8 Things the Best Hotel Revenue Managers do
NB: This is an article by Robert Hernandez of Origin World Labs
As a consultant for Mathematical Revenue Optimization I’ve had the opportunity to work with many Revenue Managers in brands, franchises and independents. How much quantitative and programming background they have is never a concern for me because my job is to bring them up to a sophisticated level of technical competence and confidence. Still, some RMs are just a lot better at their jobs than others. What I have learned through the years is that the most successful Revenue Managers routinely do certain things that set them apart from the average and these habits have nothing to do with their technical ability or experience.
1. They think like a librarian.
I can’t begin to count how many gigs I’ve had where I dig into the RM department’s folder on the shared drive and I see a mess of folders, file naming formats, and ad-hoc files. The best RMs have a librarian’s approach to the way they organize their files, reports and analysis. They use a nice hierarchy of folders, separate reports by type and year, and keep ad-hoc analysis separated by objective, just to give a few examples. These RMs can easily find anything and they can also direct anyone in their hotel to find exactly what they are looking for. When the owner or GM asks them for a refreshed version of an analysis they did 16 months ago they can easily find it. Organization is indeed a virtue in RM.
2. They think about their internal customers.
The Revenue Manager is typically the source of data insights for top management and other departments. The format in which this data is disseminated can be just as important as the data itself. The best Revenue Managers format their reports to be not only clear, but understood by anyone, not just the intended recipient. They clearly label graphs, add footnotes to large data grids, and even attach anecdotal notes to ad-hoc analysis. Their intention is for the reader of their reports to have a great experience and to truly be able to make decisions from the data provided.
3. They build for the future.
This habit is very closely related to the one above. When you create a report and save it digitally you are creating an artifact of your company’s intelligence, strategy, and business rules that will potentially be saved forever. The best RMs create models, reports, and analysis that can be understood by anyone today and in the future. It’s easy to build things for today and think about the future as somebody else’s problem. Very few professionals in any function, in any industry, actually think that their work will outlast them, but enduring work does have value. First, if you create workflows and reports that can be learned quickly you are more likely to get promoted and if you become a consultant, the lasting quality of your work will be the source of some great references. Trust me.
4. They share everything with everyone.
While the aim of the open source world might be to share for the common good, that value is rare in the hotel business. Most hotels I have worked with have isolated departments that hoard their data and make decisions in the vacuum of their silo. The best RMs want to democratize RM intelligence from the lowest level to the highest and they actively try to do this. These RMs treat transparency as an ethical value that also adds value to their organization. They don’t try to create “job security” by building convoluted models or sticking to workflows that only they can understand. They don’t try to keep Reservations or Marketing from knowing too much about the rate setting process or how the Channel Manager works. I know one Revenue Manager that made a screen-cast of all her workflows in every software and shared it with her peers to get feedback on how she can simplify the clerical side of her job. True, this particular RM is very confident in her abilities and is not scared for her job, which is not always the case, but her idea cut her processing time down by a third.
5. They talk to everyone in the hotel.
This is a big one. I know many RMs that sit in their office and only leave their chair to attend rate strategy meetings. The best RMs are social and learn by walking around. A ten minute conversation with the door man can yield more valuable anecdotal data about guest behavior than an hour of guest data analysis (relax, that does not mean you should stop doing the latter). Revenue Management sits at the crossroads of the decisions made by multiple departments and the most effective RMs try to suck as much information as they can from every person. If you are not having lunch with Marketing and Sales at least once a week you have got to get out of your shell.
6. They talk to competing Revenue Managers.
I have yet to work with a hotel company where I do not hear the following uttered at least once – “Our competitors don’t know what they are doing.” The best RMs don’t discount their competitors but rather use them as a source of market information. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about price collusion or exchanging company secrets. I am referring to keeping your fingers on the pulse of the market by simply sharing common experiences with your fellow RMs. You don’t have to wait for the next hotel association meeting either, just call a competitor’s RM and trade notes about your frustrations with your PMS, RMS, booking engine, or channel manager.
7. They read about other industries.
The biggest innovators in any industry usually come from outside that industry. I find RMs that regularly read about non-travel industries to be a lot more clever in the way they approach their job. They do better analysis, can explain issues better, and can use analogies from other industries to think about market shifts in the hotel industry. Conversely, I find RMs who are the least exposed to have the strongest opinions and be the most biased-driven decision makers. Isaac Asimov said, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
8. They don’t stop learning.
Most Revenue Managers where promoted from Reservations or the Front Office and thrown directly into their role without much access to hands-on training. The best Revenue Managers understand that RM is a complex topic involving mathematics, data sciences, interfaces, web technology, conversion optimization, etc. They continue to build their understanding of these topics by exploring them on a deeper level. They don’t take the attitude that pricing algorithms is the RMS company’s problem, server speed is ITs problem, website conversions is Marketing’s problem, and so on. The best RMs are usually the smartest person in the room because they leverage their unique “crossroads” position to become educated on every topic that affects Revenue Management. They may not be able to answer every question, but they can hold their own in any conversation.
Hotel Revenue Management is a profession filled with opportunity, but not every RM will reach their full potential. I can only tell you that the RMs I observed to create this list are also some of the best paid RMs I know. They’ve realized these habits add value to themselves and to whatever company they are working for.