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The Robots are Coming!

This week I have been asked to speak at an event and the subject is just that – ‘The Robots are Coming!’ I am really excited to be part of this panel as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence is exactly what Right Revenue is built on.  As a revenue system, not only do we use complex algorithms and your hotels unique business patterns to forecast and come up with rate recommendations, but we also learn and keep learning so that the recommendations we make become more and more clever and unique to your own business.

Machine learning is complex, amazing and it is definitely here to stay but more importantly, we will see all types of new technology develop and infiltrate our industry in the coming years.

The first development I predict outside of Revenue Management will be Personalisation. Although not strictly Machine Learning, it is a huge step for our industry.   No longer will every visitor to your website be presented with the same ‘view’ but very quickly every single customer visit will be unique to them.  Lets think this one through… Imagine you have visited a hotel website before and not booked, but you did look at availability for 10 September; you checked out the Two Night Autumn Break; then you clicked on the room description for a Superior Double Room; then you left the site – but all of this browsing has been captured.  Next time you visit you are asked if you are still interested in availability for 10 September and you are taken straight back to view that Autumn Break. This removes all the ‘noise’ of multiple date choices and rate options and allows the customer to fall straight back into where they left off. This not only reduces the number of clicks your customer has to make to complete a booking but you are streamlining and tailor-making their whole experience.

Now the second step – once a booking is made and if the same customer comes back to browse your site, tracking is still in place and they will be shown upgrades or information on dining or perhaps things to do in the area – the second step of personalisation. This customer will be welcomed by name and again their experience will be unique to them.

After their stay, if they return to your site, they will again be welcomed by name; thanked for their previous booking and offered a discount as a returning and loyal customer. This is just the start of personalisation and there is lots more to come.

For example, if you are a known business traveller (and this again is captured by your browsing and booking history), then you will be shown only Business Rates and perhaps directed to register for your Corporate Programme. But what if your social footprint was also taken into consideration?

We all know that none of our lives are private any more and that as soon as we open a Facebook account, sign up to Twitter or Linkedin, that everything we do is being tracked.  So what if that social footprint was also taken into consideration? Imagine the power you would have if you knew your customer was a fitness fanatic or liked red wine or had just become a Mum?  Imagine how you could personalise your customers journey if you had all of that information before your guest even checks in! Slightly terrifying I know but this will happen.

The second huge impact that I feel Machine Learning will have on our industry is to impact how we feel about our Loyalty Programmes. I believe that Corporate Programmes will be around for quite a while, after all business travellers like to stay with brands that reward multiple night stays but what about your transient or leisure guests?  Our lives are changing and our customers want instant gratification in every aspect of their lives, so why not when the travel? Every hotel should already be rewarding guests who book direct, but is that enough? Machine Learning will help you as a hotelier recognise someone who has either browsed or stayed before and rewards can be offered immediately.  I firmly believe that hotels should already be considering recognition and rewards and should be on the look out for tech that will help them do that – after all, in the words of David Bowie, ‘the future belongs to those who hear it coming…’

One stumbling block that we need to overcome is the technology.  We still work with disparate systems that even in this day and age don’t ‘talk’ to each other, so we need to step up and keep up!  If the innovators don’t develop the tech to not only use Machine Learning but to make it work through every step of our customer journey then as an industry we will drag behind everyone else.  Our customers will end up frustrated and hoteliers will be viewed as ‘dinosaurs’.  The tech is coming and so are the robots – lets just get ready for them…

(and for all things revenue, just ask@rightrevenue.wpengine.com)