Mr. McCartan

Revenue Management

Customer Centric Web - Service Doesn't Start in the Hotel

By Michael McCartan, Managing Director Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Duetto

Today's hotel booking environment is hardly straight-forward, it is instead a complex mesh of multiple consumer touch points that requires the marketing and revenue management departments to continuously readdress their approach to delivering their products to the market.

Direct bookings are challenged by third party sellers both through traditional travel agents and by the well-exposed online travel websites. To secure the direct booking you need to find a way of influencing the customer, enticing them to your own booking channel so that you can make the most revenue from every available room.

How you portray your business and hotel is crucial, and your service must deliver the same experience when they stay. With the web becoming more customer centric, by engaging fully with the online research and the purchase experience you can add value to your hotel proposition while providing positive impact on customers' purchase decisions.

Know the customer

Your historical customer data is an ideal place to start; here you can learn their demographics and where they are coming from. Understand which guest is the higher value guest, and from where you receive the more advanced bookings. Your customer knowledge will improve your chance to better develop and apply your hotel's persona.

In today's' multimedia world, personality is essential; people want to know what they are buying into and what sort of experience they will have when they arrive. Is your hotel chic with a flamboyant edge and if so, does your marketing, communications and customer communication reflect this? If you're a suave and classic property, do you deliver a sophisticated and formal experience?

Getting this right and communicating this effectively to your customer will deliver the rewards that will help improve your visibility and ranking. You will do well on guest review websites like TripAdvisor because you have met the guests' expectations. The way you market and sell your rooms across OTAs will be more consistent, applying a tailored message to each OTA will make sure you are best positioned on that channel.

There's also information insatiability today, and if the hotel's personality is enough to draw interest, they will be eager to learn more. Having more content on your own website will encourage travellers to know more about the property. This is vital, as by now, you have begun to influence the buyers' booking journey, to come to you directly for information and potentially a booking.

When it comes to secure bookings, it's important to make it easy, simple and straightforward. A few clicks to reservation confirmation will engage the customer every time.

Online purchase behavior

Getting to the direct booking stage however is not as simple as developing a personality for the hotel based on your previous guests. You also need to look closer at your available data for developing a more intelligent insight to understand what journey their research has taken them on before booking.

Your third parties are essential, they provide the market visibility you need, and if listed properly with the best ranking available, they also ensure the maximum exposure. Customers often use OTAs as a directory for hotels, to benchmark proposition, location and price before making the reservation. Understanding the performance metrics of these channels will help you to see what draws travelers to make a booking with you. Which channel delivers the most booking? Which OTA provides the highest RevPAR? And which delivers the most advanced bookings? What type of package are people buying here?

Reservation reports provide you with the above details. Now that you know how and why your OTAs perform, you can take their lead by example and make adjustments to your own offering and how you present your hotel on your own website.

Utilizing the power of social & digital

Online marketing is as vast as offline, therefore it is essential that you select those channels that will work well for you. Take a look at your Google Analytics, to see how your website is performing. Know from where your traffic has originated, whether it was from a search engine, an advertising banner, a social media link, email campaign or a website that has some reference to your hotel.

You will be able to extract key information to make your digital marketing campaigns more profitable. Analyze your keywords to know which search terms have received the most hits, and how you can bid through PPC to increase visits? Assess the demographics of your website visitors- this will give you a good idea on localized marketing. Why target the East coast when in reality most of your visits come from the West coast?

It's important to wait for market saturation and maximization before branching out to new territories. Social media be a great help, your Guest Reviews and Facebook Fan Page will give you a snapshot of your guests and little more. Engage with your guests in social media to understand their likes and dislikes, why they travel and what they like to do. Don't forget to check your competitor hotels' reviews, what do guests like about their property? What experience do they deliver that's better than yours - which you can easily match?

With information at your fingertips, look differently at the market and identify how and where you can increase your visibility among the high-valued guests. 4C Hotels, a small hotel group increased direct sales by 5% through improved engagement in social media and guest review websites and proactively changing their promotional packages based on positive experience of their competitors' guests.

Social media also gives you more insights of other brands and businesses, even non-travel, your guests associate themselves with. Take advantage of marketing through association. Partner with local businesses that can attract guests from the outset.

Selling only relevant products

Successful online retail websites like eBay and Amazon make suggestions to the consumer on what they may like based on previous purchases. This is intelligent, and while as a hotel you may not have the technical infrastructure to manage this, OTAs are beginning to adopt this approach.

This is when product pricing not only becomes complex, but provides you with the opportunity to increase revenue. Creating multiple room types with additional services and value can help the traveler form a hotel-booking package that works for them. Further, developing intuitive packages will help customers actually find what they are looking for.

For example, the Warwick International Denver Hotel created the Drive & Romance Weekend Package, this promotional offer was made available to travelers visiting the city at for the weekend for specific events the hotel noted as good money-makers. This package met the needs of the consumer, allowed the hotel to secure occupancy and outperform a city of hotels experiencing occupancy decline.

Warwick International Denver understood their customers and why they were traveling and what would interest them. But it's important to know which channels you are selling this across and what works with those channels. Speaking to your account manager at the OTA will help understand their customers and their purchase trigger points. Then use this knowledge on your own website. You can never be everything to everyone, which is why focusing on volume meets high-value guests will bring you better returns.

Focusing your revenue management and marketing efforts in this way will help you better price your products, making them available at the right price while still being able to meet and deliver their expectations.

