Technology-driven service

Technology-driven service

At the beginning of my new favorite movie, “Moneyball,” Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane is being told by a bunch of fat old white guys (I can say that because I can identify with them) how the business of building a baseball team is done and has always been done. Throughout their comments, the film cuts to Beane shaking his head “no” with every assertion.

If that scene is being played out in your conference room, you might want to take a page or two from that script and start looking at your operation in a new way. In fact, living through the uncertainty and difficult economic environment we have all been subjected to the last few years, you cannot allow yourself the inflexibility of “doing what you’ve always done.”

Just as Billy Beane rejected the notion that the A’s would always be a lower-tier team because they didn’t have the budget to recruit heavy hitters, you don’t have to be content with your hotel’s market position, its RevPAR or its NOI just because you don’t have a huge budget, a celebrity chef or a spa that offers treatments using the newest ancient ingredient from the Amazon.

In past blogs I’ve talked about using the Internet and technology to recruit more effectively and to enhance the performance of the sales team. You can also use technology to dramatically increase service levels, and no, I’m not suggesting a fleet of robot maids à la George Jetson’s Rosey.  

When I started on my quest to make better use of technology for the hotels we manage, I looked to the business sector that already did it especially well: retail. The retail industry is one that lives and dies on margins, with managers on a never-ending quest to increase revenue and decrease costs. 

One of the things retail does best is track customers’ preferences. For example, when you buy a book from Amazon, its system notes that you bought a book, the genre, the author, et cetera, and then makes recommendations for other books you might like based on the purchases of others who bought the same thing. With every click, with every purchase, they’re learning about your preferences, making suggestions and earning a greater share of your wallet. We call it “pocketshare.”

We can easily apply that to a hotel.

You can earn lifelong customers one customer at a time simply by offering something you know they want the next time they book. Wouldn’t you feel special if your next room key came with a note inviting you to enjoy a free scotch and soda after you got settled? It’s much more personal than an invitation to the manager’s happy hour, costs nothing more than you’re currently spending and you already have the information at hand. 

You can use the same information to encourage a return visit by customizing an offer using the guests’ preferences. Don’t send a blanket email offering a “stay and play” package to everyone in your database. Use the intel you’re collecting to tailor your offerings on a person-by-person or group-by-group basis. Who ever said you can’t individualize the group experience? And don’t be afraid to ask questions.  

Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.” Use advertising if you want to get people interested in your hotel. Use technology to show your customers that you’re interested in them.

There is no magic technology that can boost margins, fix operating problems and guarantee customer loyalty by itself. Only people can do these things — along with a well-executed operational plan — but technology can help. Successful companies today must build technology into their businesses. What have you done lately using technology to improve your NOI?