Turning data into knowledge and experiences
At this point, to say that technology has transformed the hotel sector is to state something so obvious, it’s no longer a matter of debate. As hoteliers, we’re constantly looking for ways to offer something that other chains and hotels don’t have. What’s more, nowadays, when a customer walks into a hotel, they expect a high degree of personalisation during their stay, as well as an extra level communication before, during, and after it.
In the globalised and competitive world we live in, beyond the quality of the services and products they offer, companies want to guarantee maximum efficiency and effectiveness in satisfying their customers and to offer that “extra” level that everyone is looking for. This is why technology has gone from being a mere productivity tool to become an essential service for the effective management of a hotel’s resources, both human and material. As hoteliers, we need to interact with our guests at all times to offer the maximum level of personalisation and the best possible experience during every stay.
The strategy followed until now has been to add solutions to try to improve customer experience and so build loyalty. Hotels already use a wide range of tools including their own websites, digital marketing and different online communication channels, as well as their own social media presence, online reputation management and property management systems, CRM, ERP, CRS, POS terminals and more. As a result of all these processes, hotels receive and store huge amounts of high-value information, but the hitch is that this data is stored in different systems, which are not connected. The problem we face today is that due to the enormous quantity of information and the huge variety of sources it comes from, the information collected is not used effectively, and the result is an incomplete experience for the guest.
As hoteliers, we should be aware of, and make good use of, new big data, data exchange and cloud computing technologies. These tools are no longer the stuff of science fiction, and centralised storage of large volumes of information from different sources is now a reality, so data can be processed in real time and turned into knowledge, allowing us to translate information into actions to optimise the efficiency and quality of services.
In other words, we need to provide our establishments with the means to predict the behaviour of guests, and to optimise human, operational and energy resources to offer them a unique experience and ensure a better quality of service. These new systems analyse information gathered by multiple devices, transforming data into automated actions that are focused on the guest’s experience, the quality of service provided by staff, and the optimisation of devices in the Internet of Things.
One fairly new concept in the sector is real-time data: information processed and delivered as it obtained. It means that data gathering and processing, from a range of devices, has to be so fast that it can interact with what is happening in the hotel, and with the long-term and short-term guests staying there.
Going back to the beginning of this article, I’d like to return to the idea that technology has gone from being a tool to aid productivity to become an essential service in the effective management of our hotels’ resources. Technology should not just be telling us how we did and what margin we achieved after the fact. It also serves to tell us what we need to do, and how to improve our margins. At the same time, it needs to tell us how to bring the quality of the services we offer closer to the expectations of our customers. Technology allows us to stay ahead, taking an active position in areas in which previously our attitude could only be passive. It enables us to make significant improvements in our decision-making, and in actions relating to marketing, revenue management, quality control, operational efficiency and energy efficiency.
If we add in our ever-increasing capacity to interact with guests at all times, which allows communication through different channels (email, website, social media, etc.), we can begin to get a picture of a paradigm shift in the way technology is used by the hotel sector. Again, I’m not talking about science fiction, but about existing technologies. While they have yet to be put fully into practice, they will be coming online very shortly and will become the new reality in the sector.