Embracing Guest-Centrism: Powering the Modern Era of Central Reservation Systems (CRS)

A Guest-Centric Approach Redefined

In the past, SHR Group placed the Central Reservation System (CRS) at the core of the distribution process. However, our vision has evolved, and we now position the guest at the heart of the system.

Empowering independent hotels and regional brands, our comprehensive product suite, featuring the Internet Booking Engine (IBE) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), is strategically designed to boost revenue and cultivate lasting guest relationships throughout the entire guest journey.

Crucially, our Central Reservation System (CRS) acts as the linchpin, seamlessly connecting hotels or brands to all their booking channels. This global reach spans both direct and indirect channels, ensuring visibility where potential guests make their purchasing decisions. By being present and bookable in diverse channels, languages, and preferred platforms, the CRS not only broadens its reach but also capitalizes on revenue-generating opportunities.

Furthermore, all pricing and selling strategies are conveniently managed within the CRS, streamlining operations and providing a unified approach. Our mission remains steadfast—to establish enduring connections between hotels or brands and their guests, prioritizing meaningful relationships over short-term gains, while strategically positioning them to reach a global audience and meet guests where they are.

Our pioneering approach, centered on deeply integrated, cloud-based software, built with an API-first approach, delivers scalable, brand-centric guest experiences tailored and customized to support each hotel’s unique context and strategy and our CRS tool is designed to connect the hotel to their guests in a more intuitive way, alongside our IBE, CRM and RMS. 

Beyond the Realm of Open Pricing – The Importance of Using a CRS

Relying solely on a channel manager raises critical considerations, primarily concerning the relationship between the channel manager and OTAs. OTAs, by their inherent nature, predominantly focus on the open-priced leisure market, utilizing a date/rate/occupancy model for essential data. This approach can provide a limited perspective on the complete distribution and booking landscape, neglecting segments like business and group/event travelers.

In this constrained scenario, you might find yourself disregarding tactics related to loyalty or length-of-stay pricing, as opposed to simple open pricing. Remember the intricate distribution strategies mentioned earlier? They encompass various methods, such as blended rates, derivation, double derivation, sell limits, loyalty rates, and more, all aimed at reaching your guests and increasing online and offline bookings.

Modern CRS systems go beyond the linear model of solely connecting to OTAs, enabling the creation of finely tuned strategies and booking concepts. Guest-centric strategies demand control from the hotelier, which can be achieved by connecting to the myriad choices and strategies offered by today’s guest-focused CRS model, rather than solely relying on the standard channel manager model.

Channel Manager vs. Central Reservation System (CRS): Understanding the Differences

In the world of hotel management and distribution technology, two critical tools play a central role: the Channel Manager and the Central Reservation System (CRS). While both serve to streamline the process of distributing hotel rooms across various channels, they have distinct functionalities and purposes. Let’s delve into the differences between a Channel Manager and a CRS to understand how each contributes to an effective hotel distribution strategy.

  1. Functionality & Scope of Control:
    • Channel Manager: A Channel Manager primarily focuses on managing and updating room rates and availability across multiple external online channels, such as OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), global distribution systems (GDS), as well as the hotel’s own website. It ensures that room inventory is synchronized in real-time, preventing overbookings or double bookings and hotels can efficiently manage their presence on multiple third-party websites.
    • CRS: A Central Reservation System encompasses all the functions of a Channel Manager and more as it serves as the core system for a broad range of functions including managing a hotel’s room inventory, reservations, direct bookings on the hotel’s website and guest data. It often includes features like a booking engine (IBE), reservation management, and guest profiles. The CRS serves as the centralized master hub for all aspects of reservations deploying the hotel’s selling strategy, supporting direct bookings through the hotel’s website and call center, in addition to handling third-party distribution.
  2. Data Management:
    • Channel Manager: Channel Managers handle rate and availability data, ensuring consistency and accuracy across various online platforms. They typically do not manage guest data or handle guest profiles.
    • CRS: A Central Reservation System is responsible for all transactional communications to do with managing guest profiles, preferences, and reservation data. When integrated with a CRM all this valuable guest contact and purchase information can be used for personalized marketing strategies.
  3. Direct vs. Indirect Bookings:
    • Channel Manager: Channel Managers are primarily geared towards managing indirect bookings through third-party channels and OTAs.
    • CRS: A CRS has a higher level of direct connectivity as it encompasses both direct and indirect bookings, managing reservations made through the hotel’s website and external channels, such as GDS systems.

In summary, a Channel Manager and a Central Reservation System serve distinct but complementary roles in a hotel’s distribution strategy. While a Channel Manager excels at managing rates and availability across external channels, a CRS acts as the central hub for managing all aspects of hotel reservations, including both direct and indirect bookings, guest data, and the hotel’s own website bookings. To maximize efficiency and revenue, many hotels use both systems in tandem to achieve a balanced and effective distribution strategy.

