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So You've Got a Great Hotel Website, Now What?

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

It’s a best practice in the hotel industry to update your hotel’s website at least once every two to five years. A hotel website design refresh alone costs a minimum of $2,000-$5,000 and up to $30,000 for a premium custom hotel website. For websites more than three years old, material technical updates need to be made to keep the guest booking experience (UX) running smoothly which in turn improves everything from web visitation metrics like time on site which then impact SEO and even paid advertising. Beyond just putting a fresh coat of paint on your hotel website, hotel owners need to make sure the page loads quickly, the site is mobile-optimized, and that it has a high conversion rate. These updates can be pricey, but worthwhile. The site needs to be structured for optimal SEO rankings, with updates to keyword research integrated regularly. New content should be added to the site to keep the page looking fresh and showcase anything new happening at the property. Above all, the page needs to work well, deliver a great booking experience, and improve the visibility of the hotel so guests can find and book their perfect room easily. It’s an investment to keep your hotel’s web presence in peak condition. Updating your hotel website is just the first step, however, to increasing direct bookings and improving the profitability of your property. Here’s what to do once you’ve optimized your website.   Optimize pricing to attract more prospective guests Our first priority as a hotel marketer is always ensuring that we have taken steps to optimize our direct channel.  Once our website is optimized we want to make sure that we are pricing our rooms correctly relative to the compset. Enter: market intelligence and rate shopping software. A rate shopping tool gives you the data you need to make an informed decision on pricing. These rate shop tools integrate market rates and event calendar data to provide the best possible pricing for supply and demand at any given time. Monitor competitor rates using local event and weather data, demand models, and historic trends. Automating this process is one of the most important things you can do after you upgrade your hotel’s website. All of these steps are crucial to optimizing marketing strategies. And, fortunately, there are many great marketing tools out there that can connect you with more channels, optimize your pricing, or help you manage your reputation. However, working with one vendor to deploy all these marketing tactics has more advantages than working with multiple vendors. Work with one vendor to utilize your resources effectively by streamlining your contracts, managing your budget, and integrating your reporting   Use paid acquisition to maximize your website investments Now that your website is set up to convert better and rooms are priced correctly, there are three marketing plays you can use to increase direct views of your hotel’s webpage. Paid acquisition can get expensive extremely quickly so it's not recommended for beginners.  Working with a popular hospitality marketing agency like NextGuest Digital is highly advised since these agencies are able to learn from deploying millions of ad dollars for their clients.  You'll also want to work with an agency like NextGuest Digital who focuses exclusively on hospitality since they not only will understand traditional bidding nuances for the hotel industry but also know hotel only platforms like metasearch, Google Hotel Ads, Facebook Hotel Ads and more. Metasearch advertising refers to advertising on sites like TripAdvisor or Kayak. These metasearch sites are consolidators of OTAs like Booking.com & Expedia; the key difference is that the online travel agent contracts directly with a hotel to sell their inventory. A metasearch site, conversely, does not contract with a hotel. Metasearch sites account for more than 45% of global unique visitors in travel. This makes them extremely popular; bookings made through an ad on metasearch are less costly to hoteliers than a commission-based OTA booking. Because there are so many metasearch sites out there, you need a tool that makes it easy to manage bidding on a variety of complex platforms like TripAdvisor. Metasearch management software is a good solution. Metasearch management software can manage TripAdvisor, Google Hotel Ads, Trivago, and Kayak all in one intuitive dashboard. Metasearch management software gives your hotel a way to maximize reach, thereby attracting new guests and improving profitability. Hotel search engine marketing (SEM), or paid marketing, involves purchasing traffic to your website through paid search listings. Put money keywords that you’ve added to your website to increase exposure of your hotel site and add more guests to the booking funnel. Where SEO, or organic search, is something that will increase your traffic over time, SEM is a quick way to validate your keywords and content and make sure you’ve optimized your site for what your customers seek. Lastly, deploy display advertising and specifically remarketing – purchasing banner ads on Google or social media – to reach new audiences or re-target those who visited your website previously without completing the booking process. This powerful method of marketing can help bring customers back into your funnel – only now, your user is visiting a more fully-optimized site that is likely to convert to a sale.  Given how many websites a traveller browses during the booking process remarketing (or retargeting) is one of the most profitable forms of paid acquisition. There is a slight catch, however, you have to get them to your website first.   Improve your hotel’s online reputation to pre-empt sales challenges Regardless of how pretty your hotel website is, inevitably guests will fact check your claims on third-party review websites like TripAdvisor.  In the hospitality industry, reputation is everything: 95% of guests read reviews prior to making a booking decision. Besides price, other guest reviews are the most important pieces of information a user accounts for when it comes to booking a room. Reputation management software paired with a well-designed, fully optimized website can drive direct bookings, improve guest satisfaction, and increase revenue. At a minimum, a reputation management tool should be able to: Aggregate reviews from multiple channels (OTAs, guest satisfaction surveys, and other review sites such as Yelp). Provide visibility at an enterprise level for multiple properties Analyze sentiment by scanning reviews for keywords to provide insight into the overall positive and negative aspects impacting ratings Benchmark against competitors to see how your property performs relative to the market. Managing your reputation is the next phase of optimization. A great digital marketing agency like NextGuest Digital can help promote your brand but even the best digital marketing agencies can’t help a property who’s known for a low quality guest experience. Online reputation management tools drive brand visibility through SEM and direct link campaigns. Sentinel aggregates reviews from OTAs, social media, and metasearch in many languages and across countries to show hoteliers what their guests are saying. The dashboard uses a proprietary algorithm that adapts to reviews over time, suggesting keywords to use in targeted campaigns and providing insights on areas where your hotel might improve.   Add more distribution to augment your direct channel Tiny hotels that cannot afford a hotel website often focus on third party channels alone.  This is a dangerous strategy; however, it is one employed all across the world. These hotels merely focus on optimizing inventory and third party listings to drive demand.  Most of these hotels will leverage a channel manager to expand its visibility and reach a broad online audience, manage rates, availability, and reservations in real-time, and connect to a variety of distribution channels.  The benefits of using a channel manager can significantly improve your bottom line. For hotels who already have a great website, adding channel management capabilities is a strong strategy.  With a baseline of direct bookings coming in from their brand.com channel, a channel manager can help augment those bookings to fill strategic needs. Tools like channel managers manage rates and room availability on hundreds of channels saving hotels time and helping to facilitate more efficient inventory allocation. Channel management software increases your occupancy by listing your property across OTAs and GDS channels from one centralized location – thereby reaching travelers all over the world. Room listings and availability are automatically updated by the tool to improve occupancy rates and maximize profits. When exploring a channel manager tool, look for the software’s reporting capabilities, pooled inventory, the number of channels the platform can connect with, and system integrations.    

