Podcast Playback: “Revenue per Obtained Reviewer: Why the most valuable guests are your most vocal ones.”

Kevin Brown

The next time you travel, how will you find the right destination or hotel? Will you do a basic online search of popular destinations? Will you head to TripAdvisor for ideas? Or will you poll your Twitter and Facebook network for tips?

You may not realize it, but peer-to-peer reviews influence nearly everything we do – travel included. In our largest hospitality study to date, 50% of travelers polled say they rely on advice from friends and family, while 49% use social media to learn more about their next destination.

Why do we value other’s opinions so much? Because we all want a great customer service experience from our next hotel, and we trust travelers that share their experiences more than a hotel’s advertising. Peer-to-peer reviews take the top spot on our collective travel wish lists, and is the most influential reason why customers choose one hotel over another.

And it’s not just guests who benefit from positive online reviews. The information also impacts how a hotelier optimizes revenue opportunities. Just a 1 point increase (on a 5-point scale) in a property’s review scores can support an 11% higher daily room rate.

To explore the idea of “revenue per obtained reviewer,” Amadeus sat down with No Vacancy’s Glenn Haussman to talk about why peer-to-peer review is so powerful and motivational for the hotel industry.

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Podcast Transcript

Glenn Haussman

Everybody welcome back to the No Vacancy podcast. Me your host, Glenn Haussman and I’m super excited to have you today because with this special episode we’re going to really be talking a little bit about the importance of revenue optimization. I know this is something everybody is always constantly thinking about but is it actually something that you’re doing. That’s why I invited Mr. Alberto Santana the SVP of Global Sales with Amadeus Hospitality along to talk about this topic. Alberto, How are you sir?

 

Alberto Santana

I’m doing well. Glenn. How’s life treating you?

 

Glenn Haussman

You know life is treating me really well. I love being out on the road and having a chance to talk to people and learn lots of great stuff so we could keep up on the trends to share with our audience out here so. Tell me a little bit about how you see the world of you know improving RevPAR through revenue optimization. My hunch is it’s all about peer to peer review now.  Forget what the hotel companies are trying to tell their guests.

 

Alberto Santana

You know what, Glenn, I agree with you 100 percent. One of the things that I like to pride myself in is looking at myself as a traveler. I spent a good hundred and thirty nights a year on the road and one of the things I’m seeing anyways at least for myself is the voice of the customer, that personalization that everybody’s after, and in terms of getting me to come back as a guest and revolves around how quickly things are being handled. I mean, you remember when things go well so much better and so much livelier I think it’s a much better experience than when things go wrong.

 

Glenn Haussman

Yes it is. I remember equally well the things that go really great and the things that go really horrific. It’s when you just do average that it becomes when you know I travel as much as you it becomes forgettable which I think is the worst sin of all.

 

Alberto Santana

Yeah. There’s no doubt about it.  You know it’s interesting as well though, I mean sometimes we want things to go a little bit boring I think when we’re on business trips.

 

Glenn Haussman

Alberto my favorite thing is what I’m getting when everyone says: How’s your flight? I’m like uneventful, forgettable. That’s what I want from an airplane ride. Right. But not necessarily from a hotel experience.  Although you know what, if you’re spending a Wednesday night in a nice select service hotel and you get a decent night’s sleep I guess it’s fine to be forgettable too just not good for the hotel getting your business back.

 

Alberto Santana

No doubt about it. And then what do you got to remember I mean I think of every time you head over to a conference or something like that and people get together and they’re having your coffee or they’re at a break, and what’s the number one topic? I mean outside of the content of that conference hopefully is everybody’s focus right…. It’s, “Hey, how is your stay going? Oh my room has this. My room has that.  And, we’re so concerned about the things that went wrong because it just kind of likes derails us doesn’t it?

 

Glenn Haussman

Oh yeah. You know it certainly does. I can’t handle when anything goes wrong especially when it’s something that’s easily prevented by hotel professionals that should just know better or just take a minute to just figure it out.

 

Alberto Santana

Yeah. Part of the problem that I see, and really I don’t say problem I say opportunity this truly an opportunity, is that we’re trying to build more reviewers, right, that’s what we’re trying to do in the industry where we’re saying hey you know as a guest anyways when people go out and they start looking for where to stay or to go on vacation eating they’re listening to peers or they’re on social media which is technically peers right. I mean whether you know them too well or not you’re choosing who to follow and you’re being inspired right?

