Mobile: The Real Time Revolution!

By Jared Simon Chief Operating Officer, HotelTonight | March 18, 2012

In 2008, the American book publishing industry was in a very dark place. Declaring that “flat is the new up,” the Book Industry Study group reported a 1.5 percent drop in unit sales from 2007 to 2008. As the industry struggled to grasp this new reality, a few industry visionaries recognized that the declining consumer demand had little to do with a waning interest in reading. Rather, the industry simply needed to reinvent itself for a new generation of readers who wanted the convenience and sizzle they found in new tools like iTunes and Netflix, but which had been lacking in traditional books.

Amazon launched the Kindle, with the ability to download e-books anywhere the user had a cellular connection, and others quickly followed. E-books could appeal to a new, growing segment of the population who might not even have considered reading a book were it not for the convenience and lower price of this new format.

The revolutionaries proved to be correct: as e-books grew from 0.6 percent of the total trade market in 2008 to 6.4 percent in 2010, publishers' net sales revenue grew 5.6 percent. As Russ Grandinetti, vice president for Kindle content at Amazon noted in May in the New York Times, “Even though some digital sales may be substitutions from print, one of the great impacts that the digital business has is people spend more minutes a day reading. They make reading more of a habit, and that’s good for the total book business.”

Although the US hotel industry is far from the dark place the 2008 US publishing industry found itself in, we can take some very compelling (and profitable) lessons from this experience. The Internet transformed the distribution of hotel inventory ten years ago, but not much has changed on the distribution front since then. Yet, with the advent of powerful mobile devices, the hotel-buying public is changing dramatically. Forward thinking hoteliers, like the first authors and publishers who quickly embraced e-books, have a tremendous opportunity to reach an entirely new segment of consumers in exactly the way they want to be reached. Of course, as with any exciting, new medium, mobile must be used intelligently to avoid cannibalization and other ill effects. Read on to learn how to get the most out of the mobile revolution.

When you get right down to it, beyond features or computing power or marketing, the primary value of owning a mobile device is just that: it’s mobile. That is, it goes where its owner goes, and it is available whenever it is needed. Now consumers can make dinner reservations on the fly, they can identify the song playing on the car stereo (and purchase it immediately) or even deposit checks while sitting on the beach.

The increasing ubiquity of mobile services like these has had two notable effects. First, for those industries that have embraced it, the volume of purchases has grown. In music sales, 2011 actually represented the first year of growth since 2004, according to Nielsen Soundscan. True, some of this renewed success can be attributed to an improving economy. But many of these industries (like music and books) were shrinking for years before the economic downturn hit, so it is difficult to ignore new technologies’ influence on their rebound.

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.