Monday, June 29, 2015

Providing Exceptional Customer Service

Providing "good" customer service is not enough these days. You must provide EXCEPTIONAL customer service and go beyond customer expectations.  With that in mind, here are some helpful tips for providing exceptional customer service.

 

  1. Exceed your customer's expectations.  Go out of your way to provide better than average, not just "good" customer service. Do whatever it takes to make your business memorable, enjoyable and always go above and beyond. By keeping your customers happy, you will be happy as well.
  2. Keep your customers updated. Even if that means that there are problems with how things are progressing or delays, deal with them immediately. It shows that you care and that they feel that they still have a say in how it all works out.
  3. Reinforce their reasons for choosing to do business with you. Remind them from time to time of how your product or service works and check in with them by emailing or calling so that they have more confidence about doing business with you now and in the future.
  4. Never make a promise to them that you can't keep. Always be true to your word and honest with them about what you can or cannot do. If situations change and you cannot keep a deadline, let them know as soon as possible.
  5. Listen to them and encourage their feedback. By asking for and listening to your customer’s feedback, you will learn what they want and anticipate their needs. This way you will always know what they want.
  6. Thank them sincerely. Let your customers know that you appreciate their business and thank them any chance you can
  7. Treat every customer as an individual. Customize your service or product to fit their needs and offer them what they want to cater to their needs.
  8. Make great customer service a company policy. Exceeding customer’s expectations should be part of your company’s culture. Make sure that all employees are serving your customers in the best possible manner at all times and are giving customers an experience that they will remember. 

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 6/26/15

New Survey Reveals Surprising Shifts In Travel Habits/Booking Trends

A new study just released by MMGY Global, highlights shifting patterns in habits of U.S. travelers. Most significantly for hotels, the study reveals a growing trend of hotel booking habits toward directly booking on brand websites and away from online travel agencies. In the last year only 58 percent of travelers booked through OTA’s, down from 84 percent the prior year. Travelers may seek vacation planning information on OTA sites, but then move to the brand website to actually book their travel. Full Story Here:

 

STR: US results for the week ending 20 June

STR reports that U.S. hotel industry numbers for the week of 14-20 June 2015 were mostly positive. However, industry-wide occupancy decreased by 0.5 percent to 74.8 percent, in year-over-year figures. Positive numbers were achieved for the other key measurements over the previous year. Average daily rate climbed 4.8 percent to $122.01. Revenue per available room was up by 4.2 percent, attaining $91.26 for the week. Full Story Here:

 

Seven In Ten Americans Plan On Hitting The Road This Summer

In a survey of 2,215 U.S. adults, a Harris Poll found that 71 percent plan on taking at least one road trip this summer. On average the distance that will be traveled amounts to just under 1300 miles. The Millennial generation leads the way, being most likely to take a summer trip, at 79 percent. Next are Baby Boomers and Matures at 68 percent, followed by Gen Xers at 64 percent. Full Story Here:

 

IHG Brings Mobile Check-In and Check-Out to the Masses

IHG is going to be rolling out, in the U.S. first, then the rest of the world mobile check-in and check-out at its properties. Arrival time confirmation, room readiness, and other hotel stay management features will be available to all customers with a smartphone or other mobile device. Real-time billing information is another feature of this new technology becoming available to IHG customers. Full Story Here:

 


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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hotel Booking Abandonment - Part 3

Reducing Hotel Booking Abandonment Continued

 

  • Security and Privacy

 

Many visitors to hotel websites, understandably so, have real concerns regarding their privacy and the security of their personal and payment information on websites of any kind. As indicated in the SaleCycle survey, fully 47 percent of guests abandon their hotel booking at the point of either personal or payment information is being asked. Another survey by the payment processing company, Worldpay, found that payment security is, after price, the most important factor to consumers in determining where they book their travel.

Hotels looking to keep their website visitors around long enough to complete a booking successfully, must instill customer confidence in the site. Booking engines should have a professional appearance, always in keeping with the rest of the brand’s website. If a user can’t trust the look and feel of the booking process, then it will never matter how attractive and functional the rest of the website is, no one will book their stay there. Of course, the website must be truly secure and Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant, along with the professional appearance.

