Upgraded Version Available: How to Renovate A Broken Technology Vendor Relationship

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | April 08, 2018

You don't need to talk to many hotels to learn that more of them have broken relationships with their technology vendors than ever before.  Meanwhile, according to Hospitality Technology's 2018 Lodging Technology Study, 61% of hotels are set to increase their IT budgets this year, primarily to respond to "shifting competitive pressures that drive hotel IT investments in digital and data to forge stronger links to guests." Even as more hoteliers recognize technology's crucial role in building stronger relationships with their guests, it can still be a difficult leap for them to source that technology from vendors who seem to care less about their customers with each new day. 

Please note from the outset that this article is not meant to be a dog-whistle to Oracle-haters.  Plenty of other traditional vendors have followed suit.  And the wave of innovation promised by a blue ocean of startups has in many cases receded with the tide, exposing a beach full of crabby users who are not only fried but feel quite burned by their sunny startups, and now look past them as they scan the horizon for the next solution.

Not that the relationship with technology vendors has ever been a terribly rosy one. It's doubtful that any hotelier reading this has ever called their vendor just to thank them for, say, the great support, or the rapid response to enhancement requests, or the quick installation dates, or the low prices.  But still, what a difference a couple of decades makes. When I was a young PMS salesman, I recall one of my first corporate customers calling and apologizing profusely for having stood me up for a scheduled call earlier that day. In a well-intentioned attempt to make him feel better, I said "please, don't worry about it, things come up. In fact, I'm thrilled to have the coupon in my pocket in case I ever do the same thing to you." 

I shouldn't have said that. 

A tough-love lecture ensued, that drove home the point that, no matter how much our brochures may talk about "partnership" and "collaboration," that this was not an equation.  He was the customer; I was the supplier.  I doubt many customers would take that approach today.  But how do you keep from always being at the back of the proverbial queue?

It used to be possible to "get in good" with an individual employee over time, to get you faster access to tech support, or an installation date, or a new feature, or whatever else you wanted that other hotels wanted at the same time.  But people don't stay in their jobs long enough for that any more, and that kind of relationship never could scale for either party as they grew.  Moreover, we are now in an age where not only do Uber drivers rate their riders, but riders actually care about their rating!  In a similar vein, when it comes to their broken relationships with tech suppliers, it's time for hoteliers at all levels to cast aside their feelings of indignation or sheer helplessness, and take a proactive approach to fixing them. 

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.