The strength of SHR Group’s Central Reservation System (CRS) lies in its ability to efficiently deploy strategic pricing to the various segments of the market, meeting guests where they are and on their preferred booking channel. It streamlines the reservation process and optimizes the hotel’s operations and revenue management strategies, all while enhancing guest experiences and catering to the specific needs of each client. This tailored system ensures that every step of the reservation journey is smooth and efficient, from the moment a guest makes a booking to their departure.

The CRS takes care of all the necessary tasks, from availability checks to sending confirmation emails. Hoteliers can easily manage and organize reservations, view real-time availability, and make updates with just a few clicks, thereby increasing operational efficiency. Moreover, the system boosts global reach through integration with the Global Distribution System (GDS), major Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), and multiple channel managers, leading to increased visibility and more bookings. This automation not only saves time but also reduces the risk of errors, allowing hotel staff to focus on providing exceptional guest service.

However, the strength of SHR Group’s CRS goes beyond operational efficiency. This user-centric reservation management system offers more than basic hotel CRS functionality. It empowers hoteliers to reach every one of their guests and is designed to work with all the other SHR tools such as CRM and RMS to personalize guest preferences, track guest history, and gather valuable insights to deliver truly personalized guest experiences. This level of personalization not only enhances guest satisfaction but also fosters guest loyalty and repeat business, making it a valuable asset for hoteliers looking to excel in the competitive hospitality industry.

Posted in Blog

Future Proof – Key Trends Shaping Hotel Distribution in 2024

Successful hotel distribution strategies today require a holistic approach that encompasses each facet of the booking journey. In the coming months, hoteliers will be laser focused on optimizing their channel mix for profitability, personalizing the booking experience to increase conversion, and leaning on Artificial Intelligence to drive efficiencies.

To operate a successful hotel, there are a lot of things that have to go right. Owners need the right building in the right market tailored for the right demand generators, and operators need to build a top-notch management team equipped to offer great service.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is a well-thought out strategy to attract guests. Even the perfect hotel will not stay open long with no guests.
Gone are the days when hotels could simply open their doors next to a tourist destination and expect to fill up. As more and more hotels pop up in a market, hotels are constantly pressed to find ways to differentiate. Simultaneously, the ways travelers are searching and booking accommodations has evolved drastically, and hotels are constantly updating their strategies to ensure their offerings are in front of as many potential guests as possible.
Hotel distribution today involves a holistic approach to inventory management, digital marketing and pricing, with all teams across the commercial department acting in synchrony to ensure room availability and rates are appearing in the right places. To stay ahead of an increasingly complex landscape, hoteliers are turning to modern and innovative technology as an essential component of their distribution strategies.

  1. First, hotels must remain focused on optimizing their channel mix, which means analyzing which channels are the most profitable for them and driving as much business through these channels as possible. Ancillary channels can and should be used to fill in need periods or to reach travelers the hotel otherwise might not reach through its own channels.
  2. Next, it’s increasingly imperative for hoteliers to personalize a traveler’s booking experience, which can mean anything from using a first name in an email to presenting only offers that are relevant to that guest, based on previously identified preferences.
  3. To enable these and other modern distribution strategies at scale, hoteliers are increasingly relying on Artificial Intelligence. While the industry has long relied on machines for their ability to aggregate and normalize large sets
    of guest and transactional data, we are at the beginning stages of AI actually putting this data into action. Today, AI is helping reduce manual work across hotel distribution, from generating rate packages and descriptions to knowledgable chatbots equipped to handle any guest inquiry.
Posted in Whitepaper

Unwrapping Success: SHR 7 Essential Tips for Digital Marketing and CRM During the Holiday Season

For businesses in the hospitality industry the holiday season presents a golden opportunity to connect with customers and boost revenue. Here at SHR, as the leading global specialist technology and service provider to the hotel industry, our gift to you is to offer invaluable insights to navigate the digital marketing landscape and harness the power of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) during this festive period.

Let’s unwrap the key tips to make your holiday marketing campaigns merry and bright.

  1. Create a Festive Content Calendar

One of the foundational steps in a successful holiday marketing strategy is to develop a comprehensive content calendar. This should encompass holiday-themed blog posts, social media content, and email campaigns.

For example, crafting posts like “Top Holiday Activities in Our Area” or “Delicious Seasonal Recipes from Our Chef” adds a personal touch to your brand. By maintaining a consistent and engaging presence throughout the season, your hotel stays top of mind for potential guests.

  1. Countdown to Christmas Email Campaign

Building anticipation is a powerful marketing tool and a creative way to do this is by creating a 12-day countdown to Christmas email campaign. Each email can feature an exclusive holiday offer or experience, showcasing your hotel’s cozy ambiance, festive decorations, and special in-room amenities.

Engaging subject lines, vivid imagery, and compelling calls-to-action (CTAs) will entice recipients to book and increasing bookings.

  1. Mobile Optimization for PPC/Social

Given the prevalence of mobile browsing during the holiday season, it’s crucial to ensure that your ads and landing pages are optimized for mobile devices. Remember users often browse and book on their phones, making mobile optimization essential for maximizing reach and conversions.