 

  • Payment

Accepted forms of payment and the actual payment process can create much confusion and frustration for potential customers of hotel websites. Much of these issues can be avoided by introducing payment information, in advance, on the homepage. If consumers are aware of what they need in order to complete their booking, they are much more likely to do so.

This can easily be accomplished by displaying the payment method logos, for example; Mastercard, Visa, American Express etc. This will allow potential guests to see if their preferred method is available to them. Users should know before they begin, what is expected of them in the process of paying for their booking. Information required should be limited to only that which is necessary to complete the transaction. Customers should never be required to fill in information they have already given elsewhere on the website, a second time. Auto fill wherever possible should be utilized. The entire process needs to be simple and quick to completion.

Hoteliers should never expect to keep all of their customers in the booking funnel to the successful completion of their booking. That would be unrealistic, as there will always be some potential guests who abandon the process somewhere along the way. However, there are easily implemented website changes which can minimize hotel booking abandonment.


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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hotel Booking Abandonment - Part 2

Losing potential hotel guests through booking abandonment is the worst possible outcome for any hotel’s website visitors. Especially because these visitors have eschewed other channels and have made their way into a hotel’s website booking funnel, only to be lost for any number of reasons, some of which can be prevented. Recently several surveys (including the SaleCycle survey reported on in part 1) have attempted to find answers to the question of why these website visitors take the time to enter the funnel, only to bail out of the process along the way. And more importantly, what can be done to mitigate this outcome.

 

Reducing Hotel Booking Abandonment

 

  • Pricing

The SaleCycle results clearly point toward price being a crucial driving force in motivating website visitors to abandon their hotel bookings mid-stream. When asked why, many claim that they were merely looking or just getting ideas and needed more research. Consumers are continually trying to ensure themselves that they are “getting a good deal” on their purchases, especially big-ticket items such as their summer vacation.

A rather simple solution, which reassures website visitors who have entered the booking funnel, is to include a best price guarantee somewhere on pages where prices are indicated. This is vital in order to prevent site visitors from leaving and going elsewhere to seek a better price. They may not even find a better price, but may eventually book with an online travel agency or other channel because it is now in front of them and once they are gone they may not be willing to go back to book on the hotel website.

It is also essential for all pricing to be as clear as possible, since consumers seek to always know what the “real” cost to them is going to be. Any additional fees or charges must be openly stated. If potential guests feel like they are being deceived in any way, they will go somewhere else to book.

 

  • Simplicity and Relevance

If hoteliers are to expect their customers to book their stays directly through the hotel website, then the entire user experience must be as seamless and intuitive as possible. Simple to use and straight forward, with clearly marked calls to action is what is necessary to keep booking abandonment at a minimum. “Book Now” or “Make A Reservation” buttons should always be present on every page. Search processes should be helpful to users, leading them to the relevant results they are seeking, without confusing or irrelevant results coming back. 

In the last part of this series, we will look at a few more ways in which hoteliers can reduce the number of booking abandonments of their websites. 


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Friday, June 19, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 6/19/15

198 Million Americans Planning A Summer Getaway In 2015 - Up 13% From Last Year

According to the results of the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker, 85 percent of Americans are planning travel away from home this summer. At 198 million people, this represents a 13 percent increase over last year. The number of Americans planning a week long trip remains close to steady at 68 percent. However, 36 percent have their sights set on a two-week vacation, up four percentage points from 2014. Full Story Here:

 

Top Six Technology Trends for 2015

Travel industry researchers, Phocuswright, published their Travel Innovation and Technology Trends 2015 report recently. The study’s data indicates that sales in travel during 2014 amounted to $ 1.3 trillion and the projection from Phocuswright is for that figure to rise by 6 percent during the current year. The trends for 2015 point out the need for focus by hoteliers on the customer and the management of their experience. Full Story Here:

