At the 19th edition of Global Lodging Forum, the management of information collected from customers was a central topic at the round table with representatives from Accor, Best Western, B&B Hotels, Louvre Hotels Group, Mövenpick and MKG Group.
Vanguélis Panayotis, Director of Development, MKG Group:
Big Data is in-depth analysis, observation of trends and strategies to define. But collecting high volumes of information takes time. When it comes to hotels, the digital era requires us to react daily. It is thus necessary to transform Big Data into Smart Data so that hoteliers can use it in order to optimize the hotel's potential and customer satisfaction. It is necessary to establish a level of confidence with them so they accept our intrusiveness. No one worries about giving their personal data to Gmail: people don't even read the General terms and conditions. They completely trust them. As with mobile applications, the customer decides if the exchange offered brings added value; so they must be convinced.
We may focus a bit too much on OTAs... other aspects are important as well. OTAs do not do quality control, or train personnel. If we manage to communicate that their quality standards are on a par with customer expectations and manage to collect enough data from all departments at the hotel (sales, distribution, HR, marketing, etc.) and make them communicate with one another, then we have succeeded in creating smart data.
Benoit Lemezec, Chief Marketing Officer, B&B Hotels:
Data may be summarized with the 3 Vs that are volume (quantity), variety (text, image, sound) and velocity (immediacy). The data does not go from being Big to Smart; it is formatted, given hierarchy in a dashboard such that the hotelier is able to use it within a Smart Data dynamic. The ultimate goal is to create value. The key to Smart Data lies in the hotel. It must be possible to identify clients in order to enrich the experience. It is also necessary to share this data for the hotelier, who lacks the time and understanding to do it.
Data and digital must be supported by upper management as well as human resources. The data does not only concerns the client. It may also come from B2B relations. Moreover I think that most businesses will succeed in their IT challenges (maximizing bases, optimizing cross channel) and also on digital personalization platforms. The real challenge remains leading change at the hotel.
Jean-Luc Chrétien, Executive VP Distribution Sales & Loyalty at Accor:
The high volume of data provides a better understanding of the different phenomena, customer behavior and makes it possible to anticipate marketing policies. There is also data that we need, that is subject to privacy regulations, that make it possible to address the customer and generate revenues. What is most difficult is identifying which data we need, managing high volumes of it, putting it to use and packaging it to make it accessible to the hotel's manager.
The hotelier needs data to understand what happens at his property and in order to be more efficient in terms of personalizing the offer and offering customers recognition. The quantity of information sent to clients is an important subject. OTAs were the forerunners in this game.
The level of customer expectations is raised by what is brought by digital and any information he has access to. He also must confront companies that have built their success on the web (Google, Amazon, etc.). There is an experience of service that must conveyed in our business whose base is nonetheless hospitality. It is important to not expect anything from the client, but rather to understand what they expect from us and how to better serve them.
Olivier Cohn, Chief Executive Officer, Best Western:
Big Data refers to large volumetrics, large amounts of data. The questions currently being asked are how do you make the move from Big Data to Smart Data? What is the intelligence of each unique piece of data? Our strategy is to collect all the data on our system, to filter it for information as well as to be able to transform in data for communications. The goal is to send the right client, the right information, at the right time. It is also the opportunity to create systems for customer relations between the different hotels of a chain. It thus becomes possible to manage customer experience. It is complicated because there is data of varying interest. Then there are the data protection laws. There is reticence about giving one's email address in order to select whom one interacts with. Another difficulty is that there is no global or European-wide coherency. It is thus necessary to include data protection rules at the core of Smart and Big Data strategies.
It is impossible to think about Big Data or Smart Data for five years. The start-ups that have joined our sector launched projects that are not necessarily complete but were able to turn around when they met with resistance. It is necessary to start with one dimension, make it evolve and expand it to other areas of the hotel. Big Data and Smart Data will always be useful to hoteliers and customers alike if we manage to create value on both sides. The customer must perceive the benefits of these strategies. If we collect data and know the customer better, then we can serve him better and he should be more satisfied.
Paul Mulcahy, Vice President Distribution & Revenue Management, Moevenpick Hotels :
Data analysis is used to personalize offers and improve profitability. However, the hotel industry is quite decentralized. This means a mass of data arrives from all over the world and must be integrated into a single small structure. And sometimes you even have to connect small structures to one another. It is still possible for a person to be register at two different hotels, even belonging to the same brand without anyone realizing their data has already been collected. First and foremost, it is important to know what will be done with the data: improve the customer experience, marketing, forecast an occupancy rate, etc. But collecting and analyzing everything is a bad way to proceed.
I believe that hotel customers would not be against giving more data to hoteliers if received some added value in return: faster check-in, lighting and heating set according to usual preferences. But before they realize there is some added value, it will only become increasingly harder to collect data.
Chinmai Sharma, Vice President Revenue Management and Distribution, Louvre Hotels Group:
Before anything else, it is important to know how the data will be used. Customers are showing increasing discernment. They have access to price comparison websites. When less significant promotions are sent, they don't even bother opening the email. OTAs such as Booking.com are more efficient and do better work in marketing. It is far more attractive to receive an email from Expedia or Booking.com.
Hotel groups already do a lot to treat data, but they can do even more. Innovating is a good thing since the customer puts more pressure on us to be sure we are using the data correctly. A few years ago I frequently stayed at the same hotel in Paris and each time check-in followed the same process, and covered the same details. They asked me for my passport each time to collect data. In the end, I just told them I didn't have it with me to force them to re-use data from my previous stay.
From the hotelier's point of view, there is so much information available that managing it can become very complicated. This is particularly true when the manager has several different jobs to do. Thus our mission at headquarters is to provide pertinent data to make the job easier. We also must anticipate whether or not a client has had a bad experience since two minutes later it will appear on websites such as TripAdvisor.
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