Why On-The-Go Financial Technology is Critical for Today's Hotelier
By Scott Watson Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, M3 Accounting + Analytics | January 06, 2019
Co-authored by Casi Johnson Chief Operations Officer& Innovations Leader, M3 Accounting + Analytics
Today's hotelier is constantly on the go-boarding planes and hailing Ubers-all while trying to keep tabs on multiple properties at once and make critical business decisions that drive financial performance for the brand as a whole. With the upswing of development and competition in the industry and rising demands from potential guests and online travel agencies, hotel operators are being asked to deliver bigger, better data faster-without the increase in personnel and resources they need. The same struggle applies when it comes to managing property finances and business accounts.
To navigate this balancing act, it is critical to adopt a mobile solution that's designed like a "Fitbit" for hoteliers to track performance and improve financial health on-the-fly. The benefits of replacing physical logbooks and outdated radios with mobile devices are innumerable.
For starters, here are four of the top assets that make mobile technology a no-brainer for today's hotel business leaders:
Ultimately, the end goal of a successful mobile strategy should be improving the customer experience, from check-in to checkout. Anyone who has recently stayed in a branded hotel has likely had the option to avoid all human interaction, if desired. Mobile check-in has become the norm, complete with room maps that allow potential guests to select their preferred room before they arrive.
On the flipside, handheld technology is transforming hotel operations in a big way, putting industry-wide and multi-property data in the hands of hotel owners, operators and managers like never before. In today's digitally-saturated world, virtually all hotel operations-from maintenance requests to housekeeping activities-can be measured and tracked from the screen of a mobile device. And the mobile mayhem has only just begun. Soon, the guest experience will become even more dictated by mobile technology, as hotels begin employing interest-based targeting to offer highly customized recommendations for guests, whether it be activities inside the hotel, shopping or nearby restaurants in the community that align with each guest's mobile "footprint" and behavioral history.
In order to meet guests halfway (on their home screens), smart hoteliers should implement the same type of mobile processes to conduct back office functions that complement the customer experience. In turn, the accelerated functionality of a mobile-friendly system allows management teams to react and respond more efficiently to guests' needs, while ensuring each request is met before the next time an individual arrives. Ulitimately, utilizing a sound mobile operations system doesn't create an impersonal experience for the guest; rather, it facilitates more meaningful interactions that are tailored to each guest's distinctive needs and preferences.
While a mobile-equipped staff leads to transparency and accountability between frontline employees and management, it also provides hoteliers with the big picture they need to make informed decisions. Before, the sink that stopped up constantly or the guest who complained about a funny smell from their room never got rolled up or pieced together. A mobile solution identifies these repetitions and tells the larger story. Using this information, managers can ensure that the right measures are taken to pinpoint problem areas and prevent mishaps in the future.
Currently, smart device users spend 85 percent of their time utilizing mobile apps. Within the hospitality industry, this percentage will only continue to rise as more and more hotels rollout guest-facing add-ons and services within their mobile apps. The more guests log into the app, the more data hoteliers can receive to track and aptly predict guest behavior to influence strategic brand decisions accordingly. In the future, guests will continue to expect VIP treatment, especially those who qualify as loyalty program members. To meet rising guest expectations (without increasing costs), hotel businesses should constantly be on the lookout for mobile forecasting tools that provide predictive analytics that allow management teams to adjust business decisions in anticipation of future needs.
And when it comes to managing a hotel's financial health, the benefits of maintaining a secure, cloud-based system are equally critical for the hotel leader on the go. Relocating the tedious invoicing process to a document imaging solution offers an immediate return in improving the efficiency and accuracy of the accounts payable process, eliminating the need for document storage and reducing postage. Imagine the luxury of using a smartphone to access a snapshot of current labor costs for the week, plus the required resources for the remainder of the week based on planned volume of rooms-all while ensuring you are meeting targeted GOP. The bottom line: mobile technology is critical to building a stronger connection between activity and behavior from the guest side; and performance and benchmarking from the operational side.