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Online Reputation Management Tools & Secrets From TrustYou Founder Ben Jost

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 years ago

It’s not uncommon for tech companies in hospitality to start as B2C brands (business to consumer) then pivot to service hotel businesses instead.  Triptease launched as a TripAdvisor alternative before pivoting to become a direct booking platform.  Similarly, Munich based TrustYou started as a hotel booking website that aggregated reviews from around the web to provide a single trust score for properties around the world before becoming a leading guest feedback and reputation management platform. Back in 2008, TrustYou founder Ben Jost noticed that online review scores had the ability to make or break hotel performance.  He also noticed that reviews were being spread to more and more websites like TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, Yelp and Expedia. Jost and co-founder Jakob Reigger hypothesized that if they could consolidate these reviews to provide travelers with a holistic view of a hotel by creating a proprietary aggregate score that they’d be able to leverage their neutral position to become a dominant booking platform. TrustYou’s booking platform experienced some success but Jost and his team noticed that thousands of hotel managers were coming to the site because they wanted to monitor their review performance across multiple channels - this was their ‘ah-hah’ moment.  With this insight, TrustYou pivoted from a B2C model into B2B (business to business) and the firm’s growth exploded. “I remember 5 years ago we had one slide in our sales deck showing a king and a queen on a throne. The headline said “when price is king, reputation is queen.” Maybe it will take another 5 years until we see those both equally presented, but I definitely see it in the future.” ~Benjamin Jost TrustYou has since doubled down on reviews and even demonstrated a commitment to reviews in it’s own business winning 2nd place in the 2019 HotelTechAwards beating out more than 100 hotel tech peers.  Everything that TrustYou does tests back to the fundamental question of whether a product or service will enable hotel clients to achieve higher review scores by delivering better service to guests.  That mission has resonated with hoteliers around the world and in 2017 alone the Company analyzed more than 100 million guest reviews and collected more than 4 million survey responses. TrustYou’s guest feedback and reputation platform consists of four main components that work in tandem to gather feedback, manage collection at scale and leverage that feedback to drive more business: Review marketing: Market guest reviews via a website widget to increase hotel website conversion Guest messaging: Communicate with guests before and during their stay to ensure a great experience then send surveys afterwards to increase review volumes and rankings Guest surveys: gather feedback from guests after their stay to maintain guest satisfaction scores Reputation management: Real time insights into review scores and online feedback across a variety of channels Reviews are critical to the survival of any hotel today and Benjamin Jost believes that trend is only accelerating.  We sat down with him to learn about his vision for TrustYou and to get his perspective on the evolution of reputation management in the broader hotel tech marketplace.   What was your background prior to starting TrustYou? After studying engineering, I worked for two Venture Capitalists in Paris and Munich. Then I decided to go on an 8 month trip around the world, and when I came back, I started working in corp dev / M&A for a renewable energy company. I think TrustYou ultimately was born from my urge to do something on my own.   Tell us how you founded TrustYou. My co-founder and old friend Jakob Riegger always had his own businesses from the age of 18, and from the outside, it always looked so cool to be your own boss. I think after working for various bosses in various types of organizations, I wanted to do something on my own, and when Jakob also simultaneously wanted to start something new, we brainstormed what we could do together. So the idea of creating a business together with my co-founder came before the actual idea of TrustYou. We started as a B2C company, so actually, our very first customers were users who heard about our site and used it. I know all my family used it because I told them to! But it wasn’t enough, and we were a typical underfunded, German startup and had no idea how much it would cost to actually compete in the B2C world of travel. So while running out of money we realized that more and more hotels were using our website and were looking up their reputation scores and reviews from across the web on our site. Of course they never booked their own hotel so we didn’t earn any money. But that was the starting point of our B2B business. I think it’s much easier to earn money in B2B than B2C so kudos for all the B2C companies who succeed in this world.   Wow, I didn’t realize that TrustYou started as a consumer facing brand. Can you talk about the B2B business today? We believe deeply in the power of feedback to build a better product and offer a better service. The only currency that counts to achieve that goal is feedback from your customers. Therefore, hotels need to find a product that helps them collect, understand and market guest feedback (reviews, surveys, messaging) for every customer, via every channel, at any time. I still strongly believe that a hotel’s reputation is more important than their room price and for sure a more sustainable competitive strategy. The TrustYou dashboard gives hoteliers real time insights to improve their businesses Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale TrustYou? Many people helped me over time. One mentor who was there from the very beginning until today is Philip Wolf, founder of Phocuswright, who still sits on TrustYou’s board of advisors. What makes him important to me, next to his great character, is his unvarnished opinion about tough questions and topics. You can surround yourself with people saying yes to everything or with people who point to facts that can be really are uncomfortable to tackle, e.g. cutting costs, hiring people you deem unnecessary at first, etc. And he doesn’t let go until you tackle them, which I appreciate. I don’t always like it, but I always appreciate it.   