Who: Rex Warren, Assistant Professor with Johnson & Wales University College of Hospitality, Providence
Agree or Disagree with Article: Agree
His Take: The issues raised in the recent New York Times article “Hoteliers Comb the Ranks of Tech Workers to Gain an Edge” are definitely “front burner” at the management and brand level of most hotel companies.
The hotel industry, like most, has been struggling with and focused on how to leverage the huge amount of data they have on their guests. It is an enormous challenge to be able to link and analyze the data from what have been separate “silos” to create meaningful and actionable conclusions — often in real time. At times, integrating these diverse sources of information has been agonizing. Keeping them integrated has resulted in systems that were held together with dental floss and hope. This is improving, though, both with ongoing investment and increasing expertise in data analytics.
We train our students in the fact that “if you are not getting better faster than your competition is getting better, then you are getting worse.” This has always been true, of course, but today the integration of new technologies is happening at a breathtaking pace. As a brand, you absolutely have to able to consistently meet the competitive advantages you perceive in your competition — before they become “sustainable” competitive advantages.
The good news is that virtually everything a hotel company does is visible to their customers ...
The bad news is that virtually everything a hotel company does is also visible to their competitors, so it is really quite difficult to maintain a competitive advantage for long.
And of course, every business needs to leverage technology to constrain payroll costs. The raising of the minimum wage by statute or by competition for labor will increasingly make the investment in technology more feasible. The challenge is always to balance making the guest experience as seamless as possible, and yet be able to maintain the human touch of hospitality where is is most useful.
The upside about all of this data and data analysis is that companies will be able to make better decisions than simply managing by anecdote, which has often been the default decision input. And using data means that you are improving your understanding of what your guests are actually doing—not what they say they are doing or what they say they want. Ultimately, those companies who are better at leveraging data analytics will be successful while those which are not will fail. While this is Darwinian, it is also what is driving the hotel industry to constantly improve.