In Newsletter #15: Instant gratification bookings | Digital Concierge | Website optimization.
Honestly, I wish we could sit here and discuss more articles and op-eds about the operational side of running a technology-enabled hotel, because it’s what we think about every day. However, not that much is written about it. Perhaps we should write more ourselves.
That being said, the pieces below are really great. I remember in college booking all my friends rooms on Hotel Tonight because for every 10 rooms I booked, the company would give me one free night at the average spend. That was my version of hotel loyalty. What’s yours? Now I look at the current hotel loyalty landscape and wonder where it’s going. Recently, I came across a booking platform, Avvio, which actually guaranteed to increase your direct business. Since we shared a few clients, I dug deeper, and as it turns out, they’re the real deal. Happy to put you in touch if you are interested.
Lastly, the concierge piece below hits home. I sat in on a Concierge Anonymous “therapy session” last year. Who would have thought 15 concierges would come together simply to talk about how their roles are changing? Yet they all raised the same question - how to prove their invaluable work to their owners? How do you quantify the value of a concierge in a world where every job is set against a KPI? Personally, I love hotels for every element of their service and concierges are a big part of this. A hotel world with no concierges would not feel the same to me.
As always, we look forward to your thoughts and feedback on this issue of the newsletter and any other industry news you'd like to discuss.
- Alex Shashou
"It's a tricky transitional period." - Christopher K. Anderson, faculty member at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.
Technology is both aiding and abetting the industry, keeping occupancy rates high, but at a cost, some think, to traditional loyalty programming - a previously reliable conduit to direct booking.
Why it matters: As a company comprised of Millennials, we often consider how our peculiar travel preferences are driving both trivial (kale salads), as well as significant structural changes in our industry (mega-mergers). The issue at play in Amy Zipkin’s piece for the Times is how online booking - particularly the deal-seeking sort practiced by Millennials - is eroding the until-recently reliable revenue generation of hotel loyalty programming.
One way forward, as this article points out, is to create ever larger partnerships amongst brands and chains in order to increase the perceived value of a guest’s loyalty points. This has led to alliances perhaps unthinkable before the rise of the OTA, such as Room Key, which was started by six hotel companies in 2012 and now has 73,000 properties globally across 100 brands.
But perhaps in the pursuit to retool loyalty programs to better fit the whims of Millennials, it’s possible these hotels are missing the point. Rather than try to encourage loyalty in a demographic who want nothing of it, why not invest more attention and resources into trying to score the one-off (Millennial) booking? Millennials, and really all of today’s consumers, crave instant gratification, and hotels that cater to our on-demand expectations have seen instant booking increases. This means rewarding your consumer at the time of booking, not with their tenth booking. Free breakfast. Free WiFi. Anything to ensure a more steady stream of guests. Such an approach might also lead to more success with loyalty program enrollment, once the guests have arrived on-site and seen all your hotel has to offer.
Why it matters: With such a clear cost saving, it’s no surprise that the the digital concierge movement is getting so much attention. As you read this article, you might be asking yourself whether or not it’s worth having a dedicated concierge at all. Just like any progressive business person, you are constantly on the lookout for ways to disrupt and improve your business, and we think that is a very sound approach.
However, in speaking with the guest service professionals that make up Concierge Anonymous, we’ve had the opportunity to learn about the concierge perspective and how truly valuable they are to their hotels. To them, success is measured by developing a connection with their guest and creating unique experiences that surpass guest expectations and the usual boundaries of work. To that point, what better way to increase bookings than to turn every guest into a lifetime customer, or better yet, evangelist?
Is it possible to quantify the added benefit of allowing your guests to text back and forth with the Concierge at 2am about how to propose to his wife? Or better yet, can you attach a dollar amount to the magical experience that a guest will receive when he feels so comfortable under your roof that he allows himself to slip into the back office to play chess with the concierge during their break? After all, isn’t this the true goal of creating a home away from home?
As usual, there is no one size fits all solution. It’s nearly impossible to quantify the value of a concierge, and while it’s almost easier to make all of your decisions using a quantifiable cost saving of removing staff and adding tech, part of what makes hospitality so beautiful is the intrinsically human element. So, before you rush to make a decision, we encourage you first to try to evaluate the ROI of your existing concierge. Every hotel hopes to offer a different experience, and ultimately, the decision should be made depending on your goals as a hotel, as well as a business.
Why it matters: Having recently redone our own website, we can attest that the five marketing tactics Ms. Smariga recommends implementing don’t just pertain to hotels, but are fundamental to any business’s online presence today.
Since so much time and attention goes to acquiring direct customers through online advertising (and loyalty programming finagling - as we talk about above), articles like this one are good reminders that once you spend all the money getting the guest to your site she actually has to book. It's important therefore that your site is just as optimized to her desired online experience as your hotel is to her desired vacation.