Hotel Revenue: 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:

1. Active

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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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.