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!
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.
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!