 

Alberto Santana

You’re being inspired to go somewhere and then when you start digging in further to see where to where to go now you’re starting to read reviews and whatnot. But, part of the opportunity here is that you know how many people are actually putting reviews in there and who is putting those reviews in there. Like can I trust this person? I think we can trust reviews and pictures as well. What are your thoughts on that? I mean how do you pick it by the way I’m curious about your thoughts.

 

Glenn Haussman

Oh well I’m a little bit of an outlier because I pick the hotel I’m going to stay in by whatever event I’m in and then I stay there. So you can’t you can’t ask me what it is. But if, you know, based on what I see the actual culture out there doing is they really when they’re looking to book for travel they desperately are seeking recommendations from other people whether it’s that #1 on Trip Advisor recommendation or family friends or folks that they work with in the office. Right?

 

Alberto Santana

No doubt about it, in fact we’re seeing that we did some research with some peers recently with a few of our hotel partners and ourselves and we actually involved a few third parties as well. And, that’s what we’re finding we’re finding it’s travel web sites, it’s family and friends, and social media, and it ranges from 49 to 52 percent of folks are looking for information this way. And really if you ask me all three of those are in essence almost the same kind of person we’re just increasing the size, and I air quote this a bit, This is friendship right. We’re increasing how many guests we can count on to see now. The other thing that I find interesting in the other piece that we have an opportunity is just to know what’s happening to us as travelers. Right? We don’t we don’t want to wait anymore. I think Amazon has really ruined the majority of us in terms of what our expectations are in terms of getting something back or achieving success and taking care of a problem or a request that I might have. So if we’re looking if we’re looking at what’s happening in the industry right now people are people or scurrying right now to say OK great send me a review,” Hey how was your stay? Right? As soon as you stay anywhere you stay you get that e-mail that very same day or the next day. And unfortunately for myself as a business traveler, I mean sometimes you know you’re battling three hundred e-mails to get my attention anyways. If we look at what industry saying they’re saying hey I’m getting back at take rate of anywhere between 10 and maybe 18 percent in terms of surveys I send out. I’m actually shocked that 18 I’ve heard that number recently I’m proud of people I get 18%.   I got to tell you that sounds fantastic to me and maybe part of it is that they’re looking at different ways of how they’re sending out surveys which is I think the interesting thing nobody wants to get into that.  I don’t think anybody wants in top down that rabbit hole will you answer one question in terms of the 30.

 

Glenn Haussman

Well I hate that. And not only that but as a as a customer if you’re asking me my opinion I want some sort of recognition so I don’t know what those 18 percent hotels are doing. But I know that my airline of choice that I fly by the time I’m off the plane they’re already sending me a survey and they don’t ever freaking respond to the survey. I spent a lot of years trying to help them out because they say that it’s going to help and then they don’t even acknowledge you. And then like I would just start writing in the comment section you guys aren’t even listening to this blah blah blah and making fun of them and they just never respond.

 

Glenn Haussman

So I just stopped participating and it’s killed me for my desire to stop doing any surveys out there because everybody wants me to do a survey and I don’t have the patience anymore.

 

Alberto Santana

Right. So if you think about that by the way I got to just jump on something here.  I been ask American Airlines to give me Sprite in surveys, a little shameless plug for Sprite, because I mean no offense to the other lemon line beverages, they just don’t compare.

 

Glenn Haussman

No, I totally understand. Although I think the lemon line Beverage Association is going to be very offended by your commentary.  What I really think we are talking about here is these reviews and what the customers think is just such a critical element of being able to get people to not only come back , but not to be looking at your hotel only as a commodity for whatever cost it’s going to be.  So Alberto, why has service culture become the most important influencer to you for revenue optimization, and what does it really do for the hotel that does have the great connection with its guest through strong service culture.

 

