Is Bigger Data Really Better Data?
By Michael Schubach Strategic Deployments / Program Management Director, Infor Hospitality | August 27, 2017
The Digital Age is truly the era of knowing many things, but given our access to incessant tribal chatter across social platforms, the equal coexistence of facts and alternate facts along side news and fake news, one could rightly feel as though we humans may have access to more information than is necessary or even helpful. Despite such misgivings, I think we are better people because of our access to plentiful data. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to revive an analogy that was first offered to me when I was a Cub Scout: Data, particularly ‘big data,’ is like fire – used wisely it can light our way, allay our fears and give us warmth. Used foolishly, it can be destructive and devastating. The most useful objective, therefore, is not fire prevention but meaningful fire management – learning to discern the difference between quantity and quality, and react accordingly.
In the world of hospitality, the collection and use of data are the industry’s game changers. Location, location, location is now everywhere on planet Earth, and the room product ranges from pup-tents through the royal suites set aside for the exclusive use of the Sultan of Brunei. Despite the dizzying panorama of possibility out there, the truth is that within any given price and service class there isn’t a great deal of differentiation in products and amenities. We depend on data to deliver the differences that turn personal travel into opportunities to collect life experiences and unique memories, and to tailor personalized service; it’s access to data that gives Millennials and business travelers efficient access to availability, price shopping and loyalty / reward points.
But all data is not created equally. As I look across the kinds of information that we use to find and serve our guests, I see four distinct data types, distinguished by their method of manufacture:
When we specifically elicit information from a guest or customer, this is active data collection. We can either ask in person (What is your last name? Could you spell that for me, please?) or on a form, but either way we are telling the provider what we wish to record so that we may use that information in a manner that somehow benefits him or her – at least, that’s the theory.
Active data is typically the best information you can retain; unless your respondent has something to hide or simply does not want you to have access to the requested information, what you get is accurate according to the best source possible. It’s important to note, however, that even active data has a shelf life: last name, address, age (as distinct from birthdate), marital status, smoking preference, need for ADA accommodation or assistance can all come and go. “Eternally true” is not a property that we associate with guest data; there is a need to ask and reconfirm all kinds of data on a regular basis.
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