  1. Adapt to the Platform

Tailoring campaigns to each platform’s strengths is imperative in digital marketing. We would advise adjusting campaigns based on user behaviors on platforms like Instagram, Google Ads, Facebook, and Demand Gen. Utilizing festive creatives with enticing calls to action ensures that your ads resonate with the unique characteristics of each platform, enhancing their effectiveness.

  1. Holiday-Themed Paid Social Strategies

To capture the attention of potential guests immersed in the holiday spirit, incorporate holiday-themed videos and images into your paid social media strategy. While the lead time for conversion may be longer, this content contributes to audience building, creating a more compelling experience for potential guests.

  1. Maximizing Budget Efficiency with First-Party Data:

In the competitive landscape of holiday advertising, it is important to maximize budget efficiency. Utilizing first-party data to target consumers through lookalike audiences allows hotels to create highly targeted ads that speak directly to specific audiences, reducing waste and ensuring a higher return on investment.

  1. CRM Email Campaigns Aligned with Revenue Management:

This is a time of year to focus on the crucial intersection of CRM and revenue management, as marketing efforts should guide guests to offers that are not only enticing but also available for booking. This strategic alignment ensures a seamless customer journey, from awareness to conversion.

By incorporating our tips into your digital marketing and CRM strategy you should be able to significantly enhance your hotel’s visibility, engagement, and revenue during the holiday season. By embracing festive creativity, platform-specific tactics, and strategic CRM integration, your hotel can create a memorable and profitable holiday experience for both new and returning guests, keeping you always ahead. Unwrap the potential for success this holiday season with our expert guidance.

Posted in Blog

The Evolving Landscape of Digital Marketing Trends

In the ever-evolving realm of digital marketing, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. As we delve into current digital marketing trends, the first and foremost trend that demands attention is the strategic utilization of first-party data. This trend has gained immense significance, especially for hotels looking to maximize the potential of Google Ads in their marketing efforts.

First-Party Data Unveiled

First-party data is the treasure trove of information collected directly from hotel guests. This includes valuable details like email addresses, phone numbers, loyalty program memberships, and booking history. Hotels can employ this data in various ways when leveraging Google Ads for hotels, such as:

  1. Creating Custom Audiences: First-party data empowers hotels to craft custom audiences within Google Ads. This allows for precise targeting, reaching specific groups like past guests, email subscribers, or loyal patrons.
  2. Enhancing Ad Relevance: Leveraging first-party data, hotels can significantly improve the relevance of their advertisements. For instance, guest booking history can be used to display ads for specific room types or amenities that align with the guests’ preferences.
  3. Measuring Conversion Performance: First-party data aids in evaluating the conversion performance of Google Ads for hotels campaigns. This data can be instrumental in tracking how many guests, after clicking on the ads, proceed to book a room at the hotel.

Real-World Application of First-Party Data

Here are some practical examples of how hotels are employing first-party data with Google Ads:

  • A hotel chain uses its email list to create a custom audience in Google Ads for hotels, targeting individuals who have previously expressed interest in their brand.
  • A hotel tailors its Google Search ads based on guest booking history. For instance, if a guest has previously booked a suite with a balcony, the hotel showcases ads for similar suites when they search for hotels in the same area.
  • Another hotel uses first-party data to assess the conversion performance of its Google Ads for hotels campaigns, tracking the number of guests who, after clicking on the ads, book a room directly on the hotel’s website.

The Value of First-Party Data

In summary, first-party data is a valuable asset for hotels venturing into Google Ads. It enables the creation of more relevant, targeted ads, improvement of conversion performance, and a deeper understanding of guests’ needs. It has the potential to be a game-changer in the digital marketing landscape.

Incorporating CRM Data

For instance, an SHR Group client has seamlessly integrated their CRM with Google Ads, enabling weekly data segmentation. This means they can send different ads depending on the audience, offering a personalized approach that resonates with potential guests. This level of personalization plays a pivotal role in influencing customer behavior and perception.

A Paradigm Shift in Audience Targeting

Google Ads have shifted their approach towards targeting user intent rather than their actions. This AI-driven approach leads to hyper-personalized campaigns, catering to the individual behaviors and preferences of the audience.

Strategies for Leveraging First-Party Data with Google Ads for Hotels

Here are some key tips for hotels aiming to harness first-party data effectively in their Google Ads strategies:

  1. Obtain Data with Consent: Always ensure that your guests are aware of and have consented to the collection and use of their data for marketing purposes.
  2. Segment Your Data: After collecting first-party data, segment it into distinct groups based on demographics, interests, and booking behavior. This facilitates the creation of highly targeted ad campaigns.
  3. Custom and Lookalike Audiences: Maximize the impact of first-party data by creating custom audiences and lookalike audiences in Google Ads. This is a potent strategy to enhance targeting precision.
  4. Ad Relevance: Utilize first-party data to optimize ad relevance. Tailor ad copy and creatives to resonate with specific audience segments.
  5. Measure and Adapt: Leverage first-party data to measure the performance of your Google Ads for Hotels campaigns. Use this insight to refine and improve your strategies.

