It is certainly no surprise to anyone involved in the hotel business that great customer service is the engine that drives occupancy, room rates and ultimately profitability. But until the advent of social media the measurement of good customer service, or the determination of bad customer service, was generally vague, determined well after the fact, reactive and singular in its focus. While everyone seems to understand that social media monitoring can now provide the tools and analytics to truly understand and take advantage of what our guests are telling us, its effective implementation into big organizations has generally been elusive.
Clearly, the challenges faced by each organization is unique, there tends to be some commonality they each run up against. One of the most universally faced issues is one of organization structure. Typically, hotel organizations tend to have their departments organized in silos, with each group operating with some degree of autonomy. In such a world the obvious evolution is to create a department that deals with social commentary and perhaps in some of the more innovative organizations one that deals with all customer feedback, not just the social. However, with guest comments coming daily and highlighting so many hotel and brand functions, we may need to think about how we organize ourselves.
If you really think about it the way the hotel industry is structured, both at the property and brand levels, has not evolved all that much in the past 50 years. While the names of the departments may be different, they all tend to have a similar focus like: finance, operations, real estate, human resources, marketing, development and product development, to name just a few. In a world that operates in so many silos, it is not uncommon for each department to have its own set of measures, priorities and goals, all using the same customer data set. When this happens much can be missed in understanding what the customer is telling you about yourself. Compounding all this is the unique nature of social data compared to what the industry has experienced in the past. There are large amounts of data, it comes from multiple sources and devices, it comes at you fast and it requires new metrics to utilize it effectively!
When one looks at the complex nature of this data, existing in a world that is not structured to handle it, it is no surprise that in many companies usage of social data may lack the system-wide credibility necessary for its effective utilization. So what is to be done? Obviously, this is not an easy issue to address as it’s very difficult to institute the kind of organizational change necessary to operate in an increasing social world. However, the organizations that manage this change will be the first ones to adequately have the staff (both at corporate and property) to reap the financial rewards that this gold mine of data holds. Finally, take a minute to think about companies and industries whose structure and organization is much the same as they were a half century ago. Oh right, they don’t exist anymore.
Mark Lomanno is an Executive Board Member at newBrandAnalytics. In that role he not only serves on the company’s Board of Directors but also has taken an active role in the management of the company. In that capacity, Mr. Lomanno will help shape the company’s strategic direction, creating and enhancing new customer satisfaction research solutions and building relationships with hospitality brands, owners and operators.
Lomanno is the former President and CEO of Smith Travel Research (STR), the hotel industry’s global authority on current trends in supply, demand, occupancy and room rates. Under Mr. Lomanno’s 15 years of leadership, the company grew from a US firm to the most respected name in global hotel benchmarking. Prior to leaving STR, Lomanno co-authored “Distribution Channel Analysis: A Guide for Hotels”, the definitive study on the lodging industry’s on-line environment.