5 Ways to Improve Your Hotel Data Processes
By Hotel Tech Report
Last updated February 28, 2022
6 min read
Are you searching for the key to better decision-making? Accor CTO Floor Bleeker recently told Hotel Tech Report that data is the most important consideration of any hotel’s technology or operating strategy.
Hotel Tech Report recently sat down with HotelIQ COO Sameer Umar to discuss the hospitality industry’s shift from business intelligence to decision intelligence. In hospitality, the term “business intelligence” often refers to simply reading reports and spreadsheets. Decision intelligence, however, is the discipline of turning information into better and faster actions by combining Data Science with Managerial Science. Strong decision making practices can lead to higher RevPAR, lower costs, better guest review scores, and more.
The beauty of decision intelligence is that it neither requires your team to get a master’s degree in Data Science nor develop skills like Python, R or SQL Decision intelligence can be infused into a hotel organization of any size through a combination of tools, habits, and incentives. In this article, we’ll share five actionable steps you can take to harness the power data and make better decisions to help you reach your goals.
Clean Data Capture Processes
Before you can even think about decision intelligence, you need to have a solid foundation of recent and accurate data. As they say, if you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it, so your first priority should be to set up reliable processes to capture your data. But what does this mean, and how do you do it? The first step is to get your management team’s buy-in; they need to understand the importance of monitoring data intake processes. You’ll also want to build processes that give you the data you want (and when you want it); for example, your PMS should export reservation data in real-time, not through an Excel file you manually export once per week. Those manually exported reports are “time-consuming, static, and often compromised by human-error,” Sameer explains, although hotels valued them because “they were customized to the nth degree to meet the personal preferences of the leadership.” It may take some time to wean seasoned hoteliers off of these reports, but for the sake of efficiency and data integrity, it’s necessary to automate these processes. In addition, encourage front desk and reservations agents to always enter complete data, like rate codes and email addresses and fees, or configure your software to fill in the blanks with default values (like for country of residence) to save some time and ensure completeness.
When speaking about some hotel companies that are best in class at decision intelligence, Sameer says “The key to their analytic prowess is that they recognize the importance of data quality. Hence, they’ve created data standards, do regular data quality checks, and have people (sometimes teams) in data stewardship roles. Some even tie the bonuses of their GMs to their data quality scores. If you want to be like those organizations, start with data standards. It doesn’t cost anything but sends a message across to everyone that data is important to us.”
Maintenance screens give users full control over assigning production at a rate or group code level to the correct minor market segment. They can make changes across historical and future dates, allowing them to correct for errors that occurred in the PMS and cleansing data.
Use Technology to Analyze in Real-Time
Getting the right data is only half the battle; you also need the ability to use it to make decisions in real-time without having to run complicated reports or download a bunch of files. In the past, business intelligence software was expensive and overly sophisticated, and it was out of reach of small to medium hotels. Today, however, the large chains aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of BI tools. SaaS tools have become more affordable and accessible, so hotels of any size can leverage their data like the big players.
BI software helps you transform your raw data (dates, rates, guest details, and more) into dashboards that tell a story. Rather than digging through Excel sheets and creating pivot tables before a meeting, your dashboards can illustrate your performance for each segment over the past week, or average housekeeping turn times by day of week, or repeat guest volume, and more. At a glance, you can get a pulse on the metrics that matter to you, so you can efficiently incorporate data into every conversation and decision. As Sameer explains, real-time data is especially important today because we’re in an unprecedented era of travel. “You have to know what type of customers are staying and how their behavior has changed. Especially in today's environment with the pandemic. Nothing is happening the way it did in the past; you can’t rely on history as much, you have to keep looking very carefully at the corporate travel trends, leisure travel trends.” If you aren’t on top of your performance by booking segment and distribution channel, then you might not shift your strategy fast enough to capture your fair share of the demand.
Hire for Curiosity
You understand the importance of data, but do all of your employees? Creating a data-driven culture doesn’t mean replacing your staff with data scientists. In fact, employees don’t even need to have any experience with BI tools to adopt a data-driven mindset. What they do need is curiosity. During interviews, you can probe for examples of situations when a candidate demonstrated curiosity to resolve a problem or come up with a creative initiative. Did they go beyond downloading basic reports? Did they follow the scientific method of creating a hypothesis and looking for data to prove it right or wrong? In addition to interview questions, you can give candidates a case study to complete that asks them to use data, which is a great way to assess their data skills in revenue management, sales, and marketing capacities. Even if they don’t get every answer right, you’ll be able to see their thought process and whether they were headed in the right direction.
Sameer describes a challenge many hotels face when trying to bridge gaps between departments: “Sales may be looking at account production based on company profile while the revenue team has pulled numbers based on the negotiated rate code. Most of the time, they don’t even know why there is a difference in their numbers. So how do you expect them to come up with an effective strategy to negotiate with the account?” In order to get on the same page and develop a commercial strategy effectively, both departments need to look at the same data. And, ideally, they shouldn’t need to wait for an in-person meeting to compare notes.
HotelIQ’s Decision Cloud product enables teams to run reports and share them within the same platform. Since teams should constantly review reports and dashboards to catch inaccuracies or variances, Decision Cloud allows staff to compare notes in real-time so that any data integrity issues can be tackled before the strategy meeting. In addition, if teams need an extra push to collaborate across departments, you can build cross-functional habits by setting calendar reminders or a Slack bot that prompts colleagues to check in on a regular basis. The Slack bot could even prompt staff to share insights in response to specific questions about a report each week. This way, when the teams have a meeting together, they can use that valuable time to focus on making decisions rather than refining data processes. As Sameer puts it, “the discussion goes right to ‘What are we going to do about this?’ bypassing ‘Why are your numbers different from my numbers?’”
The share features allows users to share insights from a report or dashboard with their team in just a few clicks, aligning teams across an organization. Pace and Pick-Up reports & dashboards are among the most widely shared.
Build Great Data Habits
Like any skill, decision intelligence isn’t achieved overnight, and you need to consciously incorporate good data habits into your hotel’s culture and routines. Historically, hotels have struggled to get data that is both accessible and timely. Years ago, it was accessible to download a month’s worth of data into a spreadsheet, print it out, and present it at a monthly or quarterly meeting. Those days are over; modern hoteliers have real-time data at their fingertips so they can make decisions based on yesterday’s performance, not last month’s.
It’s also worth noting that your team doesn’t need to spend hours and hours pouring over data. Some simple habits that fit into regular schedules can build data skills over time. A strong data user should log into their dashboards throughout the day, maybe first thing in the morning and then a few times before meetings. When team members use dashboard and reports in a collaborative way, they will prompt each other to login to look at interesting trends or compare findings, so naturally all users will be logging in often. Another idea is to replace the urge to check social media with a quick check of your dashboards. Rather than scrolling through TikTok, take a moment to try to learn something new from your hotel’s data.
With these five ways to improve your hotel data processes, your hotel can leverage metrics and trends to reach your goals, no matter your size, star rating, or brand affiliation. Decision intelligence doesn’t require a massive budget or advanced degrees in data science; it can be achieved with a little practice, a motivated and curious team, and a strong technology partner.
Together with HotelIQ
This article was created collaboratively by HotelIQ and Hotel Tech Report.