By Menka Uttamchandani
In any given city, travelers are faced with dozens of hotel options, making the market not only competitive, but crowded. How does a hotel understand what potential customers are looking for and then provide it?
At Denihan Hospitality Group, a key to our success is our ability to strategically manage business information to make smarter decisions, allowing us to better understand guests on both an individual and company or agent level. This has enabled us to market and book the right room at the right time at the right rate, increasing revenue and profitability.
To do this, we’ve turned to analytics technology from IBM that helps us sort through and unleash the power of the massive amounts of business and customer experience data locked away in sources such as spend statistics, seasonal trends and expense metrics to better understand and predict booking behavior patterns. Every company has immense amounts of data; it is what one does with that data – such as providing relevant dashboards, click through deep dive reporting and analytical insight – that can give a company a competitive edge.
Over the past several years we have built an analytics-friendly culture within our organization to provide our client-facing management and corporate support teams with the data access and insight they need to take smart, calculated risks – risks that can grow the business and enhance the customer experience.
For example, using a 24/7-available reporting portal, hotel revenue management teams can estimate, on a daily basis, what room rate trends are likely to be, through what channel guests will book and for what length of stay, as well as the likelihood of cancellations and no shows. This insight has boosted the productivity of this team by 40 percent versus that of our competitors, whose staff may spend up to half a day finding and collating this data.
By evaluating customer purchase and occupancy data, we can better anticipate the most beneficial type of business to book at a given time and understand precisely how far in advance to do so. In addition to other benefits, this enables our marketing department to anticipate and create relevant offers and content that will speak relevantly to the customer at the time of booking.
On the guest level, digging through online rating information and quickly tapping into individual guest comments received has enabled us to understand and deliver on specific customer preferences and analyze how our guests interact with our hotels. For instance, through customer data analysis, we found outside noise to be the number one challenge across our 11 New York City hotels. In response, we launched a “Put NYC on Mute” campaign, that provides earplugs in nightstand drawers in all guestrooms. The action has greatly improved guest satisfaction in that area.
At Affinia Manhattan, we utilized IBM analytics to dissect guest feedback and guest profile data that uncovered varied comments on what guests wanted in their guest rooms. Affinia Manhattan is located in an area popular with both tourists and business travelers, and guests’ feedback reflected the need for flexible spaces that can be used for a variety of different needs. As a result, we remodeled each of the hotel’s rooms to create a relaxation zone, a work zone and a sleep zone. We then made a point of using flexible and comfortable furniture throughout the new guestroom design, adding such pieces as convertible sofas and mobile ottomans that can be moved by the coffee table or by the bed depending on the need.
In addition, feedback from women and family travelers revealed a desire for more storage in the bathroom. In response, we changed the vanity design to accommodate extra counter and shelving space and additional drawers. The hotel has several rooms with kitchenettes, and with data indicating the need to enhance the kitchen product and experience, we added several items to the kitchens during recent renovations, eliciting much positive feedback from guests.
As our increasingly tech-savvy customers demand more highly personalized services and programs, analytics enables us to take the pulse of guests’ likes and dislikes in real-time, allowing us to fine-tune our campaigns and target the right offer to the right customer. A recent win-back program designed to entice former guests to return brought in over 30 times the revenue invested while also greatly increasing the loyalty of our guests.
Analytics has made a huge difference in the business decisions we make every day with every aspect of our business, from pricing, segment and channel management, to customer insight and beyond. The benefits we’ve achieved through IBM analytics technology have not only helped us better serve our customers, but provided us with hidden insights that have allowed us to grow our business and run operations more efficiently – enabling us to stay competitive in the marketplace.