Before we can understand how to improve our decision-making on the property, we first have to cover the costs and impacts of those decisions.
NB: This is an article from Travel Media Group
The first and most obvious decision cost is money. Whether it’s a simple linen upgrade or full-out PIP or property renovation, capital expense is one of, if not the biggest factors of cost in a hotelier’s decision making.
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The second and almost equally as important factor, especially today, is time costs. With hoteliers spread as thin as ever, the decision to quality check rooms or assist the front desk with check-ins, is a big one, and if not properly considered could have impacts on the guest experience and spill over into your hotel’s online reviews.
But most hotel decisions today come with both time and money costs. From property preventative maintenance to staff hiring and training, there is some degree of time and money involved in each.
In the past, these everyday property decisions of where to spend our time and money had relatively low impacts. But in the winter these impacts grow larger due to the slow season and low occupancy historically felt in the winter months. So hoteliers are a bit more careful and vigilant with how they are spending their time and money.
Today, in 2021, as we race towards a new year and the winter months, the threat of the Delta variant and what looks to be nothing short of a staffing crisis looms over the hotel industry. In times like these, the ripple effects of the everyday decisions hoteliers have to make resonate bigger than they ever have before.
What does this mean? It means hoteliers simply cannot afford to make the wrong decisions right now when it comes to their property. So what can we do to make sure we are making the best decisions for our property, spending our time and money where they are needed most, and having the biggest impacts on our property?
Tale of 2 Owners
To answer that question, we have a story about two owners. Once upon a time, there was a hotel with two owners. They owned an older hotel, with a tenured staff, that had been a consistent revenue generator for years since it was first purchased. However, the hotel had recently started to lose money; at first in small amounts month over month, but lately the losses started to grow increasingly larger and the two owners came to the conclusion that something must be done.
The first owner, touring the property and visiting the rooms, felt the property had become outdated and was in desperate need of an upgrade and a refresh. The first owner suggests a major renovation of the rooms and investing a large amount of capital in the older hotel.
The second owner, a more cost-conscious individual, also visits the property and observes the staff. The second owner suggests no renovation is needed, no capital investment. Instead, they need to invest in training for the existing staff, shadowing the housekeepers, and customer service training for the front desk.
In complete disagreement with how to proceed, the two owners are stuck as to what is best for the property and what is needed most. Let’s take a moment to explore what type of impact these different decisions would have if they had been made.
Owner #1 Results
We will start with Owner #1, who, remember, felt the property was outdated and a large capital investment was needed to renovate and improve the rooms. Once the hypothetical room renovation was complete, the hotel began to receive a tremendous amount of positive guest feedback surrounding their “new and improved” rooms.
Despite all that focus on the room renovations, the service scores for the property plummeted. Ultimately, the hotel was able to boast about its newly upgraded rooms but did not have the staff and service in place to justify the large capital expense. In the end, the room renovation was not the best decision for this hotel.
Owner #2 Results
So what about Owner #2’s idea? Let’s imagine the property decided to forgo the capital investment of a large-scale room renovation, and instead invested time into training its entire workforce. In this scenario, with the hotel’s housekeeping, engineering, and front desk staff retrained and performing at maximum efficiency, the service scores for the property go through the roof, with guests ranting and raving about the incredible customer service and attention to detail they experienced during their stay.
On the other hand, with the property being an older hotel, the room scores for the property nosedive and complaints of “outdated and dirty rooms” begin to fill the hotel’s online review sites. Ultimately, the well trained and experienced staff couldn’t cover up the older, dated rooms in need of a refresh. In the end, the decision to conduct a full-scale staff training and revamp was also not the best decision for this hotel.
Enter the GM
So how does this tale end? Well as the two owners continue to argue, they bring in the hotel’s general manager and ask which idea he thought was the best decision and which one would make the property the most money. The GM, who had been with the hotel since it first opened, thought carefully and asked for the rest of the day to think about it.
GM – Room Sentiment
As the GM sat down to think, a couple of ideas of what he believed the property needed to fix came to mind, but he quickly realized that it wasn’t what he or the two owners thought the hotel needed – it was what their guests perceived as a problem that the property needed to be fixed.
So he used the hotel’s reputation data to conduct research. Within that research, he uncovered patterns in the hotel’s review data. He saw that most guests were okay with the state of the rooms themselves, but most of the negative sentiment surrounded the bathroom and shower. In fact, the average review score the hotel was receiving was 3.7 stars, but when the bathroom was mentioned within a review that score dropped to 2.7.
GM – Service Sentiment
As he continued to dig through the data and look for trends, he noticed on the service side of the hotel experience, most of the negative guest sentiment had nothing to do with the housekeeping or engineering department, but rather the front desk and the check-in/check out process.
The next day, with these insights, the GM approached the 2 owners with a new plan. Instead of doing a renovation of the entire room, why not just focus on updating and refreshing the bathrooms? This was the area that guests felt was a below-average aspect of their hotel experience. And instead of retraining and shadowing the housekeeping and engineering departments at the property, why not invest time in training just the front desk and implementing new SOPs to improve the check-in/check-out process?
Leveraging this reputation data, the general manager was able to make the best decision for the property according to what guests were actually saying and how they really felt. This decision improved the aspects of the guest experience that needed it most and combined the best use of time and capital investment. This is how we make smarter decisions for our properties, by using the data given to us by our most important asset – our guests.
But this is just the tip of the guest sentiment iceberg. While this story only showcased two small pieces of the guest experience, we know there are other intricate details and aspects of a guest’s stay that can either improve or derail a guest’s experience at your property. And with all this sentiment data floating in an ocean of online review sites, it can be incredibly difficult for hotels to find the insights and data they are looking for.
Hotel Group Decisions
And it becomes exponentially more difficult if you are part of a hotel management group or manage or own multiple properties.
More Than Data
It’s more than just gathering the data. There are a number of companies out there, sometimes even your brand, that can simply provide you with your hotel’s reputation data.