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Spotting the Opportunity to increase efficiencies through robotic automation

When talking about robotic automation, the first thing that comes to mind will be machine check-in or automated room service. Little moving robots bringing club sandwiches and breakfasts from the kitchen to the rooms, just like Wally at the Residence Inn by Marriott on Century Boulevard.

Customer facing automation not only is a novelty and might draw curious customers in, the main relevancy here is to create efficiencies. Meaning that hotel operators are able to offer a better experience to the customer at lower cost. Where room service wasn’t offered to the guest it can now become cost efficient and be reintroduced into the hotel operation.

The upsides of robots? Better customer service and increased efficiencies, ultimately resulting in more money on the table. Wouldn’t it be great to apply the same principle to the commercial office functions? Don’t think it’s applicable? No customer contact? No tasks that can be automated? Think again!

We all know the pressures of deadlines and internal stakeholders, our internal customers. And we’d be foolish to think that all our day’s work requires 100% human brain power.

Does any of these sound familiar to you?

– Loading 5,000 reservations from one property management system to a new chain property management system when converting to a different brand. Working from one screen to the other and losing track of which line items has already been transferred.

– Manually routing group leads to different account managers and keeping track of post-event reports.

– Downloading refreshed data from the Central reservation system every day for accurate forecasting in your excel tool

 

 

 

Once you start looking at your work process through these eyes, you will find that the opportunities for efficiency increases are endless.

Real Life Example: Revenue Reports

Take reports for hotel forecasting for example.

Instead of waiting for the managers to come in every morning and manually start downloading data based on today’s date, trigger the data to be downloaded automatically every day at the same time. And since this doesn’t need manual interference this can be done early in the morning or in the middle of the night so all data is refreshed and available when the agents come to work in the morning. Take it a step further and remove manual reformatting of downloaded data to fit a specific excel report from the managers to do list. Maybe you are even working with two systems and pull information from one and enter it into another once a week. Teach a computer to do this on its own and you free up a few hours every week.

What does this mean on the bottom line? 1 hour saved for every revenue manager every day and faster response time from the managers to the hotel which means higher satisfaction with the revenue consulting service.

This is just one of many examples where automation can increase efficiencies and service levels. The benefits are massive.

This is what spotting automation opportunities can do for you

Automation can also step in where otherwise big system overhauls would be needed in order for different systems to talk to each other. Opting for automated data transfer instead of architectural changes keeps you flexible and offers a faster solution than months-long system transfers.

The opportunity is there. It may not seem obvious as we are used to a certain way of thinking. But once making a shift and understanding where the opportunities are, they really appear everywhere.

cloud automation

The opportunities of cloud-based automation in the hospitality industry

There are two words in the term cloud automation (or also ‘cloud-based automation) – CLOUD and AUTOMATION.

Let’s start with the slightly easier one – AUTOMATION. This refers to making routine and manual tasks run more efficiently by putting tools and processes in place. Say for example consolidating different reports coming in different formats at the end of every months and creating an executive dashboard view. Or getting sales leads and inputting them into a system where they are trackable. Of course it takes a bit of time to set up the automation but there is a break-even point for every repetitive task at which point the manual continuation is highly ineffective. Automation isn’t new, and it no longer is an optional benefit. Snooze and you’ll lose out to the competition with inefficient operations and heavy overhead.

Then there is the word CLOUD. Cloud can mean anything from a big server center in Delaware to a machine installed down the hallway allowing you an internal cloud in your own data center. What all different solutions have in common is that applications are no longer run via an installed software on your physical computer. Instead the applications are accessed via the internet. This is the software subcription or software as a service model.

Benefits of cloud automation

Basically you are outsourcing soft- and hardware. It’s the easiest hands-off approach. All you do is pay a monthly subscription fee, and the supplier will service everything else.

This includes any kind of maintenance and updates. Your supplier will make sure that hardware updates are done and they will also be the ones on site for any trouble-shooting. And with hardware outsourced, of course this also means a low cost of entry. No hardware and infrastructure setups required.

Cloud computing also means that data storage is outsourced to the cloud. And this is a good thing. Especially when you’re talking about cross-team collaborations. Collaborations and document tracking are so much easier when facilitated via the cloud instead of individual machines. Or think about hardware damage or loss. Your team member’s laptop got stolen? Yes, too bad for the hardware but more importantly no confidential data is lost or compromised. What does cloud automation look like in application?

Applications of cloud automation in the hospitality industry

There are as many opportunities for cloud automation application as there are work processes and teams, no matter what industry. Below are some examples of the most common uses that we have seen working with our clients in the hospitality industry.

1.Campaign Report automation

A marketing campaign is often multi-channel. And with that reports are coming back in different formats. Some will be in excel, some will be in pdf or ppt. Reports will be for different time periods, using different metrics. To fully analyse the success of a campaign and present this to senior management, those reports will need to be consolidated and put into a dashboard. It can take a FT resource a day or even more to get this done. Valuable time that could be spend actually growing the business!

2.OTA crawler

The potential uses here are multi-fold. One of the biggest pain points we hear is rate parity. Due to single hotel deals or OTA decisions, the rate displayed on an OTA doesn’t always mirror your brand website. This is especially problematic if inventory is closed out oryour rate is undercut training the customer to continue using OTAs for ‘special deals’ and undermining your brand value. It is impossible to manually check all rates on all channels.

Another use of OTA crawlers is to monitor your market. Keep an eye on rate developments and availability of your comp set and beyond. Get price alerts, understand who the competitors are from a consumer perspective and keep an eye on their rate development and package inclusions.

3.Booking translations for hotel conversions

No doubt, converting a hotel is no small task, and one of the daunting and time-intensive ones is the translation of every single booking into the new system with new rate codes and room descriptions. This is often handled by the central reservation team and with the volume of bookings also comes with a high error rate.

Cloud based automation can take care of this is a much shorter time period than manual labour could do freeing up reservation agents for business growth activity and also allowing for a smooth transition. Booking translations are now possible even the day before the conversion instead of multiple weeks prior.

3.Rate loading

It is only human for errors to happen when manually loading rates. Some errors, however, can be detrimental if not spotted early enough. Like rates being available for $0.99 by mistake! And you know whoever spots this will spread the word online and before you know it your hotel is booked up with this error rate. The check-and-balances process can be automated which means a very thorough check as well as a very fast check. Never show wrong rates again compromising your ADR.

The common threat

See one of the issues in running a smooth operation is that we use many different systems to achieve a lot of different things. And those systems don’t always (not to say rarely) talk to each other. Which leaves manual interaction to spend time to copy paste things from one interface to the other. The efficiency we gain in using those applications is lost when adding the inefficient use of resources. And this doesn’t even take into the account the cost of losing time and focus on business development instead.

Not only is this not the most effective use of your team’s time, it can also be demotivating and is prone to human errors. This is one of the many fields where cloud automation can step in and take some burden off your shoulders. Nobody has time for this if there is business to go after!