The Urgency of First-Party Data in Light of Google Chrome’s Changes

Notably, in January 2023, Google Chrome commenced the phasing out of third-party cookies. This significant development underscores the importance of adopting a robust first-party data strategy. If you are yet to embark on this journey, it’s essential to recognize that your audience’s data will slowly deteriorate in the first six months of 2024, rendering it virtually useless unless complemented by first-party data.

In summary, first-party data is not just a trend; it’s an imperative component of successful digital marketing for hotels. By harnessing this data effectively, hotels can enhance their targeting, ad relevance, and ultimately, the guest experience, ensuring they remain at the forefront of the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Unlocking Sustainable Growth – The Power of Demand Generation in Digital Marketing

Demand generation, a pivotal digital marketing trend, holds the key to driving sustainable growth in the competitive online landscape. In an era where customers are inundated with information, businesses must proactively create and nurture demand for their products or services. Demand generation strategies encompass a spectrum of activities, from content marketing and social media advertising to SEO and email campaigns, all designed to engage and educate potential customers.

By focusing on building relationships, providing valuable content, and aligning marketing efforts with customer needs, demand generation not only increases brand awareness but also cultivates long-term customer loyalty. In today’s digital age, where relevance and personalization are paramount, demand generation stands as a vital driver of success for businesses looking to thrive and adapt to the evolving marketing landscape.

Google has undeniably recognized the growing significance of demand generation, particularly in light of the impending challenges posed by the erosion of third-party cookies in the coming year. To address this, Google has taken an unexpected approach by drawing inspiration from Facebook, a departure from their traditional role as trendsetters. Google’s recent move, aptly named Demand Gen, mirrors Facebook’s success in targeting consumers with ads through lookalike audiences.

This innovation was introduced in early October, and our digital team at SHR Group has witnessed promising outcomes, particularly in the realm of brand awareness campaigns. We’ve successfully transitioned clients’ discovery campaigns into Demand Gen campaigns. Notably, our analysis revealed that older brand awareness Google Display ad campaigns were yielding subpar traffic quality for client websites. This shift underscores the importance of leveraging social platforms for brand awareness and reserving Google Ads for conversion-focused endeavors. It’s a strategic shift towards smarter spending and prioritizing value over mere numbers.

The Transition in Measurement Paradigms with Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) marks the latest evolution of Google’s widely-used web analytics tool, and it introduces substantial transformations that reshape the way we gauge website performance. Foremost among these changes, that took place at the beginning of July, is the transition from a session-based measurement model to an event-based one. Instead of merely tracking pageviews and sessions, GA4 now meticulously records individual user interactions, encompassing actions like clicks, video views, and form submissions. This profound shift in measurement methodology provides a more intricate and comprehensive comprehension of user behavior, equipping hotel marketers with the tools they need to finely tune their digital offerings for their target audiences.

Furthermore, GA4 introduces a suite of advanced machine learning capabilities, affording the capacity for predictive insights and in-depth analysis. This enhancement solidifies GA4 as a formidable instrument for data-driven decision-making. In summation, the impact of the measurement paradigm shift with Google Analytics 4 is a profound one, granting hotels a more precise and detailed insight into their online audience and enabling them to craft highly effective and personalized digital experiences.

At SHR Group, the seamless transition we’ve experienced serves as the ultimate gauge of success, characterized by the fact that our clients noticed no disruptions or changes. Already, we’re exploring new and intriguing data applications for the benefit of over 400 of our clients.

The Erosion of Demographic Data in Digital Marketing

Demographics have traditionally played a pivotal role in shaping marketing strategies, enabling businesses to direct their efforts toward specific demographic groups defined by age, gender, income, education, and other defining characteristics. However, the landscape of digital marketing has undergone significant shifts, driven by the prevalence of ad blockers, stringent privacy regulations, and the growing dominance of mobile devices. These changes have rendered the accurate capture of demographic data increasingly challenging, with early indications suggesting that Google Analytics 4 records only a fraction of your traffic with age, gender, and interests data.

Consequently, hotels may find themselves compelled to rely on imprecise or incomplete datasets if they persist in targeting their advertising based on traditional demographic parameters. This, in turn, can lead to resource wastage and ineffective marketing campaigns.

In response to this issue, hotels must place a premium on transparency and ethical data collection practices. This entails drawing from verified data sources and affording consumers control over their data privacy settings. Furthermore, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning offer promising avenues for hotels to more accurately pinpoint potential guests. In sum, the erosion of demographics in digital marketing underscores the imperative of responsible data utilization and the adoption of ethical marketing practices.

Rising Cost per Click – OTAs Rejoin the Bidding War

The quest for advertising space on search engines and social media platforms has intensified, driving up the demand and consequently the cost of paid clicks in the realm of paid search. Furthermore, shifts in search engine algorithms and advertising regulations have made it progressively arduous for advertisers to secure prominent ad placements without incurring higher costs per click (CPC).

