Training, Maintaining & Elevating Top Hotel Revenue Management Talent

By Paul van Meerendonk Director of Advisory Services, IDeaS Revenue Solutions | November 04, 2018

Remember that whiz kid in reservations? He had grown up with computers and seemed able to fly around the property management system with natural ease and skill. Sure, his job was just to answer calls and make reservations, but he had a knack for finding cool reports buried deep in the system. Not only that, but he had also somehow mastered Excel and was able to create dazzling charts that seemed to bring the numbers to life. We knew we had to nurture his raw talent, so we signed him up for some revenue management 101. He would become our savior, finally getting our pricing in shape and enhancing our top-line revenues.

Ah, the good old days. It used to be so simple. Then the initial wave of OTAs hit, bringing every poor revenue and reservations manager to their knees with endless channel updates. The internet-generated floodwaters soon followed as data became more and more essential. Now we have visibility into transactional data, we know where bookings come from (and why), we know what prices our competitors are selling at, we know our review scores and online reputation, and the list goes on and on. And what about the whiz kid? Is he still up to the challenge? Did he stay afloat in the sea of new data sources? Even more concerning: is he even still working at the hotel? Perhaps he went off to work for one of the OTAs!

How we find, manage, and retain top talent at revenue-managing hotels has changed dramatically since the big-data boom began. It's important that we continuously strive to provide ongoing education and support in this competitive job market. Blended learning approaches are key to accommodate varying levels of expertise, job roles, and employee age groups. On-demand, quick learning tools are especially relevant as high-turnover rates necessitate faster uptimes of skilled, productive employees. Beyond that, career trajectory and a clear pathway for upward mobility must also be considered to attract top performers. Properly training, maintaining, and elevating talent is essential to achieving an ongoing return on investment in your people, technology, and processes.

Wade into the Talent Pool

Let's first look at what should be your company's number-one asset: the people who work there. While promoting from within presents many benefits, it is rare now to find a reservation agent or manager who has the skills required for modern-day revenue management. All the good ones have either been taken or have moved on to bigger and better things. The revenue managers of tomorrow may need to come from elsewhere. If we start at the beginning, our obvious choice would be to seek talent straight out of college.

Fortunately, several top hotel schools have risen to the challenge, offering advanced degrees in hotel revenue management. University hotel programs have long been a reliable source of industry up-and-comers, and now they are a great place to find eager and knowledgeable hotel revenue managers. At a recent HSMAI event in Amsterdam, several young graduates took to the stage and showed off their abilities in front of industry leaders and veterans. It was a good indicator that, as academic institutions ramp up their courses and degrees to match revenue management needs, concerns about a shortage of able-minded workers will ebb away. This is not to say, however, you should rely solely on fresh graduates to fill open positions, but you may find it to be one of the most efficient routes.

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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.