Bridging the Gap Between Operations and Guest Feedback
By Benjamin Jost Co-Founder & CEO, TrustYou | January 28, 2018
One of the biggest buzzwords in the digital space has been the ‘tech stack’ (or technology stack). While there aren’t too many people talking about it in hospitality, it’s a relevant term to help you choose the right technology in order for you to manage your operations and marketing. Simply put, a hotel technology stack is a description of all the software and programs you use to manage your digital marketing, operations, booking software, revenue management, third-party distribution, guest services and more.
Startups often depict their tech stack like a quadrant or map, where you see all the technology you have in place divided into the different categories of their uses. When laid out visually, you can easily see the gaps in your stack - where there are opportunities to streamline manual processes with technology - and the places you’ve invested your technology so far.
Tech stacks vary in size and type, of course - a small property will have fewer tools than a larger one, but even “manual” tools can be included as part of your tech stack (that will give you a better picture of where you might want to switch something manual to something automated). Plus, a light tech stack isn’t necessarily a bad thing - the “lighter” it is (i.e. fewer tools), the more likely you’re able to be flexible and adapt to new processes or tools and the less likely it is to hold you back (on the flip side, lighter stacks are not as scalable when you do need extra tools to improve your operations).
What’s the value in understanding tech stacks and creating one for your hotel? Think of it as the technology blueprint of your property - you need to lay it all out before you start building. By doing so, you can focus on:
- Users of the technology
- Technology gaps
- Technology spend
- Technology ecosystem
1. Users of the Technology
How many people at your property actually use the marketing or operations software that you have invested in? Is it 50%? How about 80%? How often do they use it?
According to a study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting, the majority of managers believe that “achieving digital transformation is critical” to their companies. Yet, despite its importance, 63% said transformations are happening too slowly, because of a “lack of urgency” and poor communication about the strategic benefits of new tools. It’s not always communicated to the actual users of that new technology, which delays onboarding and of course, creates roadblock to usage.
Considering there are over 1,800 different marketing tools out there today, an increase from just 974 in 2014, it’s easy to get caught up in having the latest and greatest without first ensuring that your employees will be using the tool to improve your hotel’s marketing or operations.
One of the biggest mistakes of purchasing new technology is forgetting about the time it takes to onboard employees onto the tool - and monitor that it continues to get used. For example, if you want on-site guest messaging to be easier and a priority, it helps to know if your staff feel the same and feel equipped to use the tools you purchase.
When you include this in your tech stack (number of users who use the software and estimated time they spend on it), you can more properly evaluate the tool’s benefits and which of your goals it can help you achieve.
2. Technology Gaps
Considering more than 56% of U.S. employees say they don’t have the right technology to do their job, tech stacks let you evaluate where your gaps are and how to improve. As mentioned above, you can divide your tech stack into hotel operations and hotel marketing - and then start listing out the different categories of tactics that you require for each. For example, for hotel marketing, the types of categories you can start out with are online marketing, third-party distribution, analytics, loyalty and revenue management. Then you would list out the tools you use for each of those areas and if there’s a gap, question if you a. Need something or b. If that’s a priority or not.
3. Technology Spend
If you’re looking to invest in new technology to improve your hotel operations and compete with other properties, you’re definitely not alone. Technology can in fact be a reason why a traveler might choose your property over another. Personally, I know I look for properties where I can easily check in digitally, use my phone as my room key, or send requests to the hotel via instant messaging. By doing this tech stack exercise first, you will have analyzed who’s using the technology, the gaps you have and then can better measure if the cost will be a solid return on investment.
4. Technology Ecosystem
Finally, the last thing that tech stacks allow you to see is your technology ecosystem - gone are the days when tools operate completely in isolation. Nowadays, everything you do, from the revenue management software to your property management software and beyond, can be integrated to provide one seamless experience for your users and your customers. Without understanding the three factors above, you won’t be able to properly identify how your tools work together and if they’re in line with your key objectives. Which leads me to the point I’m going to focus on most: bridging the gap in your technology stack.
Bridging the Gap...
Often times, we speak about hotel operations and guest satisfaction as two separate entities but when you start to view things in the lense of your hotel stack, you see how guest feedback is the connecting factor between the two distinct areas of your hotel tech stack: hotel operations and hotel marketing.
The winning formula for hotel success:
Review marketing + operational excellence = hotel success
Now, I’d like to add one more piece to that formula.
Review marketing + operational excellence, organized in your tech stack = hotel success
When you combine review marketing (the art and science of developing a marketing strategy that includes the pursuit of guest feedback and using that feedback online and offline in order to boost your hotel’s reputation) with operational excellence (profitability and smooth operations of your hotel) along with an understanding of your tech stack (the tools that allow you to collect that feedback and therefore increase your hotel’s reputation and run your hotel more profitability), only then do you have real hospitality success.
What Executives Aren’t Doing (but should be)
What today’s hospitality executives are not doing is spending enough time analyzing how these three items impact one another:
- How the technology you use influences the type and quality of reviews you collect
- How review marketing directly impacts profitability (including length of stay, likelihood of visiting again, etc.)
- How technology can help you use the reviews you collect to better run your hotel
Too many hospitality execs use reviews as something they collect because we all know it’s the right thing to do; but not enough use them to power their hotel’s entire operations.
Considering more than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family, and two-thirds (66%) say they trust consumer opinions posted online (according to Nielson’s Global Trust in Advertising 2015 report) and another report by BrightLocal shows that 84% of people trust ratings and reviews just as much as recommendations from friends and family, it’s vital to understand how these three pillars - review marketing, operational success and technology - impact one another.
It’s time to make a change and you can start with these steps (or ask your digital managers to work on this exercise for you):
- Create your tech stack - fill it with all the different types of technology you use, making sure to differentiate between high usage and low usage systems
- Analyze your tech stack - what different categories do your prioritize? I.e. online marketing, revenue management etc.
- Categorize your tools into hotel marketing and hotel operations - where do the tools intersect?
- List the number of users who use that technology
- List the time they spend on that tool, keeping in mind that low usage doesn’t always mean low value
- Identify the gaps - which categories are missing technology? Which technology are not used to their fullest potential? (i.e. revenue managers never see your guest feedback, because you still collect it on pen and paper, so they can’t use guest feedback as justification to spend in one area vs. another)
- Calculate your technology spend
- Take a step back and look at your property’s technology ecosystem
After completing this exercise, you’ll get a clearer picture of the ‘health’ of your hotel’s suite of technology. Line that up with your priorities - improving your hotel’s reputation, for example - and make sure that you have the right tools in place to achieve that goal. That’s one surefire way to achieve success at your hotel in 2018.
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