What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true that’s actually false? I think the one I most commonly hear is “I know my guests, I don’t need software to tell me”. Even if you are the type of hotelier who listens to their guests without a survey or reputation management tool, I definitely know you don’t measure any KPIs, track your progress over time, share feedback effectively with your team, or know if you’ll improve from where you stand today. Additionally, you still don’t respond to online reviews, especially the negative ones, and you don’t reach the average guest by sending them your own survey, your own questions. Technology does all of that for you, truly helping you listen to your guests, and win against the competition.   What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels? Scaling a business in hospitality requires more manpower than what I would have expected when we started. In the beginning, I thought we would be a self-service technology that hotels would just buy, login to, and use. But we quickly learned that the business would require not only our tooling but also our expertise. We have truly become a service company, as well as a software company, and that requires talented people to support the hoteliers. We’re happy to be an extension of our client’s team as their dedicated feedback experts.   Are there 1 or 2 companies that have been a particularly good partners for you? We partner with hundreds of different fantastic companies, so it wouldn’t be fair to just name one or two. However, what I would like to see in our industry are more open APIs and more simple connections.  I think this would be very beneficial for our common customers, the hotels, but many tech companies don’t operate that way. I wish every tech company in our space would have a section on their website “API for developers” where you can develop solutions on top of their APIs and widgets. I am pushing my company to be open in that way because it just becomes much easier for partners to work with us and new things can be created. For example, I would still love to see rate management companies correlate their data with our data. We have the APIs, just plug them in.   I would want every rate management company, every IBE, every website builder, every PMS, every CRM to use our APIs and products to build a better product. Review content plugged into different hospitality solutions is already happening on a small scale, but not everyone out there knows how easy and convenient it is and what kind of value add it can provide to their own solutions. We have an entire team dedicated to those needs.   Where do you see TrustYou in 5-years? I want us to power feedback not only from guests but from other stakeholders as well. I believe we will enable feedback and communication between hotels and guests using messaging apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and SMS instead of email. To help service our clients, I would want our platform to act as an AI solution and suggest actions to hotels based their data instead of just presenting it. I also think feedback will move from “3 days after stay” to “real time”. And I want TrustYou to spearhead those trends.   How will the online reputation management category change in the next 5-years? I hope to see guest feedback become a “must-have”, where it belongs to a hotel stack like a website or internet booking engine. More and more hotels will have figured out that with a 4.1/5 overall score they can offer a $100 room rate, but with a 4.6/5 score they can charge $150. I remember 5 years ago we had one slide in our sales deck showing a king and a queen on a throne. The headline said “when price is king, reputation is queen.” Maybe it will take another 5 years until we see those both equally presented, but I definitely see it in the future.   Does TrustYou have any new products or feature launches that you're particularly excited about? We just launched a new restaurant analytics product (May 2019) that is seamlessly connected to the hotel’s toolset, so for all hotels that run a restaurant in parallel, they can more easily manage their online reputation. Additionally, we have combined our Analytics and Survey with our Messaging product together into one platform so that as a hotel you can manage pre-stay, onsite, or post-stay communication and feedback from one place. Another big launch is coming towards the end of 2019, but I can’t talk about it just yet. Stay tuned!   What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? When seeking funding and putting together your business plan, calculate an amount you think you need, and then double it!   What is the best book you've read lately? Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman. It’s written by Reid Hoffman, founder of Linkedin and Paypal.     What is your favorite podcast My favorite “podcasts” these days are live interactions with my children. Very funny. Topics change every time. No scripts. I love it.   What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I’m very approachable, and I think anyone who has ever reached out to me knows that. I’m an open book. So if you have questions or need information, I’m always happy to hear it and respond back.

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The 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech 2019