Alberto Santana

Yeah. I think I think you’re here are you’re really you’re really on the surface or I think is most important. I think people want to make connections with people right? I think it’s a natural desire for us to connect with other people. And we’ve been kind of stuck in an electrical world a bit,  When I get to a hotel, when I finally get there I think it feels like we’re getting to somebody’s house if people do things right. And when you arrive at somebody’s home there’s nothing that makes you feel better than what somebody offers you something to drink or “Hey, here are some cookies,” right? And you think back to just at the most basic principles of what it is to arrive somewhere.  What it’s like and the welcoming of a grandmother if you what are the welcoming of a friend when you get to a dinner party and you almost want to bring something to them. So what we’re finding and what we’re seeing is that when people actually want to review outside of beautiful decor it’s what’s happening with the staff interactions and how fast is the staff getting back to my needs and how are they getting back to me. I think we’re in a golden age of service here again or we’re on the precipice of getting to an age where we want service, even when we don’t.  Because yes I can bypass a front desk and yes I can get into my room, but invariably something is going to go wrong or invariably I want a housekeeper to say good morning to me when I’m walking down a hallway or I’m going to say good morning I feel the need. I think that we really want to connect with people, and what we’re finding is and what we’re seeing is that the better the interaction, the more interaction you have on their staff, the higher the scores are going up and the more people want to actually comment.  The more people actually wanted to provide more information about what their stay was like and provide information right I think we can having a non-memorable experience I think also of having an experience where things go wrong and people fix it for me, or I think as well as when I have an experience that I just mentioned something.  I remember being in Brazil once at a hotel saying oh I can’t wait I can’t wait to have some Brigadeiro which is this wonderful little chocolate pastry they have in Brazil and the Brazilians make wonderful little thing right.  Anyways I get back to my room that night after a long night and they had some Brigadeiro for me in my room. And, it wasn’t even expected at this hotel. You know it wasn’t it wasn’t a five star resort you know wasn’t a four star resort it was it was just a standard hotel. It made me feel wonderful.

 

Glenn Haussman

Right. Totally I get it. That reminds me of my love for the beef jerky at the Georgian Terrace in Atlanta. Across from the Fox Theater I stay there every year during the hunter Hotel’s investment conference. They just know give me the beef jerky right now and it really makes me happy. I don’t have to ask for it and it really connects with me on that emotional level and breaks through the din of all the other hospitality competitors out there to make me remember them. I tell this story right now for example. Now Georgian Terrace has gotten that plug out there because they’ve done something that’s connected with me emotionally and a little sad, but Alberto you’re absolutely 100 percent right about the need for human interactions. I think that’s where we are right now with hospitality as great as design is. Nobody ever goes home and says “Hey guys you got to stay at this hotel because that amazing lamp that they had in the room.” I had that great connection with Marc. I had that great connection with Maria whatever it might be. And that’s where the true guest experience comes through having great people that create great experiences.

 

Alberto Santana

Right. And you know the other thing going just to add to this is that the better the hotels are doing at just looking out for what people are requesting and taking care that response as quickly as possible is what it’s all about. And then they remember that that person helped them. So think of think of being in a room and let’s look at a normal scenario for me. So I have two little girls I’m a four year old and a 1 year old.

 

Glenn Haussman

Good luck to you man.

 

Alberto Santana

Thank you. Yeah. They say you’re never prepared enough for that. But they are blessings. I have them with me right. Right?

 

Glenn Haussman

That’s what I tell them when I think my wife is listening too. I get it I get it (laughter)

 

Alberto Santana

Well you know, I got to save some of that money for four weddings at some point.  I’m thinking way ahead now.

 

Alberto Santana

You know what’s interesting when I travel when I travel on my own. You know what though it’s all recently we’ve had this really cool shower and I came in and I took a shower and it was wonderful. Good water pressure the whole nine yards. They had good amenities even had the newer way of providing dispensers on the walls and it wasn’t you know obtrusive at all. So it seemed like a nice good thing to do right. But OK now I’m going to stay at the hotel, again for the second time right?  And I forget now that I’m actually traveling with my daughters this time and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to bathe a toddler in a shower.

 

Glenn Haussman

No but we had toddlers before the shower craze took off.

 

Alberto Santana

Oh boy this is not easy so obviously you know you kind of need a tub or rather you need some help. And this is where when you get on the horn and you start saying, “Hey can you give me some towels?”  You know what, time is of the essence right? You’ve got to get the kids ready. You’ve got to get them to bed. You’re trying to get things as calm as possible your hotel room so you can get your day going the next day. And when you make that request for towels or you make that request to get that crib delivered to your room.  I mean boy that’s when people react quickly to you or just people see you coming with the kids and ask you ahead of time, “Hey would you like some more towels?” Oh boy. What how welcoming is that? Just for the team to be aware of what’s happening to you as a tripper. Right? I think there is nothing that compares better to when you see staff when you see team members that are really doing a good job of saying great. I know this person is traveling with kids.  Let me think about what else they might need. And you can learn this. I mean you can learn this as you see those requests coming in and you start tracking those and you handle them efficiently and you start monitoring what’s going on and you can get a better experience to say hey when I see kids I should think about this. Hey when I see somebody alone I should think about that. Right? Because I mean these experiences are vastly different. Right? When you’re traveling with your family or without.  You know sometimes a service level just needs to be a little bit better. Or vice versa. I think really what it needs to be is just the awareness of what’s going on in your guests life. And when you notice it when somebody treats you well and you’re traveling with your kids and they’re on point for you on there. I mean there’s no greater experience because it almost feels you know it takes a village to raise your children, right? And almost music you have this extended village now going on and it just feels it just feels wonderful.  I can’t I can’t speak enough about that.

