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HSMAI Section: RMS Providers, Pick Up Your Game and Engage!

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October 25, 2017
Revenue Management
Neal Fegan - neal.fegan@totalrevenueuplift.com

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Over recent years the revenue management system (RMS) providers in the hotel industry have been feverishly working to improve their systems by focusing on the forecasting and optimization of those systems. We’ve seen advances in price elasticity models, forecast performance and optimization at the room class level. When you run these advancements through sophisticated simulations they show significant revenue growth versus previous models because quite honestly, the algorithms have gotten better. 
What hasn’t gotten better at the same pace is the user engagement with these systems, and therein lies the biggest oversight in these latest enhancements. The RMS user base has grown accustomed to advancements in other software systems that have left the RMS providers in the dust. Here’s a list of some ideas that would increase the user engagement with revenue management systems, thus increasing hotel revenue:
1. Email Text Scraping This technology is used in many systems. I can email my receipts to my free accounting software system (Wave apps) and it mines the text and logs it. I can also email my travel email confirmations to my free travel software (TripIt) to mine the text and create a travel itinerary for me, combining air, hotel and car rental into a single itinerary.
How could it be used in a RMS? Allow sales to email leads to a set address that analyzes it in the RMS and generates an email answer back to the seller. Sellers don’t have to be trained on a new system, as they all know how to use email, and it removes the complaint that group displacements take too much time to run. We all know the ideal is that all group leads go through your RMS for evaluation. Can you honestly say that your hotels are doing this? A general manager (GM) could email a report request and the system could respond by delivering that report back to his/her email. This takes a burden off the director of revenue management (DRM), gets the GM the answer more quickly, and engages the GM in the use of the RMS. Win, win, win!
2. Searchable Note Data with Photo-to-text Ability Evernote is the biggest player here and it has been in wide use since 2011. You can take notes as well as take photographs of text and handwriting that gets converted to text. All of this is then searchable so you can remember key items from the past.
How could it be used in a RMS? It can be used to keep track of revenue meeting minutes and decisions. Many hotels use whiteboards to keep track of tactics and could take photos of these in the meeting room to save time on converting them to notes. Integrating this within the RMS, instead of using a third party like Evernote, would allow the users to keep track of their notes and RMS forecasts and decisions in a single place, making a search for answers much quicker and more efficient. This would also help with employee turnover as the DRM’s notes from Evernote are not likely to be accessible from the incoming DRM.
3. Blow-up of Thumbnails You’ve been to many websites that have this now, like how Amazon will zoom into photos when you hover over the product thumbnail. There are also browser extensions, like Hover Zoom for Chrome, that will do this for you.
How could it be used in a RMS? Think about reports, and how frustrating it is to try and remember what is included in a report when you are running through the list and descriptions in the RMS. Now imagine being able to hover over a link to a report and seeing an example output of that report without needing to click through, enter fields of data, and then run it to find out it wasn’t what you were looking for. Not only would this be a time saver, but think about the underutilized reports that have great insights, but staff don’t use them because they forgot about their value from their initial training.
4. Voice Integration Think Siri, Ok Google, Alexa. Many apps are now integrating with these features. “Hey, Siri. Name that tune.” The phone integrates with Shazam in the background and tells you the song title and the artist currently playing. “Ok Google. Show me attractions near me on TripAdvisor.” The phone opens TripAdvisor and shows you. “Alexa. Play ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel.” The Amazon Echo finds the song on Spotify and plays it.
How could it be used in a RMS? “Yo, [insert RMS name here]! Change my one-night rate on November 21st to $219.”
“Attention, [insert RMS name here]! Rerun the group displacement for group XYZ”
“Hello, [insert RMS name here]! Am I forecasting to sell out on Saturday?”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Once simple commands are in the works, more complex tasks and questions could be determined through voice commands. It could become the newest member to your revenue meetings.
5. Special Events Notifications Have you ever used the app Bandsintown? It searches your music library and services like Spotify to see which bands you like and then tells you when they (and other bands you may like that are similar) are playing in a town near you.
How could it be used in a RMS? Some RMS providers use data mining to automate finding special events based upon room night and rate data patterns, but think if you were given a heads up in the system whenever events were coming to your area. You could then decide whether they should be allocated as a RMS special event or not. You could even use the feature to look at past dates to see if you can find reasons for strange demand patterns that you previously couldn’t explain. The RMS could even mine that event data from other markets to predict if certain events are likely to increase or decrease demand in your market. And, all of this is available without needing to combine Google searches and other services outside of the RMS.
These five enhancements may seem like pipe dreams, but they really aren’t. All of them are based off technology that has been available for several years now. The request isn’t for the RMS providers to create these from scratch, but rather take advantage of innovations that are now commonplace in other systems and websites for their users.
The best systems and algorithms are only as good as the user that is responsible for implementing the decision outputs. Even a RMS that is on autopilot can be overridden by the user or systems to which they are connecting. Therefore, it is key to ensure engagement and adoption of the system is a top priority.
Neal Fegan is the chief revenue officer of Total Revenue Uplift, a leading revenue management consulting firm, and can be reached at neal.fegan@totalrevenueuplift.com.

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