Hotels Check In with More Analytics


(Image: davidlee770924/Pixabay)

(Image: davidlee770924/Pixabay)

Hotels continue to invest in analytics so they're in a better position to optimize revenue, deliver better customer experiences and improve operations. Like other organizations, hotels realize they can improve their competitive position using data and analytics more effectively than others. To do that, they need to integrate data coming from different functional areas and connect internal data with external data to make material improvements across the board.

Revenue Optimization

Hotels are moving past historical data and current bookings to maximize room occupancy and profitability. To improve their effectiveness, they're using competitive data, event data, predictive capabilities, and more. Starwood Resorts is experimenting with machine learning and neural networks to concierge services than Wi-Fi. Hotels must understand such differences to understand a guest's preferences and cater to those preferences. After all, every customer has an individual expectation of what a "good" hotel experience is, not just the Premier or Platinum members. While the most profitable and loyal customers deserve exclusive benefits, catering to them should not be done at the expense of other guests.

To provide better experiences at all levels, hotels are attempting to understand their customers more holistically than they have in the past to provide a relevant experience. Having a "special requests" textbox in a booking application yields some information, so are customer requests and feedback recorded at the front desk. Another way to understand customer preferences is to slice and dice room offerings based on non-traditional amenities, such as allergen-filtering, in addition to the usual size, price, category and smoking/no smoking designations. Tracking a customer's preferences over time, helps too in an effort to anticipate guests needs and desires.

These days, loyalty isn't something that kicks in at check-in. Hotels are using search, online bookings, social media, call center data, front desk data and surveys to better understand customer journeys and what people want.

Moving up a level or two, some are targeting Millennials, which included Pokemons in the pool and on beds at Marriott hotels, clearly a non-traditional "benefit," though an attractive benefit for those caught up in the Pokemon Go craze. The campaign happened to be a very smart marketing move from a social media point of view -- free advertising.

The relationship among marketing, customer loyalty and revenue optimization enables a continuous feedback loop where insights from one bucket inform the others. And that's not all.

Operations

Third party data can be very valuable from a predictive point of view when it impacts hotel occupancy and profitability. Weather and event data are two examples. Here in Sedona, Ariz., wildfires and heavy monsoon rains can cause massive hotel room cancellations. In other cities, popular concerts, sports games and flight cancellations cause a spike in demand. While those things may seem intuitive, actual data feeds can help hotels plan for the dips and spikes more accurately, so they can right size things like staff on hand and supply orders.

From an internal perspective, hotels need to monitor and constantly improve the efficiency of individual functions such as housekeeping, not only to reduce costs, but to keep up with competitors' improvements. Some operational information is used to craft marketing messages such as Starwood Hotel's "Smart check-in."

Analytics is also providing insight into age-old issues such as sluggish room service. Is the problem too many simultaneous orders, too few members of the kitchen staff, poor kitchen management, something else or a combination of things? Operational analytics provides some insight as will guests' social media posts, survey data, call center data, front desk data, etc.

Mobile

Hotel chains have mobile apps that give them even more insight into customer behavior, especially as they expand out from reservations made using a mobile device to keyless entry (using a smartphone), mobile food orders and more.

Some hotels are adopting "mobile first" strategies given the popularity of the devices and the fact that more hotel customers are using mobile devices instead of laptops to book rooms.

What Other Data Should Hotels Be Using?

Hotels face many of the same problems enterprises face generally, not the least of which is connecting dots in a way that is valuable to their organizations and customers.

Where do you think hotels are succeeding? What do they need to improve? We'd love to continue the conversation in the comments section.

Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers big data and BI for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include big data, mobility, enterprise software, the cloud, software development, and emerging cultural issues affecting the C-suite.

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Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 8/11/2017 6:57:30 PM
NO RATINGS

Many of the chains let you do that in your loyalty profile but sadly when I check in I often find I get the room that is available. They collect the data but they still aren't using it.

Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 8/3/2017 1:27:15 PM
NO RATINGS

Noting that "every customer has an individual expectation" from a hotel, it would be interesting to see what might happen if a customer could make his preferences known when booking at a particular location, as to price, condition and size of the room, any extras wanted or not and then get a customized experience for his particular expectations?

Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 8/2/2017 11:28:17 PM
NO RATINGS

Wouldn't that be cool no more security indignations!

Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 7/31/2017 8:16:35 PM
NO RATINGS

Hopefully we will all be riding hyperloops and airplanes will be only for overseas or for wealthy people who don't want to use the hypertube. 

Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 7/31/2017 2:56:55 PM
NO RATINGS

Lisa absolutely I had an experience with a large hotel company I will not name, that was not on par with what loyalty programs should embody. I booked a stay on points and then needed to make a small change of checking in one day later. They changed their system and told me every night I booked now cost two and a half times the points I used and I would need to cancel the whole stay if I needed a change. Needless to say, I didn't have enough point nor would I have spent them in that way. They gave no notice to their customers of this change in advance and removed some of their valuable programs like cash and points to a sliding implementation of cash and points that they could change based on room rates, time of year etc. Essentially, they made their loyalty program all in their benefit and unusable for their customers that have been loyal for more than 20 years like myself. Now, I don't collect their points any longer.

Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 7/31/2017 1:39:20 PM
NO RATINGS

Good point. They could use the help.

Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 7/31/2017 12:44:35 PM
NO RATINGS

I know it's out of step to say something nice about United Airlines, but they've actually made it ridiculously easy to use miles for travel, even during peak summer months (like now). So I'm loathe to gang the entire industry into the same basket of mediocrity or uselessness. 

Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 7/31/2017 12:42:28 PM
NO RATINGS

Maybe Lisa could broker a training deal where the hotel chains teach the airlines about service, customization and retention. A sweet retainer she could probably extend for years!

Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 7/31/2017 12:06:00 PM
NO RATINGS

Perhaps with better orchestration of analytics, hotels and airlines will realize the actual impact of changes to their loyalty program and see where their customers are defecting to.  At the moment, a small clause in agreements absolves them from giving notice.  Nothing like gearing up to use your points for something fun, only to realize it will take you more flights or stays to do what you had planned...

Re: Loyalty Programs
  • 7/30/2017 6:09:25 PM
NO RATINGS

Wow, that's really unfortunate. It's awful when points expire and you get no warning about it (especially if you travel a lot). It would seem like a good idea to inform your most active reward program users about a big change...

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