Exploring Opportunities in Outsourcing Your Back-Office Hotel Accounting

By Scott Watson Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, M3 Accounting + Analytics | November 16, 2014

The ability to send and store data securely "in the cloud" has transformed the way that all types of business can be conducted, and the hospitality industry is certainly no exception. Dramatic changes have taken place in our industry over the last couple of decades; hosted back-office technology, integrated reservations systems, mobile technology enhancing the guest experience, analytics upon analytics. Technology continues to enable hotel owners and operators to streamline their operations and visualize new ways to complete back-office tasks, allowing more time and dedication where it should be placed, upon the guests. However, all of the new technology, new demands and new deliverables can sometimes put a strain on the human resources functions and senior staff oversight of asset management, hotel management and owner/operators. It becomes more and more difficult to be all things to all people-top-notch recruiter, all-encompassing trainer, leading edge sales producer or manager, comprehensive operator, SSAE-16 compliant IT leader… and world-class guest services provider.

So, what's next? One emerging business opportunity that is making itself available to hoteliers is transitioning their back-office hotel and even some corporate accounting functions to an outsourced business model. This option can be delivered with minimal time investment from senior management and typically produces a tangible, and often immediate, return-on-investment and bottom-line-savings. In addition to having more time to focus on your guests, here are seven other reasons why outsourcing may be a great option for your hotel portfolio.

Process and Personnel Expertise

Outsourcing offers a great opportunity to have highly-qualified team members who take experience gained outside of your operation and apply it to serve your needs in a fresh, uninhibited, repeatable and very effective manner. The old guard of "we've always done it that way," may not rush to outsourcing; however, innovation and process improvement are just as important in the back-office functions as they are in guest-facing products and services. Strict focus on performance aberrations and financial procedures is the only way to maintain, if not grow, bottom-line margin contributions. To hire a CPA in-house is an expensive proposition, but with an outsourced accounting team, you will have a shared resource that often includes one or multiple CPAs overseeing your account. An outsourcing partner can typically recruit locally, regionally and even nationally when searching for the right talent and spread the investment of the search and hire process over many customers, eliminating the direct costs that you would have to incur to build the same talent pool in an in-house accounting environment.

Focused Staff

Hotel accounting requires focus and precision, and when the job is done at property, in the corporate office environment or a combination of both, it comes with many distractions that dramatically increase the possibility for error. With a focused, off-site accounting team, you are assured more accurate, thorough bookkeeping output. In an outsourced environment, accounting, YOUR accounting, is the only activity and primary focus of your outsourcing partner; provided their services are delivered in a "pod" or team deployment, so that you deal with the same team members each and every day. .

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.