Data, Data Everywhere

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October 26, 2020
Big Data
Sherry Marek

But What Operating Data Really Matters to Successfully Manage a Hotel?
Hotels and resorts today have the luxury of being able to access hundreds of data points about their guests. Reviewing and understanding some of the operational data points provides insight that can help you evaluate your data journey and proactively adjust your goal posts on a real-time basis. 

Guest Loyalty
Guest feedback is more than just reviewing internal comment cards and Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Using social media to promote your property allows you to access general and frequent customer observations. This can help you eliminate future guest pain points. In addition, it offers another way to see where you rank compared to your competitors and how they rank in various platforms such as TripAdvisor, Twitter, Facebook, WeChat and Instagram. By converting guest sentiment phrases into numeric scores, you can compare rankings against your normal comp set. You can expand the comp set if your restaurant or bar has a unique social media identity and competes within your physical neighborhood for business among local residents. This process allows you to compare guest sentiment at a high level and peek into the competition’s conversations with customers. Numeric scores help you understand high level rankings while still allowing you to drill down into detailed discussions for pinpoint accuracy. When possible, appending social media comments and NPS into your CRM enriches your property’s customer profile and allows you to cultivate and understand your patrons better. But some guests prefer to be incognito. They want to remain unmatched with their feedback and scores. Also, tracking campaigns offered to guests and consumers helps your customer profile mature over time.

Business Process Automation
Properties everywhere spend an inordinate number of hours printing out reports from various systems and collating them into daily, weekly and monthly operational reports. Automating as many of these as possible lets you streamline the process while ensuring data accuracy. Of particular interest is the daily flash report and general ledger reconciliation. This is basically collecting detailed information from all operational systems, mapping it to its corresponding general ledger code and creating journal entries. Finance teams typically spend hours each day on this intensive, manual process. Automating it with a business intelligence (BI) tool can cut the workload from hours to minutes. Another option is identifying and posting complimentary checks for hotel employees. Some BI systems extract data from the POS by check number, allowing the system to automatically create an S&P journal to identify the employee along with check details.

Engineering
For decades engineering departments have worked to cut energy expenses and monitor usage. In the last few years, monitoring the organization’s sustainability metrics has also become a priority. At a ski resort, Mother Nature may boost savings by providing a heavy snowfall so the property doesn’t have to manufacture snow to provide ski, snowboard and tubing fun. Measuring the water and electricity used in this process against ski passes sold per day helps operations understand overall profit and loss (P&L). Similar analysis in the kitchen with utilities versus food covers or on the golf course versus rounds helps operational teams make decisions on services availability.

Controlling Expenses
Expenses are fixed and variable. Costs previously perceived as fixed may be changing. For example, some properties have removed certain room amenity items during COVID-19. This may, in time, reduce overall room setup expenses. Based on customer requests, housekeeping staff may not visit a room during a short stay. Instead they might spend more time cleaning before and after guests use the room. Housekeeping pay metrics may be changing based on per visit instead of per day. Many restaurants have moved menus online or send a picture of the menu to the customer as they’re seated. Customers access the menu on their personal phone. This allows chefs to change menus based on local market offerings without the incurring printing costs. 

GIGO Effect
You know the phrase “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” If you enter low quality data or leave key fields blank, you’ll have flaws in your statistical results. Some data points can be recovered after guest departure. For example, guest stay information can be sent to hygiene companies. Some companies enhance this data with additional data points, but this is expensive. If the front desk doesn’t update the guest residence information at check-in, unknown data or blank fields can hurt your CRM and marketing efforts. Ideally, if you know a U.S. guest’s ZIP code, your system can fill in the city and state automatically.

More formally, this should be included under your data governance umbrella. It’s crucial to define and maintain data policies and standards to create a rich, meaningful data strategy. In the contactless COVID-19 era, you may find it easier to ask customers to verify addresses in advance of their stay if this allows them to skip front desk interaction. Ownership It’s difficult to write about data analysis without stressing the value of leadership’s involvement with and use of the data. Successful implementations result when general managers and/or vice presidents are involved in the overall strategy and agree on data governance guidelines. The stakeholders may be involved in the day-to-day data process, but a steering committee’s involvement in discussions about data strategy in the board room or on the executive team is key to long-term integrity.

Benefits of a Cohesive Data Strategy
Creating and maintaining a data strategy can allow you to:
• Move to a data-driven decision-making process that all colleagues understand.
• Establish a business information culture with education and communication across the enterprise by using the same data, the same way throughout the property and corporate office.
• Accelerate the decision-making process. • Use a single tool that requires staff undergo the same training and develop the same skills.
• See a return on investment from eliminating data entry and replacing manual work with automation.
• Provide personalized service and improved guest satisfaction.

When managers run their departments based on goals and targets and keep track of their own P&L – instead of just paying attention to daily operations – you’ll see better results at the end of each day and month. Cross training helps the company overall. The rooms department can help the spa or golf group understand shoulder periods and how to identify them. Golf pros can look at day of week holes and offer twilight booking rates to attract more people. The front desk, restaurant and bar staff can get periodic training on upsells to bring in incremental revenue. When tracked and rewarded, the team understands the value to them and to the company.

Many CRM tools allow more contact with the customer prior to arrival. This rangers from offering upsells to providing information on local events. Patrons may ignore this until they’re at your front desk or near the pool, but once they’re in vacation mode, they’re ready to hear about spa amenities or options to get outdoors at your property.

Data for All!
Does everyone in your company know your data strategy? With dashboards to provide a visual representation, you can share future marketing plans or current P&L results in general meetings. Over the last few months, many discussions have centered around flexibility and preparing for the new normal. Access to the right data allows operations to prepare for the recovery and work with colleagues throughout the property to execute those plans now, measure results and share discoveries.

Collecting data is similar to a journey or road trip. When you’re young, you might drive on vacations, save money by staying at limited service locations and eat at lower priced establishments. As your disposable income grows, your journeys reflect the change. You may have more people in your party. You stay at nicer resorts, use the amenities and eat in nicer restaurants. You may splurge at the 25-year anniversary with a big trip. As you grow older, more people travel with you or travel to meet you. Just like vacations, your data journey evolves over time. It’s better to start by concentrating on a few goals, successfully reach them and then move to the next set of business needs. Collecting data isn’t a one-time decision. It evolves and matures with your business as you use more and more data, improve the guest experience, drive operational efficiencies, optimize pricing to capture a competitive advantage and minimize expenses to maximize the bottom line.



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