|To view more articles covering technology for the hospitality industry please visit the Hospitality Upgrade Web site or to request a free publication please call (678) 802-5300 or email.|
|By Dan Phillips
If you are new to the hotel business, you probably don’t even know what a call accounting system (CAS) is. And with good reason. There is so little telephone revenue in hotels these days who needs a call accounting system!
Here is a quick refresher: a guest makes a phone call from his room; the phone system (PBX) enables the call; when the caller is done, the PBX sends out a stream of data (SMDR) that includes the room number, the duration of the call, the time of the call, the called number, and so on, to the CAS; the CAS then checks the call data against its records and adds a price to the call; then, the CAS sends this data stream, with the price of the call, to the property management system (PMS) to be posted to the guest’s folio. This is simple stuff.
Unless you’ve been stuck in the banquet storage closet for the last couple of years, you are only too aware of the rapidly diminishing telephone department revenues at your hotel. It used to be that phone revenue accounted for 3 percent of a hotel’s total annual revenue. It used to be that the telephone department ran at about an 80 percent profit margin. It used to be that guests made direct dial phone calls from their rooms. It used to be that no one had ever heard of a data port and only the richest people had cellular phones.
This soapbox is too small for me to wax eloquent on, but hotel telephone revenues are disappearing for a variety of reasons. Therefore, it would seem that a hotelier would not be inclined to spend any more money on something like a new call accounting system. Why shuck out hard earned dollars on a piece of equipment that only reminds you of how much money you are losing every day?
I asked several CAS vendors to help me out with this article. Many of their responses to my inquiries were enlightening.
Some studies show that 85 percent to 93 percent of all guest calls are free. What does that says about the future of CAS?
Overwhelmingly, the vendors urge hoteliers to compete. I feel that hoteliers have done a terrible job of protecting their biggest asset toward revenue generation, that being the guest in their own hotel guestroom. We, as an industry, have given access to our guests to TV and movie providers, calling card providers, cell phone providers, high-speed Internet providers, even to the Pizza Hut down the street.
A hotel can no longer combat dwindling revenues by increasing call charges. You must compete by providing and marketing aggressive calling packages. Offer $.10 per minute domestic calling to your VIP guests. Offer $10 unlimited domestic calling to your corporate clients. Promote Happy Hour calling to your guests; anywhere domestically at $.05 per minute from 4-6 p.m. Or, a great idea: determine your current telephone revenue per occupied room figure, add that to your room rate to guarantee the same return, then, give free local, toll-free and 0+ access (with threshold billing of course) plus $.05 per minute domestic calling. All of this traffic would then be gravy on top of your previous average telephone revenue figures.
The CAS vendors also see their equipment as a valuable management tool. Unfortunately, this tool has been tremendously underutilized. The typical reaction from most hoteliers is that they are in the hotel business, not the telephone business and therefore can’t be bothered with looking at telephone reports. To that, the vendors unanimously suggest that consultants be used. However, these systems do generate reports that could be very beneficial to a hotelier: calling patterns that show where your guests come from so that you can market to that geography or negotiate with long distance providers; information on where your guests are making their next hotel reservations; evidence of fraud by both guests and staff; trending such as calling card and ISP connection increases; and, guest service issues such as the number of trunks to provide to prevent busy signals.
In general terms what is the breakdown or ranges of pricing mechanisms applied by your users?
Call Type Pricing Ranges
Where is the pricing of phone calls going and
are they based on carrier tariffs, or are other models coming forward?
What are the most important things to do to
maximize efficiency in revenue capture?
What are recommendations on how to rectify
vanishing telephone department revenues?
Where is CAS going?
What are some interesting or unique applications
CAS is not dead. If anything, it is a wonderful tool that has been mismanaged and underutilized. The future of hospitality is personalization. CAS will become a valuable asset. Do your homework; take the time to investigate your current and future CAS needs.
The author would like to thank the following people for their contributions to this article:
Hospitality Upgrade magazine
and the Hospitality Upgrade.com website
|Also See:||Effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Implementations / John Schweisberger and Amitava Chatterjee, CHTP / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2001|
|Technology Dilemmas: What have IT investments done for you lately? / Elizabeth Lauer / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2001|
|Full Circle from Centralized to ASP - The Resurrection of Old Themes and a Payment Solution / Gary Eng / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2001|
|A High Roller in the Game of System Integration / Elizabeth Lauer / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2001|
|CAVEAT EMPTOR! Simple Steps to Selecting an E-procurement Solution / Mark Haley / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2001|
|Your Bartender is Jessie James and He Needs to Pay for College / Beverly McCay / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2000|
|Choosing a Reservation Representation Company / John Burns / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2001|
|Understanding and Maximizing a Hotel’s Electronic Distribution Options / by John Burns / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2000|
|The Future of Electronic Payments - From Paper to Plastic and Beyond / J. David Oder / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2000|
|Timeshare Technology Steps Up / by Elizabeth Lauer / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / July 2000|
|Biometric Payment: The New Age of Currency / by Geneva Rinehart / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Mar 2000|