In the hotel industry, almost every single interaction—whether it be between team members and guests or between team members who work in different areas of the property—can be recorded and analyzed. With the right tools, this data can be a boon for hoteliers, illuminating weak spots and reinforcing positive behaviors. However, sifting through all that data and turning it into something actionable is an enormous task—one that many hoteliers are unable to squeeze into their already hectic days.
As a result, more and more hotel companies are turning to business intelligence (BI) platforms to pull valuable takeaways from raw data. These platforms are able to aggregate data from various sources and then present that data in a way that hotel owners and team members can find immediately useful. Georgia Robertson, operations administrator and analyst at Chattanooga, Tenn.-based hotel management and development company Vision Hospitality Group, Inc., is one such hospitality professional. In 2016, Robertson and Vision Hospitality Group executive vice president Aman Patel implemented a BI solution to save reporting time and improve the company’s bottom line.
Robertson says it wasn’t so much a single incident or situation that motivated their decision to turn to this type of data “crunching” solution, but more the sheer volume of data they needed to manage to help their growing company perform even better than it already was in the competitive hospitality industry.
“When I took on my current role three years ago, we had 25 hotels; now we have 33. With the hotels we have and many more slated to open before 2020, reporting using Excel files from our financial platform became very time consuming. Add to that the fact that our hotels and their food and beverage departments were growing in size as well as number, and we needed a much more efficient solution.”
Robertson describes how the company phased in the Execuvue BI solution from Aptech Computer Systems. “We implemented this in two phases. First, we wanted to be sure the information we were entering was correct, but we also wanted to make sure the users selected to use it were well versed in the platform should any questions arise once we released it to other team members.” So she and Patel handled the setup and the data validation before bringing in five additional team members at the home office who would be using it to generate reports.
She says setting up the property management system (PMS) and validating the data against the reports was the hardest part, and took about a month, after which the system ran smoothly.
“Since then, validating data can be done at our own pace,” she adds.
It’s now been a year since the system was implemented, and Robertson says it has had a significant impact on Vision’s properties—especially in food and beverage. “We’ve been able to create reports that give us more focused analytics in all areas, from guest services to financial performance. It enables us to create reports using property-level data against many different benchmarks.” She says, as a result, there is more awareness. “Food and beverage management and housekeeping micromanagement have really seen an impact in term of understanding what we can do to better correct performance there.”
Robertson adds that once you start watching this data closely, small reports start to beget bigger and more complicated reports. “To use food and beverage as an example, at first , all we were looking at was a labor report. But, as our portfolio and food and beverage options grew and evolved, we started adding more and more data to the reports, which allowed us to make comparisons that we were never able to examine in the past,” she says. “It gave us a whole new perspective on the department.”
Robertson advises hoteliers to “get creative” with the reporting that can now be done so much more easily than before. “There are so many options with the BI solutions. What’s fun about it is it’s so versatile; you can create something with an actual timeline, you can add levels, and you can compare budgets side by side.”
She says she especially enjoys keeping up with guest service scores. “We found our weekly guest service metrics were up. Our Execuvue BI system lets us break it down into metrics that are relevant and the same for every brand, for example, overall service, overall cleanliness, overall experience, and we can view in different time periods, such as the past 7, 14, or 28 days.”
This, she says, has spawned a little friendly competition among general managers. “They can see how their metrics compare to those in the entire company, which has been really cool. They say things like, ‘Oh, I’ve increased by 3 percent, or I’m gaining on this person within my brand.’ It’s been a lot of fun to see how the awareness is increased and how it has motivated people.”
Top photo: Hampton Inn and Suites Chattanooga