Three experts, Mike Medsker, from Focal Revenue Solutions, Scott McGraw, from Shiji Professional Services and Daniel Melnyk, from iVvy, sit down to discuss key challenges, trends and actionable opportunities in the emerging hospitality technology landscape.
In this interview, each expert talks about key issues, including how hoteliers can better integrate current technology solutions, how hotels can find future-proofed and scalable technology solutions, how to avoid common PMS sticking points, how to maximize group and event sales, and how to best utilize the Flywheel Effect.
Q: How can hoteliers integrate the current landscape of technology solutions to better inform and corroborate business decisions?
The mission should not be to use technology solutions to corroborate business decisions, but to use technology solutions to challenge assumptions and improve strategic decision making. Hoteliers must start by asking themselves “what are the questions that, once answered, will improve operating results?” From there, hotel executives must take ownership in selecting an integrated systems stack that will provide the answers they seek.
If you want to “future proof” your hotel’s tech stack, you must invest in technologies that support open APIs, and vendors who will work with you to support their applications and your business goals. Open APIs can significantly boost your hotel’s ability to scale, by cutting the time, effort and cost of tech upgrades. They can also create an operational ecosystem where guest data is shared across multiple platforms and touchpoints—creating a guest experience that is more seamless, efficient, and personalized.
Hoteliers with legacy systems face greater challenges than those with modern hotel tech. Articulating or learning to articulate the value of investing in integrated systems is foundational to overcoming these challenges. Hoteliers should identify specific goals (such as unifying customer profiles, or leveraging marketing automation to drive group sales), to guide initial conversations. When searching for new solutions, be specific about how a technology’s functionality is tied to achievable, actionable initiatives supporting the goal.
Q: What should you ask of technology vendors to ensure that you have solutions which are future-proof and scalable?
In-order to best position themselves for the future, hoteliers need to align themselves with technology partners that are committed to helping their customers achieve their business goals. One of the ways that tech vendors can enable success is making it easier for hotels to utilize their internal data. If you find your system of record is holding your data hostage through costly interface licenses and extended development lead times, vote with your wallet and find a partner that’s committed to a more progressive—and less siloed approach.
It’s important to ask specific and pointed questions to your vendors to ensure that they are treating your relationship like a strategic partnership, rather than just a simple transaction. What is their upgrade process like, and perhaps more importantly, does it require system downtime? How does the vendor decide which new functions will be developed, and do they proactively seek out client input in their development process? Does the vendors end-to-end implementation process include configuration and staff training?
Hoteliers should spend time understanding a vendor’s commitment to product enhancements, upgrades as well as their future roadmap. If specific functionality is important to your hotel, ask a vendor if they are willing to make contractual commitments to its deliverability. Review vendors Service Level Agreements to understand their commitments to their customer. Check references, and solicit references that had similar goals with their investment in the solution you are considering. As hoteliers, we aren’t taught how to buy technology and vet a vendor – invest in learning how to do this before you embark on the process.
Q: How can hoteliers avoid common PMS sticking points so they can optimize its performance for their business?
Buying and implementing a cloud and flexible PMS can revolutionize the art of hospitality, but isn’t a “set it and forget it” proposition – it requires buy-in from management, and training for staff. If your staff is used to sitting behind a front desk staring at a computer screen, they won’t automatically begin walking the lobby and interacting with guests just because you upgrade to a newer PMS.
That’s why hotels should designate a product champion with every major technological purchase to assist users and provide system expertise. Product champions can also be the point-person for interactions with the technology vendor, taking the lead in dealing with technical issues, and offering staff input for potential product upgrades.
Q: How can you break down the traditional boundaries between sales and marketing to maximize group and event sales?
Traditional sales and catering systems often remain in the domain of the sales office, with little connectivity between marketing and sales – in terms of customer data and interfaces, or even a hotel’s website RFP form. For example, Marketing may be responsible for campaigns to drive marketing-qualified leads that convert on hotel websites, but marketers may not be able to close the loop on what happens offline (i.e. did a contract get signed?). Direct collaboration between sales and marketing to identify what campaigns drove “good quality” leads that converted by sales managers helps hotel marketers to invest time more efficiently. Additionally, there’s a massive opportunity for marketers to leverage modern automation technology to nurture contacts and leads that exist in a hotel’s Sales & Catering system. Consider options for connecting your “B2B CRM” to a thoughtful campaign using marketing automation best practices. By leveraging marketing to focus on nurturing journeys based on buyer personas, your sales team can focus on prospecting for new business or closing qualified leads.
Q: Tell us about the Flywheel Effect and how it can revolutionize sales for the hospitality industry.
Long regarded as the secret to Amazon’s success, the Flywheel model integrates the sales, marketing, operational, and pricing disciplines into a cohesive Commercial Strategy team focused on a single mission. By aligning systems, processes, and strategies across the organization, hoteliers can ensure that any investment in one area increases momentum elsewhere. For example, by improving their targeting strategies, hotels can increase demand from customers willing to pay more. This allows them to invest more in the customer experience, which in turn allows them to generate additional demand through word of mouth and repeat business.
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