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Lessons in History

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October 01, 2004
Information | Age
Dan Phillips - dphillips@its-services.com

© 2004 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

It is said that if one doesn't learn from history, history will repeat itself. Or, is it that, "History repeats itself. That's one of the things wrong with history." - Clarence Darrow. At any rate, history can furnish numerous lessons for us from which to learn.

Let's start this lesson in the Stone Age when everyone had an unlimited supply of that age's number one resource, rock. However, the first guy to chip away some rock and make the first wheel... he was the guy that got all the Saber-tooth skin rugs for his cave.

Long after the Stone Age came the Industrial Age. At this time, to be successful, people had to have a bigger chip on their shoulder than our previous rock star. People had to design, invent and build the huge machines and plants that were the building blocks of the Industrial Age. These people had to be motivated; they had to be smart. Only the best industrialists could park a shiny, new Ford Model T in the front yard.
Ages do have some negative effects on the world. The Stone Age produced numerous sharp stone fragments that were difficult to walk on in bare feet. The Industrial Age began the era of pollution and mistreatment of employees. These, too, are lessons to remember.
For quite some time now, we have been in the Information Age. One of the neat things about this era is that there are so many tools at our disposal. In the hotel industry you have an unending alphabet soup of tools: PMS, CRS, CRM, CAS, POS, and so on. The first issue you face in order to become successful in this era is how to spearate the noodles from the borth and get exactly what you need.
Today, information is currency. It is power. Just look how protective the PMS vendors have been over the years about interfacing to their systems and getting access to their data. They understood a long time ago that to become more successful in the hospitality industry, one needed access to the data they held. HTNG is another indicator of the importance of information. They are pushing initiatives for open interfaces to hotel systems to gain access to a myriad of information.
However, just like a big rock, information is useless unless something can be done with it. There are major hotel companies that collect information from guests at check in, when they make online reservations, when they buy breakfast in the morning, what they do with their loyalty points, and, what their youngest child's favorite TV show is. But, these companies have all of this information housed in diferent systems that can't share. These companies have no efficient way to mine the data for the gems they need to shine brighter than their competition.
In the Information Age the successful hotelier will:
  • Define the product that they need to differentiate themselves and put their brand in high demand. In this case, the product is a service level that guest information can make possible.
  • Determine the information needed tomake that new service level a reality.
  • Invest in the technology that will be the most efficient provider of only that information that is needed.
  • Create the process that leverages that information to generate the product.
There will be various efforts at designing the product that will take a hotel brand to peak success. As a bystander, watching and learning about all of the different thoughts and attempts will be fun. If I were to take my SWAG at it, I would think that a differentiator in the hotel industry would:
Recognize the guest (customer) immediately in every encounter that happens between them and my organization. Recognition is defined by name, loyalty affiliation and status, specific requirements, billing arrangements, historical preferences, and, infrequent requests, at a minimum.
Apply this knowledge appropriately in every encounter. Applications would include: pop-up billing information during online purchases, notification of loyalty club opportunities during the exchange, proactive confirmation of the customer's purchase selection and an added bonus or surprise during every stay.
Deliver on the contracted promises. Do not necessarily under promise, but always over deliver.
Maintain the relationship. Use the information you have to keep the relationship healthy. Call the customer on her birthday or anniversary. Notify her when her loyalty points have accumulated and an interesting redemption is possible. Inform her when her credit card is about to expire.
As with all eras, the Information Age does have some nasty byproducts. Privacy is one of the biggest issues today. Your customer doesn't want to know that 32 spam e-mails he gets everyday are from a list your company sold. Control the excess of the resources you garner.
Who knows, the one who harnesses the power of information may be the person who can afford a ticket on the first passenger space shuttle trip to the moon.
Dan Phillips is COO of ITS, a consulting firm located outside of Atlanta, Ga., specializing in technology in the hospitality industry. For comment or question, he can be reached at dphillips@its-services.com

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