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

Creating a great work environment is the single biggest determinant of success for any business.  Companies that foster great work environments attract the best people and the best people build the best products. A 2017 study that analyzed 326,000 employee reviews at publicly traded companies found that firms with high employee satisfaction outperformed the overall stock market each year by 135bp (1.35%).  A similar study of 400,000 employee ratings found evidence of a statistical relationship between employee perception and a firm’s future earnings. Sophisticated enterprise software buyers know that when they partner with a technology company, they are buying into not just its products but its vision, mission and team.  These buyers perform due diligence to understand the viability of any business that they plan to partner with and a deep analysis of employee satisfaction and vendor culture is part of that process.  Hotel Tech Report hosts this award not just to help the community find great jobs, but also to help fast track diligence for hotel tech buyers who want to learn about the best vendors to work with. Understanding organizational culture is important for software buyers because companies that create great work environments retain employees longer, service customers better and innovate faster. Perks like ping pong tables,  office snacks and vacation days are nice,  but our 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech list is determined by the glue that holds companies together. Each year we ask thousands of employees at hotel tech companies how they feel about their employers and anonymize the results.  The 2019 scoring is based on 7 key data points: Work-life balance: Please rate how well your employer promotes work/life balance. Personal development: How much importance does your employer place on your own personal development and succesful hospitality careers?  Gender equality: How would you rate the opportunities available to women in your firm? Employee confidence: How much confidence do you have in the future of your company? Values alignment: How well do your values align with the culture of your organization? Employee engagement: How passionate are employees about the company? Growth prospects: How many open roles are there for your employees to grow into?   Without further adieu we give you 2019's 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech:       10. Triptease Our research on Triptease validates that the Company truly lives and breathes the ethos of its name.  Employees consistently cited off-sites and team trips as the highlights of their year. According to LinkedIn data, Triptease has grown its employee count 72% in the last 2 years.  Sometimes when companies grow that quickly, it’s hard to maintain a great team culture. With the team spread all around the world, Triptease brings new employees for training and team building to the LondonHQ.  New employees rave about the experience for the learning and friendships that come from it. Other notable events include Triptease’s renowned Direct Booking Summits (America, Europe, Asia) and a company wide Christmas party in Madrid (let us know if you need HTR on the scene to cover next year’s party - this one sounded like a rager!).  Triptease employees are constantly blown away by how much management cares. One employee cited an unexpected bonus for a month of killer performance and another described to us how open management is to employee travel focused on career development. Ultimately, Triptease is one a big happy family and employees around the world are constantly connecting through a multitude team building activities and trips.  Employees love the fast paced nature of consistently launching new innovative products. Check out open positions at Triptease     9. GuestRevu GuestRevu had a year in which critical company milestones rallied the team together.  Not only did GuestRevu acquire a large regional competitor but the team also launched a major version update that required all hands on deck.  Despite all the craziness of rapid growth, a new version launch and a major acquisition - one employee raved to Hotel Tech Report about how supportive the entire team was during the loss of a loved one.  Another told us that she often needs to bring her 9-year old to work where he is always made to feel welcome and at home. The firm is so committed to its team that it sent out a company wide survey asking what employees wanted to learn and then purchased everyone access to Udemy classes to help them develop those new skills. The marketing team took classes on video editing and is already leveraging those skills to develop a series of video case studies for GuestRevu. Check out open positions at GuestRevu     8. Beekeeper For a company building software to help teammates communicate better - Beekeeper takes employee engagement and experience very seriously internally.  As one employee told us, “Beekeeper does an excellent job of capturing feedback and always checking in to understand where you want to go and providing actionable feedback and support to get you there.” The Company promotes a healthy lifestyle through lunchtime sports and CrossFit.  Taking it one step further, Beekeeper offers unlimited PTO and flexible work schedules to accommodate the expectations of the modern workforce. Beekeeper’s culture exudes transparency and humility. One employee told us that the team was initially put off by management’s decision to require employees to clean dishes at an off site before they realized that this was all part of the team building.  This employee told us that the people they ended up washing dishes with ended up being their closest new friends and that the experience gave them an opportunity to bond in a way that most rarely do in the modern workplace. Another employee told us about a rewarding experience they had volunteering together at a homeless shelter. The team’s humility shined through further when a new employee (2 weeks in) alerted management about tensions between two departments.  Much to their surprise both teams were thrilled to hear their new colleague’s insight and showed their appreciation. Management even went one step further offering this individual to run a huge cross-departmental retrospective 5 weeks into their job. It’s not often that companies are so open to self-reflection and change coming from a new junior hire and we really admire the culture that Beekeeper has nurtured. Check out open positions at Beekeeper       7. Hotel Effectiveness Hotel Effectiveness is an incredibly successful company that largely flies under the radar of hotel tech buzz.  The Company provides revolutionary labor management software that we’ve covered here.  If there’s one word that sums up the Hotel Effectiveness team culture - it’s ‘performance’.  Employees are unilaterally motivated by consistently hitting lofty sales goals time and again.  As a testament to this performance driven culture - one employee told us that one time their boss had to tell them to go home early and make some time for family when they were overworking themselves.  This performance culture isn’t mandated from the top and is completely grassroots in that it’s driven by internal employee motivation and ambition. While you can expect to work alongside incredibly driven and ambitious colleagues at Hotel Effectiveness - they definitely know how to have a good time host a hilarious annual white elephant Christmas party. Check out open positions at Hotel Effectiveness     6. Revinate Revinate’s culture is characterized by constant iteration and testing.  The Company is always trying new things and that affords a ton of learning opportunities to team members.  This year while the technical team executed a full shift from hosted data center to cloud based AWS infrastructure the sales and marketing teams were tasked to rapidly grow the install base of the Revinate Marketing product.  Both teams executed with near perfection and everyone celebrated with an impromptu party where key team members reflected on the incredible achievements of such a relatively short time period. Revinate embodies the startup spirit with enterprise scale.  Revinate CEO Marc Heyneker is deeply involved in the day to day operations of the business and employees across the organization rave about his ability to inspire and teach. One employee told us a story about a serious head injury that left this person working remotely for several months.  