In a Hotel Data Breach, Immediate Response is the New Normal

By Kurt Meister Senior Vice President , Distinguished Programs | April 01, 2018

If you haven't heard about the latest data breach to hit a major hotel chain, just do a quick internet search. In 2017, the number of U.S. data breaches hit an all-time high of 1,579, up 45 percent from 2016, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.   And hotels are a prime target. Verizon's 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report ranks accommodations (hotels and restaurants) as the top industry for point-of-sale (POS) intrusions.

Each data breach creates its own unique set of headaches. One is financial cost. From 2014-17, the average costs of POS-related investigations averaged $735,000 and grew larger (as high as $17 million) based on the size of the organization, according to NetDiligence.  

Reputation damage is equally concerning. Consumers expect hotels – and all businesses – to protect their data no matter what. And when a data breach occurs, they expect immediate action, often faster than the six-to-eight weeks allowed under most U.S. laws.

For many hotels, the question is no longer if a data breach will occur, but when. That's why hotel owners, operators and franchises must be protected and prepared.

Evaluate Your Risks

Because the U.S. hospitality industry attracts millions of guests each night – and because those customers pay for almost everything with a credit card – cybercriminals see hotels as a potential windfall.

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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.