The cost-per-click (CPC) for hotel pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns has seen a continuous ascent, largely attributed to the intensified competition between hotels and online travel agents (OTAs) such as Booking.com and Expedia. This heightened competition became particularly pronounced in 2022, as we observed across our client base. With the easing of pandemic-related restrictions, OTAs resumed their marketing campaigns, unveiling a hidden cost. For instance, the average CPC for brand campaigns alone witnessed a significant surge, often reaching an increase of about 50%. The bidding war for advertising space in the digital realm has undeniably contributed to this ongoing upward trajectory in CPC, making it increasingly challenging for independent hotels to achieve a cost-effective return on investment in the ever-competitive and cost-intensive advertising landscape.

Finally, the surging popularity of mobile devices has fueled the growth of mobile advertising, inherently commanding a higher CPC compared to desktop advertising. The convergence of these dynamics has compounded the challenges faced by independent hotels striving for a profitable return on investment (ROI) in an increasingly crowded and costly advertising landscape.

Posted in Blog

We need to talk about cancellations

Allora.ai creates a personalized booking experience for every guest, which drives engagement and unparalleled guest conversion and is supported by digital marketing with outstanding website design.

2022 Cancellation Rate Trends: How can you maintain guest retention

Without a doubt, one of the most challenging things about running a hotel is the tendency for guests to make a reservation but then frustratingly cancel at the last minute.

Given the current climate we are all facing, there are multiple reasons why travellers and guests are cancelling their bookings and deciding to drop-out of their plans at the last minute. As rates rise year on year, forecasting and pricing decisions for hoteliers will continue to be undermined which magnifies inefficiencies, increases costs, and damages margins.

In 2019, we found that the share of direct booking revenue lost due to cancellations had jumped to 15%. Now in 2022, our latest research reveals this figure has skyrocketed with 20% of bookings cancelling – a 33% increase over 2019 for the same period.

So what can hoteliers do? Below, we delve into the state of cancellations in 2022, the patterns that hoteliers need to be aware of, and the tools that can help businesses deliver a proactive booking retention game plan.

Posted in Whitepaper

The Hoteliers Playbook for Integrating Hotel Systems To Maximize Guest Recognition

Learn how vital hotel systems can be interlinked to improve operations, better connect with guests, and provide real loyalty rewards that move the needle on maximizing revenue.

The hotel industry may be welcoming more guests now than pre-pandemic times, but resource limitations and the uncertainty about the trends that will impact the industry going forward remain top of mind. Fortunately, advancements in automation and guest recognition technology have made it easier than ever for hoteliers with less staff to manage operations while exceeding guest expectations.

Hotels are challenged with finding the right technology solution that will help them to improve the guest experience. Hoteliers must consider the capabilities of the technology they are investing in and their partners’ capacity to provide support as well as find new ways to improve their platform over time. Understanding how this technology fits into the working system and the ways in which it can continue to improve process, is really important in alleviating the ‘technology burden’ and allowing hoteliers to focus on what’s important to them; their guests.

In this report, you’ll learn :

  • How automation is helping hoteliers to save time and increase efficiently
  • What questions to ask to properly automate your hotel’s operations
  • How hotel recognize guests in ways that reward loyalty
  • The ways hotel loyalty programs have evolved
  • Why traditional loyalty programs are no longer a necessity today
Posted in Whitepaper

The Hotelier’s Playbook to Amplifying Revenue and Engagement Across the Guest Journey

Learn how to improve guest satisfaction at each touchpoint – from booking to on-property to post-stay follow-up – while maximizing revenue every step of the way.

As the hotel industry emerges from the COVID pandemic, it’s clear that the desire for travel has not diminished these past two years; in fact, it appears to be as strong as ever. But while demand may be back, your guests’ wants, needs and demands have changed, and so should your offerings. Guest expectations have never been greater, and the owners and operators who evolve their offerings to meet and exceed them will stand out amongst the crowd.

Hospitality commercial teams have expanded their strategies to examine and improve all aspects of the guest journey, from the dreaming and research phases, through the booking phase and on-property experience, all the way through post-stay follow-up. At each touchpoint you have with the guest along their journey, there are opportunities to “wow” the guest as well as drive more revenue through upsell programs and personalized offers. With the right digital tools in place, hotel commercial teams can maximize revenue per guest – not by constantly pushing offers the guest is not interested in, but by anticipating their needs and providing a memorable experience that ensures the guest will return.

In this report, you’ll learn:

• How to adapt to changing guest travel and booking behaviors

• Why you need to tailor the booking experience

• Key ways to drive direct bookings in today’s changing world

• How to create a well-rounded distribution strategy

• Why the employee experience directly affects the guest experience

• How to personalize the guest experience at all stages of the journey

• Why automation is key to the employee and guest experience

• Why guest loyalty is changing and how you can adapt

Posted in Whitepaper

Robotic Process Automation Will Shape the Future of Hotel Operations

By Angelo Directo, VP, Design and Innovation

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, hotel operators are facing intense pressure to mitigate rising labor costs while still providing exemplary customer service. While operators have always been sharply focused on labor costs as a line item on the expense report, the current economic climate will shape the way hotel companies build their teams for years to come. 

