How are we supposed to know what to do with all this data?
Interview with Janel Clark, SnapShot’s Head of Education
By Janel Clark, Head of Education at SnapShot
Hospitality is now a data driven industry. Data is everywhere: data relating to our business performance, data relating to our guests and their preferences, and data relating to the market and our direct competitor set. There is a vast amount of data available with 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created every day, according to Domo.
Is it that the hotel industry doesn't value data enough? Or is it simply not a priority?
JC: On the contrary, I believe that smart hotels recognize that the better we know our guests and can provide for their needs to create amazing experiences, the more successful our business. We do that by collecting data and analyzing the trends. But I also believe that the terms "Big Data" and "Data Scientist" can be overwhelming for the average, traditional, independent hotelier.
Until recently, hospitality has not been known as an early adopter of innovation and technology and has remained under-serviced by enterprise-capable technology suppliers. However, in the last 7 years, the industry has begun to recognize the value of data and innovation and how it can improve the guest experience and the bottom line at the same time. It has been several years since we started talking about the use of big data to improve guest experience and performance, but the reality is that only a few hotels have the knowledge and experience to know how to do this in practice: to know what data to look at and how to use it to make decisions.
What are the challenges in implementing data into everyday hotel operations?
JC: I see two challenges:
Technology - Revenue Management is now acknowledged as a core business function but how many hotels invested in an automated system? According to Hotel Technology, 57% of hotels planned to increase their technology spending in 2017, in comparison to the previous year. With the growing number of hotel software and applications, this number will surely increase in the years to come.
Hotels must invest in tools that allow data to be collected, harmonized and easily analyzed.
Training - each Manager's skill set is very focused on their own area, often very operational…
More automation means more time saved to set strategies. A recent study by Brookson Enterprise found that managers are spending 4 hours per day producing, managing, and updating reports. With automation, managers can allocate the time formerly spent on manually dealing with reports on other pressing matters.
Again, using Revenue Managers as an example, when this discipline was first introduced into hotels, Reservations Managers were often "promoted" to a new position, but without any training, new skills or knowledge, and guidance. They were left to learn by trial and error or learning on the job, and quite often, lost opportunities through their own lack of knowledge.
What can hoteliers do to integrate data practices into their hotels?
JC: We are seeing the same issue now with Data Scientists, but on a bigger scale. Data is important, but with so much of it available, how can hotels know what is the most important? There needs to be more investment in training to show team members how to read and use data to make decisions.
"If there is no resource for a Data Scientist - teach your people how to read data and what to look for."
Invest in the right tools and invest in your people. As systems become more integrated, shouldn't staff also be more integrated? Education breaks down silos between departments, teaches us to share data insights, and truly understand how each team needs to be connected to drive performance and success.
To improve performance, we need to embrace and invest in technology, and invest in training for our people - show them how to use the great tools that are now available, show them how data is our friend and not something to be feared. We must teach them how each department integrates with others, how we share the data, and how the data can be used. They absolutely need to know about this.
What's next for technology in the hospitality industry?
When it comes to future of hotel technology, AI, or artificial intelligence, is no longer a futuristic concept. AI is already present throughout the industry and will continue to grow as the industry's technology develops. According to AltexSoft, AI and data science are interlinked and being used within the industry to improve hotel business for purposes including revenue management, operational analytics, and customer experience improvement. Within revenue management, hotels are using AI to better calculate and predict customer behavior to develop more strategic pricing strategies. Without these technological solutions to analyze the enormous amounts of data available to hotels, particularly the larger chain hotels, revenue managers would have a much more arduous task ahead of them to manage pricing. Regarding operational analytics, AI is necessary in all aspects of a hotel's operations. A hotel is essentially its own ecosystem with countless operations taking place simultaneously, independently and dependently. With AI monitoring real-time observations of operational activities, hotels are able to improve their processes and increase efficiency. As more AI tools for performance evaluation, social media tracking, competitor set monitoring, brand evaluation, data analysis, and so on, become available, hotels can make more data driven decisions and better serve their guests. When it comes to customer experience improvement in hotels, AI technology is becoming increasingly a part of communicating with guests. With high-speed connectivity comes the need for faster and smarter responses to keep up with the customers' demands and standards. Hotels have been introducing automated check-in services through smartphone applications, 24-hour chatbot services, automated guest communications for pre-check-in and post check-out, facial recognition systems for check-in, and smart rooms that can connect with your pre-existing applications. As hotels install more guest-facing technology into their properties, guests will start to have higher technology-related expectations and AI will only help meet those needs.
The need for technology and AI is inevitable in both hospitality and education. Without educating hoteliers on the importance of technology and data, it will only deter the development process and future integrations that are coming, whether hotels are ready or not. Training staff in technology and adopting a data culture for hotels is crucial in preparing for the future. Data silos are being broken down and bridged together, hotel technologies are integrating more and more with each day, and artificial intelligence tools are being adopted in hotel applications, operational practices, and even guest communications. The importance of education and technology is only going to increase with time and hotels need to prepare for these changes by looking at technology and an accompanying data strategy as a differentiation, which can enable superior guest experiences.
Janel ClarkMore from Janel Clark
Founded in 2012 with the vision to build hospitality's premier data platform independent of any brand or software provider, SnapShot is now one of the largest hospitality data processors in the world, managing transactional data of over 6,000 independent and branded hotels worldwide, with over 45 different connected PMS systems, and growing. With the release of the Hospitality Data Platform, SnapShot enters its third phase, which brings forward its founding vision: a secure data platform, visualization capabilities, and marketplace.
To find out more, please visit snapshot.travel.