 

Glenn Haussman

Yeah I agree with you. So where do you think all of this is going? Where do you want to see service culture go to in the next five years or so?

 

Alberto Santana

You know Glenn I got to tell you what I would love to see is a place where we even start the ability to recognize these specific people outside of comments. Right? I think that outside of comments outside of “Hey you know Misty at the Intercontinental Sao Paolo did a wonderful job,” or “Katie and the last time I was at Disney did so well,” instead of comments somewhere. We’d love to see it get to the point where the companies themselves are recognizing the team members they have and actually providing them with some kind of I don’t know, additional badges of honor, or additional pays.  I don’t know if I can put that out there right now

 

Glenn Haussman

(laughter) You just did.

 

Glenn Haussman

You know, I’m actually a big believer in doing things you could you could reward people with a day off, you could reward people that maybe a gift card to a local merchant, or Amazon, or whatever it might be.  And, those are the type of things that motivate them to continue going above and beyond to create great customer experiences.

 

Alberto Santana

Yeah. For example, I think that when we’re young and we see someone walk in for from our military, or highly experienced staff, which you know we always appreciate and support other help and we see someone that’s really great it is a highly decorated person. I think all of us sit there and go wow this is this is a special person, and I think if we can you know maybe not physically but if we can just emotionally feel it ourselves that we’re being decorated I think we’ll just want to do a better job.  I think this happens to our staff and I think it will happen in the point where people, once we start getting to know more about what the real experience is going on, we can encourage our team to react better and just encourage our team to maybe take it to the next level if you would. I think it’s going to make the guests just feel like hey this is the kind of hotel I want to stay at. I want to stay at this hotel because I know that that staff cares.  I want to stay at this hotel because I know that they have the highest level of standards available for people. I think this is really important. I don’t think that the service level you get has anything to do with the price you’re paying. I mean I think at a good level I know what to expect.  When I walked into a fast food place versus a five star restaurant

 

Glenn Haussman

That you expect that the quality service with in the structure of that particular environment.

 

Alberto Santana

Exactly right. And, you know there’s no there’s no it doesn’t cost anything to smile. It doesn’t cost anything to use a guest name.  I think it does it doesn’t hurt the other way around. I think I don’t know about you I enjoy using seeing a name tag and using a person’s name. And, the more you do that the more interactions are. Again, I think where this is going and eventually that the more direct is where the more that person feels better if we can do if we can have a system in place that tells us hey we know that these are the best staff and we know that these people take care what we do.  We’re going to see more people go travel as you obtain as you obtain more guests and more deaths or reviewing. That means more guest we’re going to stay with you. I mean there’s no doubt about it it’s directly connected to your revenue.

 

Glenn Haussman

Great. I love it. So I’m wrapping this all up. Why did you give us one good shameless plug Alberto all about Amadeus?

 

Alberto Santana

Well thank you Glenn.  Well Amadeus is a multinational company where we strive to do everything from inspire guests to travel, to book, to stay with us, to help hotels during their stay, to take care of guests after the post stay and we really want to wrap up a 360 degree view of our guests and really take to help hoteliers understand travel lifecycle.

 

Glenn Haussman

Awesome. That’s really terrific. I want to thank. I want to thank Alberto’s town of Amadeus for being here today and remember everybody… It’s really about making meaningful connections to your guests at the end of the day. And I know inherently and rationally you know this, but it’s always really good to underscore against it and continue to focus on that because now you understand, and you could really rationalize why that’s going to help you increase the number of positive reviews that you get – both you know in the online sphere wherever it is with word of mouth – and that is going to help prevent you from being a commodity property, helping create premium pricing, and have a wonderful end of the year when you realize how much money you’ve made.  So I want to thank you all the same for this very special episode.

 

 

Drivers of Change in Hospitality

Drivers of Change in Hospitality

In our largest hospitality study to date, we asked more than 7,000 travelers and industry experts to define the future of the industry. The results highlight several emerging trends for hoteliers to remain relevant, timely, and preferred in a world of evolving guest expectations and intense competition.