 

STR: US hotel results for week ending 6 June

Continuing the pattern of positive year-over-year numbers in key measurements this year, the U.S. hotel industry enjoyed higher numbers yet this past week. During the week of 31 May through 6 June, over the same period last year, occupancy rose by 0.2  percent to 69.4 percent. The average daily rate was up by 3.8 percent to end the week at $118.14. Revenue per available room saw an increase of 4.1 percent, attaining $82.02 by week’s end. Full Story Here:

 

Consumers take cleanliness reviews seriously

As reported in a new Harris Poll researched by the Cintas Corporation, online reviews are taken very seriously by consumers. Particularly in regards to cleanliness, 85 percent of poll respondents would not give their patronage to businesses with reviews indicating uncleanliness. Restaurants and hotels topped the list of businesses impacted by negative reviews in regards to sanitation, at 75 percent and 70 percent respectively. Full Story Here:

 


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Thursday, June 11, 2015

HITEC 2015 - Above Property



Above Property will be attending HITEC in Austin, TX this year.  The convention runs from June 16-18 at the Austin Convention Center.  Above Property will be showing/demonstrating their recently released Inline Revenue Management™ module as well as their Distributed Reservations System™.

Above Property® is an advanced global travel solution delivered via an always-on multi-cloud, module based platform.

Our vision is to solve the technology and business constraints of today’s legacy based CRSs (Central Reservation Systems) and RMSs (Revenue Management Systems) by leveraging our groundbreaking, multi-tenant, rules-based, big-data driven, globally Distributed Reservation System (DRS).

What to expect from HITEC 2015?

Obviously, HITEC represents the largest technology focused event for the hospitality industry in North America.  Mobile has been the headlining topic with annual attendees over the past several years. Last year this time, the big news was Priceline acquiring OpenTable only to be trumped by Oracle buying Micros.  My guess is that the guest’s “on property” experience will be at the forefront of this year’s showcases.

Core technology needs to move forward

As new technologies that enhance the guest experience, the “shiny new object”, the big issue is the core technologies that provide the foundation to industry must be modernized. Above Property is working hard to address the legacy-based systems (RMS & CRS) that are in desperate need of modernization.  The traveler is now global, mobile, and informed. The systems that support these travelers need to keep pace.  The majority of the core reservation systems in place today are pre-internet and the pain on the supply-side of the business is clearly being felt.  My aspiration for this year’s HITEC is that the modernization conversation begins to move forward so that the guest experience and technology value add to the Hotelier can be truly maximized.

Steve Lapekas, COO
Above Property

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 6/5/15


Continued Performance Increases Through 2016 Projected For U.S. Hotel Industry

STR and Tourism Economics are forecasting that the performance increases shown by the U.S. hotel industry in 2015 thus far, will continue through 2016. This most recent projection was released at the NYU International Hospitality Investment Conference on Monday. As 2015 progresses, the expectation is for industry wide occupancy to rise to 65.3 percent, an increase by 5.2 percent in average daily rate to $120.93, and revenue per available room is projected to reach $78.99 representing a 6.6 percent growth rate. Full Story Here:

Travelers Navigate to Brand Sites, Not OTAs, to Book

Research by Criteo and PhoCusWright indicates that both hotels and airlines are gaining in direct bookings over online travel agencies (OTAs). A study conducted in December 2014 found that over one third of respondents reported they have used a hotel website or app to book their stays. This is compared to only a quarter who used an online travel agency to make their hotel reservations. 34 percent of these same respondents state they subscribe to hotel emails or e-newsletters. Full Story Here:

STR: US results for week ending 30 May

In data gathered by STR, Inc., the U.S. hotel industry continued to show positive results in measurements of the three most important figures last week. During the week of 24-30 May 2015, over the same period last year, occupancy rose by 2.2 percent to 63.5 percent. The average daily rate was up by 4.7 percent to end the week at $114.73. Revenue per available room saw an increase of 7.0 percent, attaining $72.83 by week’s end. Full Story Here:

