Total Customer Value Contribution: Do You Know Your Guest's True Worth?

By Paul van Meerendonk Director of Advisory Services, IDeaS Revenue Solutions | October 02, 2011

How often have hoteliers around the world faced a scenario where your marketing department begins to complain that: "Our high value customers are not being taken care of – we're going to lose them"? And, your Revenue Management department comes back with: "Too often we are giving our product away when it's not necessary". Or, the Marketing department is griping: "Our spa is either empty or overbooked". While, Revenue Management is baffled that: "They filled up half the property with low value guests."

Well, it may be surprising, but you are not alone. While there have been many advances in revenue management throughout the years and market segmentation and channel management strategies have become more targeted in identifying and reaching guests who could add revenue to a hotel, the full integration of intelligent demand forecasting with campaign management strategies is still yet to be realized by some in the industry. In today's highly competitive hospitality market, a heightened understanding of a guest's preferences and total worth will enhance a guest's experience, maximize revenue and ensure loyalty, while establishing market share for your company. Asian hotels and integrated resorts need a true holistic view of their guests.

For the sake of ongoing revenue optimization and to enhance customer loyalty, it is vital that hoteliers gain a holistic view of its guests from all of their interactions with the firm, not just their room spend. Data from all transaction systems need to be integrated to provide a true picture of a guest's preferred activities and their overall value considering all ancillary spend, from: online reservations to check-out, from food service to spa services , from guest rooms to gift shop and more.

In addition to making more profitable decisions about which guests' reservation requests to accept, a deeper understanding of guest preferences leads to better decisions about promotions, service offerings, inventory levels, food and beverage options, and spa layouts. Furthermore, this integrated customer behavior data supports wiser pricing decisions, supplier choices and financial strategies. Forecasting and optimization then provide controls to ensure that revenues are optimized and costs are minimized.

The path to sustained profitability and growth has taken a turn for hotel organizations. Room rates still brings in a healthy portion of revenue, but retail, food and beverage, spas and entertainment are increasingly important sources of income. With disparate systems for each arm of the business, it is difficult to get a complete view of total guest spend. A regular guest may not be worth as much as a short stay patron that spends freely on a variety of activities within the hotel or resort. The decision of which reservation requests to accept not only impacts room rates, but also property-wide profitability.

The importance of knowing a guests' true spend also means that revenue optimization practices usually reserved primarily for hotel rooms, must also be applied across whole properties and all service or products offered to guests. To underline this point Siv Forlie, Director of Corporate Revenue Management at Shangri-La Hotels commented that, 'Pricing is and will always be an extremely important aspect of revenue management. The question is whether you want to do it the easy way or the hard way. Pricing is not only about fluctuating your BAR rates according to demand and the competitive landscape – but it encompasses every aspect of optimization; all segments, room types and products.'

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.