Hotel System Vendors Rush to Address Hotels’ New Priorities

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March 01, 2015
Technology Selection
John Burns - john@burns-htc.com

Technology Selection, The Plumbing No Longer Matters

Not so long ago during new system procurement hotel property and brand staff placed considerable focus on evaluating the mechanics of how various processes were completed. They examined the room inventory structure and potential permutations, the rate-setting processes, activity report development options, and the details of the interfaces between the system under review and other systems. The how of system activity completion was important to examine and understand. Technology providers accustomed to explaining system processes in detail are now challenged to understand that customers, for their systems and services have moved on, that they have transitioned to new priorities in evaluating potential system options.


From Then to Now
Recent years have brought a sea change in hotel priorities for system evaluation. Gone is the primary focus on internal processes and the system’s plumbing. The new priority is not how, but what. What does the system do to meet my business requirements? What insight can it provide me into my guests and their needs?  What can it do to make my staff more immediately productive?  What can it do to strengthen my financial performance?

The top priority in hotel system evaluation I suggest, is now results, not process.  Please refer to the sidebar on page 124.

The Old Requirements Continue – Their Presence is Assumed
Yes, the primary evaluation criteria have changed from process design to system capabilities and performance results.  While yesterday’s selection criteria are now lower in profile they are definitely not gone.  With the maturation of hotel systems, users now assume the presence of crucial characteristics – characteristics that include flexibility to accommodate the hotel’s specific business processes as well as integration with other property and corporate systems. And their expectations extend still further.  They now take for granted outstanding reliability, sophisticated data security, ongoing system enhancement to support evolving business processes and changing guest expectations, attentive customer support, and of course, a strong value proposition.

Challenges and Opportunities for Vendors
As hotel system marketplace priorities shift from process mechanics to performance and results, solution providers are challenged on two fronts. The first is to engineer, or re-engineer, their processes to deliver the expected – indeed mandatory – capabilities and to do so with a degree of surface simplicity and elegance which has not been common in hotel technology in the past.
 
The second is to retool the marketing messages to dwell not on system process detail but rather on their system’s superior outputs and outcomes.  Agreed, this echoes of “benefit selling” but it goes beyond that.  The need is now to specifically focus on the actions, resulting successes and competitive advantage enabled by the technology in question.

Communication and Collaboration – To Move Past the Plumbing
As certain as the shift in hotel evaluation priorities from process mechanics – the plumbing – to the results the system can enable, is the certain knowledge by technology vendors that these desired capabilities will continue to evolve, and will at a faster than comfortable rate for the system development team.
 
Understanding hotels’ desired outcomes from their systems, and enabling swift and on-target responses to those needs, can only be achieved when vendors maintain close communication with their user community.  Many do now with success, success that takes the form of ongoing collaboration on business objectives and the ever-changing tool kit needed to fulfill those objectives.

John Burns is president of Hospitality Technology Consulting. He can be reached at john@burns-htc.com.

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Results Matter
Hoteliers Focus on Systems that Produce Results

The top priority in hotel system evaluation I suggest, is now results, not process. More specifically, hoteliers are focused on:

  • Capabilities that generate increased revenue, such as revenue management facilities that enable application of a Best Available Rate (BAR) and automatic dissemination of rates across the distribution landscape.
  • Capabilities that strengthen the guest relationship, such as the opportunity to build informative profiles of guests’ stay history and behavior, displaying appropriate portions of that data on the website (following guest login), to reservations staff, on the check-in screen at the front desk, and to service delivery staff, such as at F&B outlets.  It also includes convenient access to that data for development and delivery of highly targeted emails and offers, to perpetuate the hotel-guest relationship.
  • A state-of-the-art booking engine for the website, enabling appealing presentation of the property and encouraging guests to upsell themselves to higher category rooms, add additional revenue generating services to their reservation and end the reservation path feeling that it was simple and secure.
  • Screens whose use is intuitive – aspiring to the simplicity of Google.com. The priority is usability, minimizing first, training time, and second, data input. The goal is to allow hotel staffers to be “heads up” with their guest rate rather than “heads down” with the computer.
  • Integration with social media channels to capture commentary and measure sentiments, and to display pertinent comments and volume data at opportune times.
  • Insight into operational performance, valuing facilities such as dashboards that automatically highlight variances and anomalies, displays that identify patterns, trends and revenue-generating opportunities, each with drill-down options and easy-to-use analytics tools – tools that are increasingly critical to effective management at both property and brand levels.

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