His team made sure to make him feel included as part of the office through the entire time away but that was only the beginning. The employee recalled being shocked that over a year after his injury Heyneker pulled him aside to check in on his health and to ask what he could do personally to help. Check out open positions at Revinate     5. Cloudbeds Cloudbeds management recently surprised its team with a beautiful new San Diego headquarters equipped with a 14 ft indoor willow tree, a massive outdoor workspace, game areas, stand up workstations and more.  The environment is fun, welcoming and echoes the company theme - all things travel. Cloudbeds has an extensive wellness program because management knows that healthy employees are productive ones. This productivity paid off in 2018 where Cloudbeds achieved #75 on Inc Magazine’s fastest growing companies list.  How are they growing so fast you ask? Well it’s probably because CEO Adam Harris told the team he’d dance to any song of their choosing. We will keep you posted once we get our hands on the video from Harris’ co-founder Richard Castle. The Company maintains several internal chat threads exclusively for team sharing of funny photos, videos and memes - so we expect the video to surface there as well.  All jokes aside, Cloudbeds takes both employee and team growth very seriously. Each employee has weekly 1-1 meetings to review competencies and revisit their path to promotion. The Company is growing rapidly and there are constant opportunities for employees who prove themselves. Cloudbeds is also a 100% flexible organization where remote employees and those stationed at the headquarters all enjoy the ability to work from anywhere anytime.  Cloudbeds has fostered a culture where its team members truly enjoy hanging outside of work and building friendships important for their personal and professional lives. Several Ukrainian teammates trained for a marathon together and one customer success rep has leveraged her friendship with the UX designers to pursue her passion for design. After taking several courses independently the UX team has given her several opportunities to practice her skills on live projects. Check out open positions at Cloudbeds       4. Clock Software Clock Software is another company on our list that is growing insanely fast but doesn’t take itself too seriously.  One Clock employee told us that on their birthday coworkers wrapped his entire workstation and even put a bow on it.  The only complaint we heard from Clock Software team members was that they are growing too fast and needed more staff to manage the growth.  This is the best kind of problem to have. Clock is the oldest company on our list and celebrated their 22nd anniversary this year - a testament to the longevity of the business.  Clock founder Krasimir Trapchev has focused on growing the client base without scaling the team too quickly. Trapchev is all about execution and he’s prioritized building a long term sustainable business over rapid scaling which is extremely unique in an environment where funding is so plentiful that CryptoKitties, a company that enables users to breed and trade digital cats can raise $15M.  Clock is now starting to scale the team so it can take on more enterprise clients and its employees are fired up.  If you want to learn how to build a real business without massive amounts of venture capital - check out open jobs at Clock because Trapchev is the Mr. Miyagi of entrepreneurship and you’d be wise to make yourself his Karate Kid.     3. Screen Pilot Screen Pilot takes team building very seriously with activities like bubble soccer, a British Bakeoff (it’s ok we Googled it, too), volunteering at an animal shelter, an escape room and even a city wide scavenger hunt around its hometown in Denver.  The scavenger hunt and Screen Pilot’s quarterly volunteer days are a testament to Screen Pilot’s commitment to the surrounding community. While Screen Pilot is a top rated digital marketing agency, it’s a technology innovator as much as a marketing service provider.  The Company has created what it calls SP Labs where employees brainstorm ways to better leverage technology to help its clients win more direct bookings. Think of SP Labs like an ongoing internal hackathon with dedicated teams set on solving acute problems for clients. It’s this kind of innovative mindset that lead Screen Pilot to a 2018 Adrian Award for social content creation. Check out open positions at Screenpilot     2. Mews Systems If you caught the Mews Systems booth at WTM you might think that it was a rocket science company with all the lab coats and futuristic decor that earned it the Best Stand Award.  While Mews isn’t quite a rocket science company it is taking off like a rocketship having doubled its client base in the second half of 2018 alone. To support that kind of insane customer growth Mews had to 4x its team size in the last year - the fastest growth of any company in our list.  So how can a company even hire that fast? Mews attracts 40% of new hires via referrals. If that doesn’t say something about the company culture we don’t know what does. With that kind of insane growth supported by an $8M Series A in June you’d think it’s all business but Mews employees say it’s very much a “work hard, play hard” culture.  One employee told us that one of his favorite things about working at Mews is “daily banter with the boizz” - this kind of hilariousness is exactly what’s helped the Company take the industry by storm. Hoteliers everywhere are sick of generic jargon and boring brand marketing from hotel tech firms and Mews is the antidote. Employees frequently cite founder Richard Valtr and CEO Matt Welle as saying “At Mews we are family and we will take care of any family member in need."  Mews also boasts an extremely inclusive culture illustrated by the firm’s attendance at the Prague Pride celebration wearing special edition Mews gear to the event. The Company also has a shared value culture at its core and participated in UK Byte Night last year.  Byte Night prevents youth homelessness by having corporate teams sleep in the streets to raise awareness and funds for the cause.  Richard and team participated which is really cool and a statement to the quality of people that you’ll work with when you join the Mews team. Check out open positions at Mews     1. ALICE ALICE employees widely agreed that quarterly town hall meetings are the foundation of ALICE’s connected team culture.  ALICE staff loves the opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the world, align around the company vision and get transparency into how the business is performing at a macro level. More than doubling its size in 2018, ALICE unsurprisingly had to upgrade its HQ office to add more space and acquire obligatory startup amenities like a cold brew keg, stand up desks and lockers.  ALICE goes so much deeper for its team and invests heavily in career development. Employees participate in a company wide book club, receive access to free Udemy courses and are nurtured along a very clear path to promotion.  ALICE employees talk about the clarity of path to promotion more than any other company’s employees on our list. Setting a clear path to promotion is important for making employees feel like they’re constantly progressing and puts them at ease knowing that there’s always room to grow internally.  Major consulting firms like BCG and McKinsey have perfected this art but rarely do we see startups who are able to provide such transparency to their staff - kudos ALICE management.One employee told us that she was promoted 4 times in the last 3 years - a testament to ALICE’s ability to reward top employees.  Even a remote worker was able to win ALICE’s Culture and Values Award twice in 6 months. This individual told us that they felt like they were on an island while working previous remote jobs - but felt very connected to the inclusive ALICE team. ALICE acquired GoConcierge this year and is making serious strides with major enterprise clients after its $30M Series B funding - a testament to the strong prospects for the firm and probably why employee confidence in the firm is best in class.  “When you receive a high five from the CEO, that says a lot about the culture of the company,” says one team member. High fives all around! Check out open positions at ALICE   -- Looking for open roles at hotels and hotel groups? Check out our step-by-step guide on how to use Hcareers to find and land your next role.

