule your complimentary appointment today!

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How to Train Employees on New Technology

Originally published Jul. 20, 2016, updated Oct. 11, 2018.

The best software on Earth is a failure if the team can’t use it.

Support employees throughout the training process by offering technical assistance, providing a variety of reference formats, and fostering a culture of communication and collaboration.

After all the effort of finding the right enterprise software package, negotiating a sale, and supervising installation, the new program is finally up and running. It’s time to relax.

Well… it’s almost time to relax.

Before companies can start enjoying the benefits of their new software, they need to get over the biggest hurdle of integrating technology: training employees. This is a make or-break-moment.

The best program on Earth is a failure if the team can’t use it. In fact, over half of enterprise software initiatives don’t reach their full potential due to low adoption rates.

The problem is that employees tend to push back against learning new software. They’re already comfortable working around the flaws in the existing system, and they get frustrated with the disruption that comes with even good changes.

This sometimes leaves the impression that the old way was better.

Making the training process as painless as possible encourages employees to get behind new software. Read on for a few ways executives can smooth the path for them.

Provide Quality Technical Assistance

Offering technical assistance is the most influential step companies can take to help their teams learn new software.

This should include both initial software training and supplemental references for troubleshooting issues that come up in the early stages of implementation. The impact of technical assistance is undeniable.

The Primary Care Information Project (PCIP) and Weill Cornell Medical College conducted a study of how health practitioners implemented Electronic Health Records (EHR) and found that small practices without sufficient training resources struggled the most with their EHR systems.

Medical practices that received eight or more training and support visits had the highest levels of success.

When interviewing vendors, ask about their after-sale support. Plan to have a variety of resources and technical references that everyone can use for ongoing training.

Focus On What Matters

As much as 60% of software features are never used. This happens so often there’s a name for it: “shelf-ware”.

To some extent, shelf-ware is inevitable. Commercial software developers need to appeal to as many users as possible. They’re constantly adding new features in a quest to widen their customer base and stay relevant.

The resulting software has a host of shelf-ware most users will never touch.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to teach every esoteric function in the program during training. Focus on the 20-40% of commonly-used features and just touch on the rest.

Leverage Influential Users

In every group there are users who adapt quickly to new software. They’re comfortable with technology and like helping others who run into trouble.

Leverage their enthusiasm by designating them as transitional training leaders.

They can solve low-level problems for their co-workers and maintain any reference tools. It helps to give them a small bonus or other incentive, as well.

Address Problems Early

Communication is key when the training is finished and the software goes live.

Even the most experienced companies experience bottlenecks and setbacks when integrating new technology into their workflows. The only way to overcome these challenges is through communication.

Schedule meetings once every week or two where the whole team can share what’s working and where there could be improvement.

Check in with individual employees between progress meetings. Keep the conversation casual and talk to a variety of team members.

Managers, supervisors, support staff, and even outside vendors have unique perspectives that can help identify problem areas.

Once those issues are identified, schedule additional training on a group or using the transitional training leaders. Early intervention keeps frustration levels down, so employees aren’t tempted to go slide back into the old system.

Use Online Training Materials

Many vendors have extensive training materials on their sites, including videos, walk-throughs, information guides, and downloadable reports.

Self-paced training like this offers another avenue for employees to build their skills and gain confidence in the new software program. Share vendor resources where everyone who works with the software can find them at need.

It’s not always easy to convince employees to use new technology, but the payoff is worth it.

Support the team with quality training options, step in when there’s an issue, and foster an environment of collaborative training. When the employees have the right tools to learn, the project is on the best path to success.

How can your sales, marketing, and finance teams get rid of spreadsheets and become more efficient with their reporting? Download our eBook How to Implement Business Intelligence in Your Company to find out!

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