Service beyond the hotel

The internet is not just a sales channel but also social, providing you the chance to service your guest in the same way as you do in your hotel. It's also important to have all the other customer support services meet the needs of all guests who may have a different perspective on customer service.

Social media is an excellent platform for engaging with the guest, finding out their likes and interests prior to arriving, or helping them amend dates, add additional services or provide a cancellation. During the Icelandic Volcano ash crisis across the Northern Hemisphere, KLM and other airlines successfully used social media to communicate with their passengers, to rebook them and provide updates on flight conditions. This increased their following and reputation. Many passengers still prefer to engage with the airline through Twitter and Facebook.

The call center hasn't died yet either, in fact large online brands are now investing in their customer service by establishing support teams to help customers rebook, or access advice on purchases. This includes both consumer and business facing businesses, for example Amadeus, InterContinental and Utell have all invested in call centers recently to support their customers, the internet is far the be all and end all today. Reputation means a lot to the value and marketing of your business and a call center can still give guests that point of call when they are worried or concerned about their booking.

A majority of your bookings may derive from the internet, but your guests very much live in the real-world, which is why it is important to develop processes and customer service-level agreements for the internet. Building your customer centric web through knowledge of your guests, the online data, your revenue management data, and marketing data will help you refine your offering, target it in the market, capture the interest of travelers and engage them in a direct sale. This all adds to higher value, reduced cost of sales and therefore increased revenue.

An expert in the fields of hospitality and electronic distribution, Michael McCartan joined Duetto as Managing Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2014 to spearhead the rollout of the company's products and development of Customer Success teams throughout the EMEA region. Since joining Duetto, he has grown the European headquarters of Duetto in London, as well as establishing teams in Germany and Dubai. Mr. McCartan is adept at engineering creative solutions and then executing their delivery, understanding the exact needs of the client and the challenges surrounding the market. He is a valued member of the HSMAI Europe Revenue Management Advisory Board, contributing to articles and leading seminars and keynote sessions for the association. He is also a frequent speaker and panellist at major travel industry events across EMEA. Mr. McCartan can be contacted at +44 7557968806 or michael.mccartan@duettoresearch.com Please visit http://www.duettoresearch.com for more information. Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

AUGUST: Food & Beverage: Multiplicity and Diversity are Key

Larry Steinberg

The foodservice industry is one of the oldest and most important. Consumers from all demographics rely on it virtually every day for sustenance. In fact, in the U.S. alone, itís a nearly $800 billion industry thatís extremely competitive, with hundreds of new establishments popping up every year, and much of this new business is the result of increased consumer demand. Consumers want more options. For every practiced chef, there is a collective of guests eager to spend their hard-earned dollars on something exotic and different. They want to experience a bit of culture by way of their next meal, and they want to find it using the latest technology. READ MORE

Frank Sanchez

About two years ago, I started my career at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. I came from San Diego, California, the apparent capital of farmerís markets. When I moved to Chicago in late-October, the number of farmerís markets had already begun to taper off and all that was left of the hotelís rooftop garden was the sad remnants of a summer full of bounty. However, I was in for a pleasant surprise. The Chicago Marriott Downtown operates a year-round experience to create food from scratch that gives customers fresh and nutritional options. I was thrilled to join a team that can tell a customer that the very greens on their plate were grown just floors above them. READ MORE

Thomas  McKeown

To serve todayís eclectic, socially engaged and sophisticated guests, hotels and chefs need to get creative, change their thinking and push back some walls Ė sometimes literally. The fun thing about meetings hotels is that they are a different place just about every week. One week weíre hosting a bridge tournament, the next a corporate sales team, or a dentistsí conference, or sci-fi fans in costumes, or cheerleaders jumping for joy. You name the group, and our hotel has probably welcomed them. READ MORE

Elizabeth  Blau

Over the past several years, many of us have watched with excitement and interest as the fast-casual restaurant segment has continued to boom. More and more, talented chefs with fine dining pedigrees are bringing their skills, creativity, and experience to concepts built around speed, approachability, and volume. Right now, the ability to offer a gourmet experience at all price points is as compelling to restaurateurs and diners alike. READ MORE

Coming Up In The September Online Hotel Business Review




{300x250.media}
Feature Focus
Hotel Group Meetings: Blue Skies Ahead
After a decade of sacrifice and struggle, it seems that hotels and meeting planners have every reason to be optimistic about the group meeting business going forward. By every industry benchmark and measure, 2017 is shaping up to be a record year, which means more meetings in more locations for more attendees. And though no one in the industry is complaining about this rosy outlook, the strong demand is increasing competition among meeting planners across the board Ė for the most desirable locations, for the best hotels, for the most creative experiences, for the most talented chefs, and for the best technology available. Because of this robust demand, hotels are in the driverís seat and they are flexing their collective muscles. Even though over 100,000 new rooms were added last year, hotel rates are expected to rise by a minimum of 4.0%, and they are also charging fees on amenities that were often gratis in the past. In addition, hotels are offering shorter lead times on booking commitments, forcing planners to sign contracts earlier than in past years. Planners are having to work more quickly and to commit farther in advance to secure key properties. Planners are also having to meet increased attendee expectations. They no longer are content with a trade show and a few dinners; they want an experience. Planners need to find ways to create a meaningful experience to ensure that attendees walk away with an impactful memory. This kind of experiential learning can generate a deeper emotional connection, which can ultimately result in increased brand recognition, client retention, and incremental sales. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group business and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.