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Why your concierge should be featured in your digital communication

by
Lisa Apolinski
1 year ago

I recently had an experience with a hotel concierge where some family members were staying. I have never been to that property, yet the concierge went out of his way to assist me in getting flowers to their room. Not only that, he stayed in touch with me at each step, including letting me know when the flowers were in the room. I has such a positive experience from this, and I have yet to set foot in the hotel. If your property offers concierge service, here are some key reasons to make sure it is highlighted in your broader digital communication. Capturing loyalty from those who could be future guests: Again, my loyalty is towards this abovementioned hotel and I have not even been there. But when I am in the area, this will be where I stay. If you have a concierge, be sure to highlight that service on your website and email communication. Also, encourage guests who use the concierge services to share their experience on your social channels to showcase what additional services you offer through the concierge. Showcasing an added feature of your property to those who are visiting: Having a concierge is like having a ‘man about town’ in your pocket. That person knows the lay of the land, and can help with reservations, excursions, and other tourist items where having a local is key. This should be considered an added feature and should be highlighted on your property website, including what services the concierge can offer guests. Helping your guests think outside the property box: Speaking of what the concierge provides, this is also the digital place to talk about placing flowers in a room, putting together a gift basket for a VIP guest, or any other ideas that can be provided by the concierge. This can also be changed seasonally (think Halloween, Christmas or Valentine’s Day). If your concierge does something visually engaging, make sure to share it on Instagram. Your hotel concierge may be physically in your lobby or reception area, but should also reside digitally. Feature the good deeds of your concierge through your digital communication.

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Sharing your property features in a compelling and digital way

by
Lisa Apolinski
3 years ago

With all the different ways to search for a hotel property, indicating you are pet-friendly, family-friendly, or dietary-friendly is only the first step. There are compelling digital ways to highlight these features in your property to stand out and be noticed. If you are pet-friendly: Many hotels are pet-friendly now, and there are features that can be shared on your website and in your communications that highlight this. Consider a virtual tour of your rooms that are designated for furry travelers and be sure to stage the room that shows how a pet would be comfortable in the room. This includes showing a dog bed on your hard surface floor (easy to clean) or extending your virtual tour into your patio area that is not only grassy but also fenced in. Be sure to talk about these features on your website as well. If you are family-friendly: Family-friendly accommodations also have to show that they are safe for children. If you have features such as child locks or a gate to the pool or have additional bed options such as cribs that can be brought up to a room, be sure to showcase this. If your property has child activities, that is also something that can be highlighted. A digital video that reviews all the child and family-friendly amenities in your property can easily be shared on social channels. You want to create the digital experience for parents and what they and their family can look forward to at your property. If you are dietary-friendly: Take a behind the scenes video tour with your head chef or dietician and have that individual narrate what they do to accommodate dietary modifications. Perhaps you have a gluten-free area for preparation or have options that are dairy-free. You can also use social channels like Instagram to showcase recipes and menus that are dietary-friendly. Photos of food go a long way, so be sure to share and describe the menu item in some detail. Having a property that can be accessible to a variety of people should be showcased for your guests. It will make them be even more excited for their upcoming stay and will give them digital assets to share with their friends who may be looking for similar accommodations.

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Best practices for requesting digital reviews for your property

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Lisa Apolinski
3 years ago

Properties are always interested in digital reviews from guests. But many properties are not sure how to encourage those reviews. Best practices should be employed to obtain these digital reviews, and here are a few tips to help. Requesting early and often: Asking your guests to write a review as they are checking out of your property is a key opportunity missed. You can start requesting reviews as soon as your guests check in. Guests want to be heard. So encourage them to write a review as they experience your property so the moment is captured live. Digital reminders around the property can also help your guests get into the digital review mindset. Suggesting digital engagement platforms: Is there a certain review site where you are hoping to drive reviews? Then be sure to suggest it. There are so many choices for digital reviews, so help your guests decide which ones by suggesting your top three. By suggesting three digital review sites, your guests can still choose which site or sites they want to use for their digital review. And be sure that your property is set up on these digital sites so the review can easily be tagged to your property. Following up on digital reviews: It is great when guests take the time to write a review, and even better when you acknowledge that effort. Monitor your digital reviews and thank your guests who write positive reviews. For negative reviews, you also want to acknowledge the review and the issue raised. Then, ask to speak to the guest in more detail off of the review site, so your engagement can be genuine and thoughtful. Whether a positive or negative review, the guest cared enough about their experience at your property to share it, so focus on that aspect when you follow up. Digital reviews can be encouraged and become powerful engagement with your guests. Be sure to follow these best practices to keep the reviews coming.