According to a May 2022 AHLA survey, 97% of hotels indicated they are experiencing a staffing shortage, 49% severely so. Survey respondents indicated they had hired an additional 23 employees per property in the last three months but were also trying to fill an additional 12 positions. 

As operators search for solutions, many see the rising adoption of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a way to help bridge the gap, enabling leaner teams to get more done, faster.

What Exactly is RPA?

Robotic Process Automation brings together different data points, often housed in different applications or databases, to streamline and execute tasks or processes that can be accomplished by a software “robot,” rather than requiring human involvement. This typically results in substantial time, labor and cost savings, while freeing up employees to perform more critical high-touch functions.

In hospitality, it can be applied in the front of house and back of house to streamline workflows and substantially reduce manual efforts. But its adoption has been slow. 

“When we think of AI and robotics being used in the medical field to detect and cure cancer, we applaud it, yet when we consider using AI, RPA, or physical robots to aid us in hospitality, we get nervous,” says Simone Puorto, former hotel GM founder of Travel Singularity, in a recent Hospitality Net report. “The misunderstanding is that we will lose the human touch when tech is introduced. Yet the human touch itself often creates problems and inefficiencies in the guest experience.”

On the guest-facing side of the business, automation can be applied to virtually every touchpoint of the guest journey. Marketing automation comes in the form of upsell opportunities, re-marketing or recovery campaigns in the pre-stay, pre-check-in and post-cancellation stages. 

In the back of the house, automation is helping the marketing, revenue and sales departments get more done with fewer resources. Integrated CRM systems have become the heart of new, guest-centric personalization strategies such as automated email marketing programs that are proving to be huge time-savers. Revenue managers are tapping automation to stay on top of pricing and demand trends.

RPA reduces the common challenges presented by running a business on a fragmented tech stack. Siloed systems often lead to a great deal of manual effort, such as copying, importing, exporting data from one system to another, or the common “swivel-chair integration.” Through RPA, operators can create workflows that fill feature gaps or replicate features from other systems, saving them time and money. 

Examples of RPA in Hospitality Today

Native CRS, CRM and RMS applications provide SHR with unique access to highly actionable data to build tailored workflows for each operator’s individual needs. Several SHR hotel partners are currently using RPA to remove previously manual tasks. In many cases, they’re automating the data sharing between systems, where processes inevitably break. So far, RPA is providing the most value in the following five categories: Business Intelligence, Marketing Automation, Operations and Support, Revenue Management and Reputation Management.

For example, one partner offers attractive rates to guests that book ahead and pay 50% upfront. In this scenario, the guest’s credit card on file is charged the remaining 50% a handful of days before arrival. Because many guests don’t track when the remaining balance will be withdrawn, their credit card will sometimes come back declined. Prior to implementing RPA, a call center representative was addressing these denials each night – often dozens – through a manual process of copying, pasting and composing emails to guests. 

Since, the hotel operator has defined the proper workflow and SHR has built an automated process to remove human intervention. Other automated workflows that have been deployed today include functionality around abandoned cart re-marketing​, upselling, and sharing call center messaging data.

In the Hospitality Net report, Puorto identifies additional real-world examples of automation directly leading to labor savings:

  • Pre-qualifying group sales RFPs requires around 60 person-hours per month. By automatizing the task, an average hotel can generate additional revenue due to faster response time, while drastically reducing labor costs.
  • Managing rate codes in PMSs and GDSs requires around 100 person-hours per year. The application of RPA can increase accuracy, reduce errors down to zero, and generate recovered revenue.
  • Daily revenue reporting can take up to 1,000 person-hours per year. Therefore, on top of producing more precise reporting, the use of RPA can save labor costs.

Tip of the Iceberg

As you see in the examples above, RPA is not a lofty, unattainable goal for hoteliers. It’s saving  considerable time and money for operators today, but we’ve just cracked the surface in terms of the ways automation will shape the future of hotel operations. To get where we need to be, hoteliers and technology solutions providers must work together to prioritize innovation. 

“I don’t think it’s hard for hotels to grasp the opportunities that automation offers – I think it’s hard for them to have confidence that the technologies they select for their tech stack will work together the way they expect, and not create more problems than they solve,” Kathryn Murphy, owner of The Murphy Gallery & Hotel in Dublin, told Hospitality Net.

While systems have been trying to accomplish some of these tasks for years, we feel there has been a holistic shift in the way businesses are approaching modern integration strategies. Open APIs and cloud technology are paving the way, and in general there is less finger-pointing and more true partnerships among suppliers and hoteliers. 

Hoteliers must get back to providing the personalized service our industry is known for, and accelerating the adoption of Robotic Process Automation will provide the framework moving forward.

