News for the Hospitality Executive
By Gregg Hopkins, President and
CEO, Libra OnDemand
October 28, 2010
Assigning monetary value to customer data is a concept that few hotel businesses seem to be embracing, although it makes a great deal of sense to do. We treat everything else in our organizations as assets with measurable financial worth: inventory, people, property, etc. But, have you ever sat down and calculated a dollar value for your customer database? What about the monetary value of a specific guest? My guess is that you probably have not.
So what would go into such a calculation? You should certainly consider past, current and future earnings for each customer in your database. Then, with a fair degree of certainty, this information will reveal how much revenue you can expect that account, group or guest to spend in the future based on past performance. Over the years, hospitality organizations have “guesstimated” this information when forecasting based on a variety of sales and performance metrics that they track. Rarely has this information been obtained from an easy to access, real time, on demand data source – until now. With the rapidly expanding development of cloud based technologies, hotel organizations now have the ability to examine their customer database and accurately assign monetary value.
But, what about risk? The loss of any data that you maintain, particularly if it contains information subject to regulatory control (credit card numbers, etc.) carries a certain amount of risk if that data was ever lost, damaged or stolen. It's the same as if you had inventory lost, damaged or stolen. And, as you accumulate more data, your risk of loss increases. This is why a cloud based solution is so ideal. Take Salesforce.com, for example, the global leader in customer relationship management and cloud computing. Salesforce.com is not only the world’s #1 sales application, but it also utilizes some of the most advanced technology for Internet security available today. So, when you access their site using industry standard Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology, your customer data is automatically protected using both server authentication and data encryption, ensuring that your information is safe, secure, and available only to registered users in your organization. Your data is guaranteed to be completely inaccessible to your competitors.
Here’s another consideration when managing your customer information: many technology vendors actually charge their customers to access their own data. Now, this baffles me. It’s your data so you should not be charged anything additional for using it. It’s not like it’s the vendor’s own proprietary database; most likely, it’s Microsoft, Oracle, SyBase or some other flavor. And, the copy and exporting of that data is not affecting the vendor’s application. Your customer information should be available to you to be freely exported to another system so that it can be analyzed and used more effectively. Or better yet, you should be able to have data exchanged between vendor applications and other external solutions.
So, now that you have all this customer data, what do you do with it? Comprehensive data analysis is critical for the Revenue Analyst who, for example, may want to prepare next year’s budget by querying, “What effect do various business sources have on our revenue?” To answer this question they need to examine hotel sales through such sources as online travel agents (i.e. Expedia, Travelocity), GDS, property website, direct sales, 800 number, etc. Then, with these clearly reported statistics, they can determine which sources are most profitable, produce the highest return on investment, and should therefore be accounted for in the future budget and part of the hotel’s distribution strategy.
Knowing all about your frequent customers is also a very important aspect of your overall business success. But, what about those customers that have stopped or decreased the amount of business with your hotel? For example, do you know which one of your frequent, loyal guests has not visited your property in the past six months? An effective CRM should be capable of examining your producing and non-producing accounts and contacts, see those guests, travel agencies, and companies that have changed their stay patterns and buying habits. From those results, you can then create an email campaign to reestablish contact or an action item for your Guest Services or Sales Manager to telephone the customer directly.
A final consideration when analyzing the overall value of your customer and their stay tendencies is to collect the information from various sources (PMS, CRS, activity management systems, etc.). One source is not enough. For example, what if your customer stays in your hotel only a few times a year, but dines in your restaurant three times month? Or, what if they exclusively have treatments in your Spa on a regular basis? Relying on only one data source can really skew the analysis of your customer’s value to your organization. So, having a comprehensive system that brings all that information together is the key.
Things to ponder about your data analytics:
1. Can your current system assign monetary value to your customer data?
2. Is your data secure?
3. Do you have complete and free access to your data?
4. Are you using all your data to improve your customer relationships?
No doubt that effectively collecting, analyzing and securing all your customer data is as important as ever to your organization’s success. Hmmm…
About Gregg Hopkins
Gregg Hopkins is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Libra OnDemand LLC. Gregg has over 25 years of experience in hotel management and hospitality technology. He has worked with various enterprise property management and central reservation system providers, online travel agencies, and destination vacation portals. He has also provided consulting services to hospitality organizations on reservations electronic distribution, technology, e-commerce initiatives, CRM initiatives, marketing, sales strategy, and business development. Gregg is a subject matter expert on hospitality management systems, electronic distribution, and CRM. He also participates as a committee or board member of several industry associations. Gregg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gregg Hopkins, CEO
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