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Encouraging digital engagement by leveraging your outdoor space

by
Lisa Apolinski
3 years ago

It may not feel like it yet, but spring is nearly here. And with warmer weather, your guests will be looking to explore your property’s outdoor space. Whether you have a small space or expansive grounds, maximizing engagement in your outdoor space will provide not only a great guest experience, but potential digital engagement.  Here are some key questions to ask to help you promote better engagement in the outdoors. First, do your guests know how the area is meant to be used? Just as you would stage your home, an outdoor area needs to be staged so the function is clear. Do you want it to be a gathering space to watch an amazing sunset? Be sure to have seating facing west as well as fire pits or heaters if the weather may be chilly (or even offer blankets). Is a particular area a good place for a party? Showcase that with awnings and intimate seating to clearly define the space. If you make guests guess as to how the space should be used, they may not see the opportunity to use it. Second, what photo opportunities are you providing in your outdoor space? Moving physical engagement into a digital realm requires some forethought. Is there a piece of art that would be perfect background for a selfie? Or maybe your property has a piece of oversized furniture or something that beckons for someone to sit and have their photo taken? Set the scene for your guests and they will be happy to tag themselves and post, thus gaining some online buzz about your property. You can even post a simple sign to ask them to incorporate a particular hashtag when they post. Third, what activities are you planning in that outdoor space, and how are you marketing those activities with your guests? This third question is akin to getting dressed up and then not having a plan to go out. You have spent a lot of time and energy to make your outdoor space an essential part of your guest experience – and so you should be showing it off. I personally love themed activities, like S’mores Saturday or Meditation Mornings in the Garden. I know from the title what is happening and roughly when, which makes it easier for me to add it to my calendar. When deciding activities, keep in mind your guests, including ones in town for a conference or other annual meeting. And be sure to share your activity both via social channels as well as signage on your property. With a little planning and simple execution, your outdoor space can provide great digital content and engagement.

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View reputation management as an opportunity to engage your guests

by
Lisa Apolinski
3 years ago

It is a fact when doing business in the digital age: guests will go on social media platforms, Yelp, or a blog to vent about a bad experience at your property. No matter what transpired between your guest and their property experience, managing your reputation online should be a standard part of your digital engagement practice. But how are you viewing this engagement? Positioning your view as one of opportunity may surprise you. Here are several ways to manage these engagements in a positive way for both you and your guest. Receiving feedback: You may or may not agree with negative comments from a guest, but take any feedback as a way to improve your service and staff. Especially when receiving feedback that is not in the most positive light, you are being given valuable insight into the expectation of your guests. Be sure to have staff members review your social channels for instances of feedback, and keep documentation of what was mentioned and steps taken to correct it. Yelp can also be set up to give you alerts when you have a review, and Google alerts are key to see what comments are being posted on other sites. The key here is to monitor constantly, because the best feedback is the one you receive immediately and act on accordingly. Customizing your response: Many properties understand the importance of having customization within their digital communications, yet provide canned responses when negative feedback is provided. This becomes glaringly obvious if someone sorts by a low rating and sees the same canned comment with no real plan of action to correct or even address what happened. Responses to negative feedback (or if you would like to reframe, constructive feedback) should always acknowledge the time the guest took to provide feedback, how that issue impacted their stay, and your commitment to fixing the issue and leaving the guest feeling both heard and satisfied with the resolution. You can then take the conversation offline to share specifics of what you will put in place for processing and again thanking them for the feedback. Sharing your growth to the next set of guests: One final opportunity you may miss is to share what processes or procedures you have now put in place to address an area where you might have mis-stepped. Properties cannot be perfect and sharing this vulnerability can create a relationship with your guests, as well as keep your staff honest on staying true to your new processes. If people can champion with you, they will be your champions moving forward in other spaces, including the digital space. Use your online reputation as your opportunity to continue to engage your guests, even when you are not in the best light.  

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When Guests Complain, Be All EARS!