Posted in Blog

How CRM Technology is Helping Hoteliers Reimagine Guest Recognition and Loyalty

By Allegra Medina, Senior Director – Product

Hotel operators take customer loyalty very seriously, but not every hotelier is in a position to provide a traditional guest loyalty program. These conventional programs require significant overhead to operate efficiently, from training hotel workers to offer and redeem points to maintaining the servers that collect guest information. However, this no longer has  to be the case thanks to modern Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology.

Operators have needed help with the perceived costs and challenges associated with implementing a high-quality loyalty or guest recognition service. Still, today they can use cutting-edge CRM technology to gather the insight they need to reward guests for their bookings. 

Once in place, a high-quality guest recognition program can be automated almost completely, but getting there may require a departure in perspective from the majority of the industry. 

The Basics of Recognition 

There are many advantages to offering guest loyalty programs at your hotel, from creating incentives for travelers to book with you while providing a more enjoyable booking experience for guests once they are on the property. However, few of the trappings of traditional loyalty programs foster loyalty. According to the Harvard Business Review, just 42 percent of brand executives believe their customer loyalty strategies effectively retain consumers’ business. Suppose the hospitality industry wants to begin truly rewarding guests for their bookings. In that case, it must have the courage to break from its fixation on the term “loyalty” and instead focus on guest recognition

Providing personal touches that recognize the value of each guest sounds like it may require more operating bandwidth compared to offering a traditional points-based system for guest redemption, but the opposite is often the case. Hotels can use their CRS and CRM data to discern a great deal of insight into guest preferences, booking habits, and aspirations. This knowledge helps hotels align a set value of available perks with the guests who value them. Doing so could manifest in upgraded rooms, complimentary amenities at check-in, or a flat discount on their rate. 

Many of these forms of recognition require little additional effort or investment to execute. Every hotel can recognize guests at check-in, either by name or by offering specific amenities or services based on their past preferences. Delighting a guest with complimentary slippers in the guestroom that are the right size could be the tipping point that leads a traveler to post a positive review. 

These small moments of recognition are far more memorable than earning a reward based on points. These allow hotel guests to feel seen by hotel operators and create a human connection between them and the property. Inviting loyalty members to visit your hotel outlets by offering free F&B credits or complimentary spa services is much more impactful. It speaks to the spirit of hospitality, not having guests plan out points-based redemptions. 

Knowing Your Guests 

Hotels have been diligently collecting guest information to know their guests better, and now is the time to put this knowledge to use or risk losing customers to a brand willing to do so. According to a study from McKinsey, 36 percent of American consumers switched brands during the COVID-19 pandemic, while 62 percent of consumers reported a willingness to spend more money on a brand after signing up for a paid loyalty program.

Hotels can now access guest preferences, requests, and other pertinent information directly on their CRM, allowing them greater freedom to acknowledge loyal members. Doing so may soon become necessary. Experiential travel was up 34 percent over 2019 levels earlier this year, and these trends are expected to increase as the travel market continues to recover rapidly. Hotels with access to modern CRM capabilities can offer different degrees of experiential travel regardless of their property’s location, chain scale, or market segment. Every hotel can understand what their guests desire and find ways to provide it in a way that rewards them. 

These strategies also prompt guests to spend more on property. Loyalty travelers benefitting from a complimentary room upgrade are more likely to visit the hotel restaurant or order room service, and travelers who are given hotel amenities at check-in are likely to buy more before they leave. Most importantly, all these guests are enticed to leave positive reviews for their service. 

Every hotelier wants to be renowned for their service, but if they want to deliver the right size slippers during check-in, that information needs to be provided directly. The most effective systems use machine learning and automation to deliver these insights to the front desk in an actionable and easily understood manner. Such a system allows hotels to offer wide-reaching loyalty capabilities without the minutia of a points-based system, which requires extensive maintenance behind the scenes. Divesting from these programs will enable hoteliers to put down their spreadsheets and focus on improving guest satisfaction. 

Speaking Guests’ Language 

To focus on delivering what guests want and truly reaching guests to foster loyalty, hotels must create clear goals and identify ways to generate revenue. Fostering guest loyalty requires a greater focus on retention rather than conversions or acquisitions, and doing so requires asking the right questions at the outset. 

Does your hotel want to reduce the cost of requiring new guests by making them so happy they want to return? If so, it’s time to refocus your property’s efforts by growing direct bookings through guest recognition. Maybe your hotel can form a marketing partnership with a nearby restaurant or offer airline miles to entice travelers to visit during the off-season. By asking the right questions, your hotel can identify what options are available today and how to strategize for other potential opportunities. 

With a clear goal, hotels can verbalize how they want to increase their revenue. Many of these answers lie in your guests’ preferences. The process starts with learning who your guests are and what they most want during their stay. Answering these questions is the first step toward positively surprising guests and exceeding their expectations, all without the terms and conditions of a traditional loyalty program.

