By Prashantha Shet
Hospitality is a domain that’s always looking for the next innovation. As the industry expands, consolidates and newer concepts of hospitality are defined, the technology is always at the forefront of it. Fresh ideas and mechanisms for monetization, customer experience, booking, distribution, social networking, customer feedback and the overall flow are continuously being experimented with and productized.
A key area of hospitality is where all the fulfilment happens – the hotel property itself. No matter how good your booking experience is or how your pricing policy is, the ultimate touch point with customers is the property itself – the very room they stay, the location, the ambience, the cleanliness, the food, spa, convenience and so on. Therefore, the Property Management System (PMS) plays a very critical role in making sure each property owner delivers the best possible experience to the guests and at the same time making sure that the property owner gets best out of the property.
PMS is a very exciting space. There’s a lot of innovation happening here and a lot of possibilities. Switching to this domain was no-brainer for me, after working for many leading technology companies in the industry for over 23 years, across the globe. It’s very rewarding to think about the impact that we can have in making every hotel stay out there, a memorable one.
Data is the king
As part of my role as Senior Director of Engineering, I lead two PMS product lines. In my group, we rely quite heavily on data – be it understanding and troubleshooting of the applications, understanding employee motivation, deciding winners of various Code-A-thons or while doing an annual performance review.
We’re privileged to a lot of data – customer data, property data, transactions, sales, bookings, accounting, cash flow, revenue and so on. We constantly use this data to contribute back to where it came from – improve the experience of guests and hoteliers. Integrity, Security and Privacy are integral part of this process. Some of the areas this data helps us are:
- Make our services better for our direct customers – hoteliers. Give them a complete picture of the property, what they can monetize better, what are additional opportunities, competition and so on
- Make our products very intuitive and enjoyable to our customers’ customers – i.e, the hotel guests. Context driven suggestions by learning from the customer actions, market trends, past inferences and so on
- Offer a highly scalable and reliable platform. Using historic and contextual data we can predict the occupancy and help hoteliers to be prepared
- Optimize the business process for our customers. Simplify the overall property management and let them focus on what they do best
- Improve our technologies, ensure we give up-to-date financial information to our customers
- Offer insights that our customers can use
- Enable our support teams to help and solve our customers’ issues.
The hospitality industry is continuously harnessing latest technologies – like IoT, Spoken Chatbots/Agents, Cloud, Mobile/Wearables, VR, AI & ML and so on. Non-technology innovation happens in the aspects of different business models, growth-hacking, property types/models, experience bundles and so on.
Technology is going to change the way we stay and experience hotels. There will be an emphasis on pre-stay and post-stay experience, as well. There will be a focus on what customers want than what hoteliers can sell. There will be higher emphasis on personalization – to understand the traveler better and have the right product at the right time with the right experience. All this will need capturing and processing lots of data and draw right insights & inferences.
We’re a global team. We’ve team members spread across the globe working round the clock. Our customers are global too, serving millions of travelers away from home. Our customers need our support to make sure their customers feel at home, away from home. To achieve this, we maintain an ‘Always On’ work culture. That doesn’t mean each one of us keep on working 24×7, but we leverage our global presence. Communication is the key for us to make all this happen.
Our teams use Analytics both strategically and tactically, in our products and work environment. Some of our product features directly use analytics to help our customers to be on top of their game. For instance, a simple feature like recommending rates for a hotel room for a given booking on a given day, will involve quite a lot of analytics behind the scene. We’ll look at the historical data of the property where the booking is happening and the user who’s making the booking plus a lot of contextual data like weather, season, the inventory type, competition, local information and demand, global trends and so on. We ensure that the data is at the fingertips of our customers, when their customers are eagerly waiting to check-in at the front desk of the hotel. This ensures a win-win situation for both hoteliers and the travelers.
While troubleshooting some complex defects, we use historical logs and analyze the patterns to narrow down specific scenarios when the defect occurs. It’s not so uncommon for us to come across needle-in-haystack type issues and analysis of historic logs really helps in understanding the patterns and finally narrow down to exact scenarios.
(The author is the Senior Director, Software Engineering, Sabre)
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