The most sensible long-term solution to most of a hotelier's challenges today is a scalable accounting, reporting and analytical software that can grow and flex with everchanging business and industry needs. To maximize the tidal wave of data out there, it is critical for hoteliers to have the right hotel-specific platform in place that can import and interpret data from multiple properties and time zones into one easy-to-use, centralized mobile dashboard. This makes hoteliers lives easier by providing a snapshot of financial performance (including GSS, STR, and other financial statements) that allows them to identify key trends to make more informed business decisions down the road.
When in doubt, opt for cloud-based mobile app that offers easy-to-read snapshots of a brand's multi-property financial health on a daily, monthly and yearly view. By adopting a system that's seamlessly connected via the cloud, hoteliers who find themselves traveling between properties frequently can remain connected to multiple hotels' performance stats that are centrally stored, allowing them to make quick decisions and communicate with their teams on-property to maximize performance. A sound mobile solution has the capacity to provide access to a range of key data sets, including: Key Performance Indexes (Occupancy and ADR), Rooms Rented, Total Room Revenue, Food and Bar Revenue, Rooms Out of Order, Redemptions, Guaranteed No Shows, and Complimentary Rooms (to name a few).
Gaining enhanced visibility into every day hotel operations allows GMs to quickly 'zoom in' on internal or guest-facing issues and 'zoom out' on big-picture trends that shape the hotel brand as a whole. This balancing act can be nearly impossible for hotels confined to information stored on paper tickets, physical logbooks and clunky binders, especially for GMs responsible for multiple properties. With a user-friendly mobile app like M3's, for example, users can conveniently view variances and comparisons customized by daily, month-to-date or year-to-date current year performance-paving the way for managers to make more informed decisions to boost financial performance moving forward. Other enhanced comparison tools, such as a proprietary benchmarking index, captures data from thousands of properties to show hoteliers where their business stacks up against competitors. A comprehensive mobile dashboard can provide on-demand access to the entire P&L, displaying per occupied room (POR) data analysis that helps users compare their performance (both revenue and expenses) against an auto-populated "like" competitive set. The ability to "mobilize" this data is key.
Enhanced Transparency & Staff Management
The hospitality industry's pressing appetite for on-the-go data is present at all levels-from owners, investors, C-level, GM's and every position in between. When it comes to connecting associates with human resources functions, mobile apps are essential for meeting the expectations of today's mobile-savvy workforce. By operating under the same digital umbrella, hotel staff can communicate guest requests and work orders more efficiently, while holding each other accountable for day-to-day tasks.
Self-service capabilities are a gamechanger for staff members at every level, allowing employees to complete onboarding tasks, view time-off balances and request time off, while providing on-demand access to salary and benefits statements. Rather than just a tool to prompt an associate to complete a necessary form, mobile apps like M3 are designed to provide an invaluable communication channel between back-office operations and multi-property data, allowing companies to promote their brand's values, recognize associates for their quality work, and foster a transparent, team-oriented environment.
Adopting a mobile solution that incorporates job standards, in addition to budget numbers allows operators to ensure that proper staffing is in place based on the previous night's stay and circumstances. Most systems will show overtime. But isn't it better to manage to standards and activities within the hotel and eliminate overtime before it happens? In the same vein, using a comprehensive, hotel-specific platform helps accounting teams curb labor costs (without sacrificing quality) by measuring daily success and making that information available for all on-property and above-property management teams, as well as individual employees.
While nothing will replace the intrinsic power of in-person customer service and interactions, mobile technology has become a necessity for hotel operators who want to keep their operations ahead of the curve. More and more hoteliers are harnessing the power of next-generation business intelligence tools to increase internal visibility, manage big data and enhance financial performance-all at the "tap" of a finger. Looking ahead to 2019, hoteliers can expect to see several new products on the market that will dramatically enhance business insight and provide new financial and operational data that allows hoteliers, owners and operators to make better decisions on-the-fly to directly impact their bottom-line.
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