About a year ago, Pacifica Hotels decided to try ROOMDEX Automated Upselling at a couple of hotels.
NB: This is an article from Roomdex, one of our Expert Partners
To recap, Pacifica Hotels is the largest owner and operator of independent boutique hotels along the Pacific Coast. It comprises of 40 independent and flag properties in key California cities from San Diego to San Francisco, as well as Hawaii and Florida.
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We wrote about it here and decided that it might be interesting to check in on the California hotel group to see how things were going as we work our way through the post-pandemic recovery.
After, Pacifica rolled out RoomDex’s upgrade and upselling platform to their 19th independent hotel and we caught up with Brandon Burtis, Corporate Director of Revenue Strategy for Pacifica Hotels to find out how it has been performing.
When you first turned ROOMDEX on, what did you see from a performance standpoint? What was the reaction from the people who may have had that process manually in the past?
For our operations team, it was a game changer. They didn’t have to do anything. It was one less daily task on their checklist to have to go and check this other platform to see if there were requests that needed to be actioned or whatever. It was very hands off for them. They just needed to learn how the upgrade it appears in StayNTouch when a booking comes across. But the entire team, at every level of the operations organization were impressed with automation of the whole process. They didn’t have to worry about it getting posted and all of that – and the guest was aware the room type was changed if it was an upgrade. The amount for the upgrade charge was already posted. It truly was hands off.
In terms of revenue performance, we certainly saw a lift right off the bat. Unlike with the previous system, there wasn’t any “wash” on requests for upgrades or add-ons that didn’t get actioned because we didn’t catch them in time, or because maybe that room type got sold before we could action it. So, in that regard it alleviated any un-actioned requests which then just naturally increased our revenue altogether by making sure that every single request was actioned and offered when it was available.
Would you say automation has provided a level of consistency in addressing upgrades as opposed to things kind of slipping through the cracks?
Absolutely – especially with our frontline staff at the front desk. You know, some people are just more sales oriented than others, and some are more out to jump into the upsell game and try to make some extra money, if we’re offering an incentive. But to consistently get the team to upsell, every single individual, every single shift, with every single request – things are going to slip through the cracks. There are certainly still opportunities for the team to continue to upsell on property. There might be guests that just don’t action the original offer.
Prior to ROOMDEX how has upselling been handled at Pacifica Hotels? Do you have any experience with other upselling systems at all or was it all manual?
We did partner with another well-known player in the space, but it had some limitations. It was more of a request system, which really added work for my team. We very quickly realized the benefit of ROOMDEX in being completely automated and hands-free. I think that has been part of the reason as to why we’ve been so quick to convert the rest of our hotel portfolio over to ROOMDEX.
Walk me through the decision-making process from the beginning of your selection for ROOMDEX – from pilots, performance, and decisions to put it in all your hotels.
We have the StayNTouch PMS in place at our hotels and the ROOMDEX upsell system integrates seamlessly with it, so we figured we would give it a try given that we were told it was like flipping a switch – which tuned out to be true. Getting up and running was stress-free. Connecting both systems was effortless for us, and all done automatically between both vendors. As you know, ROOMDEX offers a free trial period and StayNTouch does not charge for the integration, so it was essentially risk free to try out.
I believe we started out at two properties and then doubled that, and eventually, we kind of hit a mass after about five or six properties and I just said, “Why are we proceeding so slowly? Let’s just do the rest.”
In a way, ROOMDEX spurred you to optimize your setup for your PMS too?
Yeah, absolutely. The timing was perfect in that we had just rolled out StayNTouch PMS out to the rest of our portfolio. Having done the ROOMDEX pilot really helped us think about the PMS configuration as we rolled out StayNTouch as we were much more cognizant of room features to focus on and highlight. We knew how to best monetize the features how to set that up so that ROOMDEX could take advantage of that and then offer that to those guests.
Let’s talk about a little bit about the setup. You pointed out that there were some configurations on the PMS side that ought to be considered differently. Can you expand on that?
Having gone through the process and seeing ROOMDEX work with our out-of-the-box PMS configuration, you start to think, “How can we tweak our room configuration in the PMS to maximize this new monetization that ROOMDEX is providing?” It might be one room within a specific category of rooms that has something unique. Now we go back and say, “Hm. Room 101 offers this view, and it has these other amenities or features or things that are unique to that room that somebody might be willing to pay extra for.” That inspired us to then go back and revisit our rooms accordingly. Like other things in revenue management strategy, you set yourself up for continued success and benefit in the long run.
Do you think this kind of upsell technology makes the revenue manager think differently about the technology tools that they should have to optimize their job?
I would agree. Usually in-house upsell systems or a manual upsell plans are usually pretty static and dry. For example, in the past, for a higher floor or a slightly larger room or a better view, we’d charge you $20 or $50 or some static amount generally. But ROOMDEX offers the benefit of dynamic pricing. So, how many people are getting this offer? What has been our average $$ so far with the offers that have gone out for this particular room type? Etc. It’s factoring all of those in which we, as a human wouldn’t be able to do, certainly not that quickly and that frequently. That certainly a huge benefit and a big factor in why we saw the uplift and performance and results that we saw.
You mentioned that your previous upsell solution was a request system, is that because it was basically a one-way connection to the PMS as opposed to a two-way?
Yes, correct. We had a one-way interface connection with that partner. That was certainly the factor on why it was not as robust to the system and certainly not a fully automated system – and also why adoption wasn’t as strong as we would’ve liked – certainly not as high as we are seeing with ROOMDEX.
Pacifica Hotels is also doing some early arrival and departure sales as well?
We are. We’ve had great success with those, both of those programs have done well. We’ve been through a few iterations and revisions from property to property, based on staffing needs and what we can accommodate – and we have to say kudos to the ROOMDEX team for their flexibility on that. It’s not a static, “here’s what you have to do if you’re offering these“. It was very easy to kind of flex the times, the offerings, and the pricing.
We’ve been very pleased with the performance of the platform and how easy and streamlined it’s made things. Early arrival and late departure is the same benefit to the hotel as an upgrade. It’s essentially inventory that’s sitting open. Why not try to monetize that? If the room is available at two o’clock instead of four o’clock, let’s take the extra $75 and get somebody in there for the extra two hours.
You have also employed the guest services element of ROOMDEX?
We have been piloting in some of our markets and a few of our select hotels that are a little more staffed to handle it and to have the inventory on hand for what we are selling. For the ones that currently try it out we have certainly seen that there’s endless possibilities with what you could feasibly market and sell through guest services. It’s something we are continuing to deploy and just explore and have fun with.