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 years ago

Considering all of the many components of a positive guest experience during even just a 24 hour stay, and how many guests are in a hotel on any given night, it should not be surprising to any hotelier that at some point during a shift every colleague is likely to encounter complaints. Surely we can and should do all that is possible to prevent short comings, but it is also essential to train everyone how to respond in such a way as to not only fix what is broken, but also to show compassion for the guests' inconveniences.To their credit, most hotel operators seem to be working hard to improve the overall quality of the "physical product" such cleanliness, amenities, F&B offerings, and comfort of the guest room itself. Perhaps this is due to sincere concern for guests, but I suspect it is also out of an awareness of the impact of online guest reviews and social media postings.That being said, as a frequent traveler I still experience inconveniences just about every time I stay in a different hotel, which for me is usually about 6 different times per month. If it is a minor issue I often don't even bother to mention it, but sometimes reporting it unavoidable.When I do report a shortcoming, I find that the issue is nearly always resolved immediately, but what's sorely missing is any sort of empathy or apology for the inconvenience I have encountered.One frequently recurring example is when my electronic key cards mysteriously de-activate, and NO, I DON'T put them next to my mobile phone! It happens to me with traditional credit-card style key cards with magnetic strips and even with the newer models that you wave in front of the lock. I don't ever know if the problem is with the card itself, or more likely with a front desk colleague who punched in the wrong departure date in their system, but it seems to occur at least 1-2 times per month.This always seems to happen to me in the most inconvenient circumstances, such as when my room is the last one located at the end of a very long hallway, when I am making a quick pit-stop to use the bathroom between meetings, or when I'm rushing back for a scheduled conference call.After trudging back to the desk, waiting in line, and reporting my frustrating experience, what I most often hear the colleague say is "Okay sir here you go!" or even worse, "No problem, I'll get you a new one." (It may be "no problem to YOU, but it is a big problem for ME!) Rare is the occasion when I actually have someone apologize for my inconvenience and “ rarer still “ empathize with how frustrating it is when this happens.Similarly, when I report other common inconveniences at the front desk, in the restaurant, in the meeting rooms and elsewhere, I most often hear the colleague moving right to the solution without taking ownership for what went wrong. Examples:"The Internet code you gave me stopped working¦." "Okay, I'll reset it." "My room service order is very late..." "We'll check on it." "Housekeeping forgot to replace the coffee packets¦" "We'll send some right up." "The bottom of the iron is dirty¦" "We'll send you a clean one." Yes, it is important to "fix" the guest complaint, but to win guests' loyalty and regain their confidence, what's as important - if not more - is to show compassion for the complainer.During the hospitality training workshops which I conduct worldwide for frontline colleagues, I share a model using the acronym "EARS." The idea is that when guest complain, we hoteliers want to be "all EARS." The acronym itself is a good reminder that when guests are upset the first thing to remember is to let them fully vent their frustration; be an attentive listener. Then once they are done sharing all of the personal details of how this shortcoming created unique inconveniences, only then is it time for us to do some talking.Empathize. Demonstrate understanding and make a personal connection with statements such as "I can imagine how you must feel" and / or "If I was in that situation I would certainly not be satisfied either." This shows that you truly care and provides something that us humans REALLY need very badly, which is "validation."Apologize. Providing a sincere apology is a wonderful way to defuse the situation and calm down an emotionally charged individual. By apologizing, we are not necessarily admitting fault but simply showing that our intentions were good.Resolve. Ideally, we of course want to give the guest what they want. However, in the real world it is not always possible to do so. Therefore, collaborate with them on the solution and offer a choice of options. For example, the guest wants a room with a king size bed on a high floor near the elevator but you do not have it. Offer them a room with a king on a low floor away from the elevator, or a double room on a high floor near the elevator.Satisfied? Especially when the guest is visibly upset, follow-up after the solution was delivered to ensure that they were satisfied. This shows an extra effort, professionalism and conveys good intentions.By training your staff to be all EARS, you'll ensure that guest complaints will be resolved while they are still in-house. Even better, you might also find that some guests end up even more impressed at how professionally their complaint was handled than they would have otherwise been had nothing gone wrong in the first place!

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The Life of Storied Hotel Tycoon J. Willard Marriott

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 year ago

Born in Marriott-Slaterville, Utah on September 17, 1900, John Willard Marriott was an entrepreneur, hotelier, and founder of Marriott Corporation. Marriott grew up on his family’s farm in rural Utah and attended college at Weber State University and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Marriott’s career began not with hotels, but with an A&W Root Beer franchise that he purchased with the intention of expanding the brand in the Washington, D.C. area. He opened the first location in 1927, and after adding hot food to the menu, the restaurants became known as “Hot Shoppes.” Over the next 25 years, Marriott expanded the Hot Shoppes brand throughout the East Coast. Hot Shoppes even provided in-flight catering - a first! - to airplanes departing Washington D.C.’s Hoover Airport. After Hot Shoppes went public in 1957, Marriott shifted his focus to the hotel business, opening the Twin Bridges Motor Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Together with his son, John Willard “Bill” Marriott, Jr., J. Willard Marriott, Sr. grew the hotel business by acquiring and building dozens of properties over the next decades. Today, over 60 years after its founding, Marriott International has a portfolio of over 7,000 hotels, including dozens of brands like Courtyard, Fairfield, and Residence Inn. The flagship JW Marriott brand is named after J. Willard Marriott himself. In 2016 Marriott International acquired Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which made Marriott the world’s largest hotel company. Marriott International is a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: MAR) and generated $20.97B in revenue in 2019. Marriott was known for his hands-on leadership style and pursuit of perfection. He had seemingly endless energy, and he never retired even after Bill took over duties as CEO. When he died on August 13, 1985, Marriott left $1.2B to each of his two sons. Marriott was posthumously awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1988. J. Willard Marriott’s legacy lives on not only through Marriott International, but also through his contributions to education. Marriott made significant donations to Brigham Young University (home to the Marriott Center arena and the Marriott School of Business), the University of Utah (home to the J. Willard Marriott Library), and Weber State University. Marriott was also a lifelong member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and he started the tradition of providing a Book of Mormon (in addition to a Bible) in every Marriott hotel room, which continues today. Want to learn more about J. Willard Marriott, Sr.? Read Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew Into a Global Hotel Company, written by Bill Marriott and Kathi Ann Brown.   Want to learn more about hotel industry leaders? Check out Titans of the Hotel Industry which includes an overview of leaders like Conrad Hilton (Hilton), Jay Pritzker (Hyatt), Barry Sternlicht (Starwood), Isadore Sharp (Four Seasons), Rich Barton and Brian Chesky (Airbnb)