Surging Chinese Investment Has Widespread Global Impact, Especially Hospitality Industry

China is rapidly expanding investment around the world, particularly in the hospitality industry. China’s Dalian Wanda Group has announced plans to build luxury hotels in London, Madrid, and Chicago. Last year the firm announced their Chicago hotel will become the third tallest structure in the city in 2018, a $900 million, 240-room, 5-star hotel; featuring apartments and retail space as well. Future US markets have been cited to include New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Full Story Here:


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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Hotel Booking Abandonment - Part 1

Hotels in recent years have been striving to steer their guests away from booking their stays with online travel websites (OTAs). Some degree of success has been attained in this regard, usually at great effort and expense by hotels. However, there is a leak in the booking funnels of many hotels and an acutely costly leak the hospitality industry cannot afford to ignore. The remarketing company, SaleCycle, earlier this year released the results of a combined study examining both their clients and their clients' customers, in the travel realm. The findings are extremely eye opening for an industry seeking to keep ahead of the many outside channels competing to book their prospective guests.

 

The Problem

 

  • According to the study, 81 percent of potential guests leave the online booking process before completion. The 81 percent represents guests who have entered into actively booking their hotel stay, as opposed to all website visitors.  

 

When Do They Leave?

 

  • 53 percent give up the booking process upon seeing the price.

  • 26 percent will leave when personal information is requested.

  • 21 percent depart as soon as form of payment is required.

 

Why Do They Leave?

 

  • 39 percent were either just looking or needed to search for other offers and deals.

  • 37 percent thought the price was too high and wanted to compare prices elsewhere.

  • 21 percent wanted to read travel reviews before making a booking decision.

  • 13 percent found the process of booking to be too long or unnecessarily complicated.

  • 9 percent experienced technical issues.

  • 7 percent had some issue with payment or didn’t find suitable payment options.

 

The Upside

 

  • Fully 87 percent stated their intention to return and complete the hotel booking process.

  • 43 percent said they would return within a week.

  • 33 percent would come back to complete the booking the same day.

  • 13 percent promised to be back next week.

  • 11 percent after one week.


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Monday, June 1, 2015

Company Culture; What Makes it Great?

Until I started researching for this blog topic, I hadn’t really thought too much about our company’s culture.  But in researching the topic, I realized that our company has a more relaxed and laid back atmosphere. We lean more to the Clan or Baseball type culture, which means we tend to be more collaborative; we work as a team, and get our work done without a lot of stress. We’re always looking for ways to improve our company culture here at Above Property.  We continue to add to our list of company perks.

 

 

Here are some things that can add to the greatness of your company culture. We have yet to implement some of these ourselves!

 

  • Make it a priority that all employees treat each other with respect.
  • Make it a policy to be an honest business with good values.
  • Collaborate with your employees on all projects, work as a team, and give them a say; their opinions count.
  • Sometimes getting the work done because of time constraints can interfere with morale, but try to keep the work environment as positive as possible.
  • As a progressive software company, we offer a flexible work schedule since our employees sometimes have to work nights and weekends from home to make a crunch time deadline. We also give generous vacation and personal time (At Above Property we offer 4 weeks vacation to all our employees).
  • We ring a bell in our office every time we win new business. The whole office fills with excitement and enthusiasm after the bell rings.
  • Offer great benefits to employees such as:  low cost insurance, catered lunches, ice cream socials, and holiday parties.
  • Send employees for training and seminars to ensure their skills are up to date when technology changes.
  • We conduct weekly and/or monthly creativity meetings to come up with new ideas for the business. We’re always trying to find improvements in the working environment and the products we offer.
  • Have achievable well-defined goals and when they’re met, offer rewards, such as time off, bonuses or even promotions depending on the scope of the work.
  • Celebrate employee birthdays; it makes them feel special and it’s another morale booster.
  • Implement a profit sharing plan to make sure everyone’s goals are aligned and you share a common vision.
  • If your business is doing well, implement a scholarship program to encourage personal development.

 

 


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