Posted in Blog

How to Approach Your Hotel’s Integration Strategy in the Age of Automation

By Yannis Anastasakis, VP of Solutions & Partners

The hospitality industry is entering a new age of automation allowing operators to refocus their efforts away from costly minutia of repetitive actions, and back on to guests – as long as they can find a way to integrate the necessary systems to do so. Operators have spent recent years attempting to maintain high-quality guest experiences, despite limited available labor and rising consumer expectations, all while keeping pace with the rapid development of new technology. These pressures are leading many hoteliers to rethink their approach to daily operations.

The answer for many of these hotels can be found in automation. Many operators have already embraced technologies capable of automating several functions, such as check-in and check-out, a process that was accelerated in the rush to create a contactless experience.
More recently, others have begun to investigate the potential of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to leverage untapped software and hardware capabilities better manage labor costs and improve operational efficiency.

While the benefits of automation are reasonably clear to hoteliers, the capabilities in question can feel out of reach, especially in markets charged with uncertainty. The next generation of automation in travel is here, and in order for hotels to fully embrace it, they must align themselves with a technology partner who is capable of configuring the desired logic and managing the necessary integrations across a hotel’s technological ecosystem.

Connecting the Dots 

Once upon a time, in the early days of the internet, hoteliers received emails from guests filled with booking information which would then be manually entered into their systems. At the time this activity seemed normal, but today’s operators obviously view it as archaic. Innovations in RPA and other forms of automation will eventually lead operators to feel the same way about our current methods of running hotels. In the most significant ways, we are already there.

In theory, providing guests with high-quality experiences has never been easier than today, thanks to the abundance of information hotels can gain from a variety of sources, not least of which is the guest’s actual booking! However, in practice today’s hotels do not have technology in alignment, and in a way that can accurately and automatically react to a guest’s booking, preferences, and other existing data points. On top of this, these same hotels are often too understaffed to react to these bookings within meaningful time frames.

The practical application of the promise of technology often faces its strongest challenges when ‘connecting the dots’. For example, if a traveler books a stay at a golf resort and has purchased spa or golf packages in the past, what is stopping a hotel from recognizing the guest, and automatically wrapping spa and golf offerings into one package, then automatically delivering it to the guest alongside their confirmation email, or at an opportune time soon thereafter? If a hotel’s Central Reservations System (CRS) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system are capable of sharing information, hotels can consolidate all of these elements into a unified process, resulting in elegant efficiencies for both guests and operators.

We know that combining the capabilities of a hotel’s CRS and CRM, offers hotels a greater capacity to understand guest preferences, market to them, and deliver the stay experience that best fits their wants and needs.

Once integrated, and with the application of a touch of robotic automation, these systems can really push the barriers of what is done today. In our example, they could automatically identify your hotel’s highest-value guests, present new ways to entice them to stay at your hotel, and even present you with an opportunity to completely rethink cancelations through well-timed and ultra-personalized promotions, that speak directly to customers’ needs and specific situations. RPA is allowing hotels to ensure guests are greeted with the correct amenities or services during check-in, respond quickly to room availability inquiries, automatically manage check-in and check-out, handle selling and consumption of vouchers, market directly to guests, set room prices, and so much more; all without hoteliers’ direct input each moment. The greatest barrier to offering these capabilities is finding a technology partner who is capable of taking individual hotel technologies and breaking them out of self-imposed isolation, synthesizing individual functionalities into something that blurs the lines between multiple and single systems – making them work as one.

Asking Tough Questions 

Innovations in automation and operations software have led to a disruption within the hotel industry’s traditional approach to technology. Many of these tools have been naturally separated into departmental silos, given their isolated task-centric and feature-specific nature. Finding ways to bring these walls down will remain a focus for hoteliers in the near future, and should be a priority when speaking with technology partners, all within the framework of a continuing shift away from developing new in-house technology solutions.

While in the past automation seemed like a ‘nice to have’, today we see it as having established itself as a necessity and opportunity for creating competitive advantages and offering genuinely better experiences to guests, sometimes before they have even arrived at the hotel. Acquiring these capabilities is not out of reach! If hoteliers are able to clearly identify their operations and revenue goals, they will find there are many ways to implement automation to help alleviate any inefficiencies. Once these are addressed, they can refocus their efforts on the guest experience, rather than on repetitive tasks that can be managed automatically.

Hoteliers must ask themselves what they could and should do better. After they identify areas for improvement, they should take a close look at their existing and other available technology partners to understand whether or not they provide the necessary quality of integrations to achieve their goals. How do potential technology partners approach the process of integrating new tools and new technologies? What level of support do they provide to hoteliers, and in what form? Additionally, consider the ways they have implemented automation in their properties, and identify how (or if) they continue to refine these capabilities over time.

The end goal for hospitality technology is to make hoteliers’ jobs more manageable and to enable them to refocus on improving the guest experience. Achieving this state today requires a comprehensive technology strategy that includes a focus on sharing information across all hotel departments. Once these digital handshakes are set to take place automatically, operators can be liberated and empowered to do what they do best.

Posted in Blog