Don’t get overwhelmed by data fatigue

When it comes to data, hotel operations and marketing executives are overwhelmed with more facts and figures than ever before.

Reports flood our inboxes daily with the latest metrics on how our hotel has performed in the recent past versus our competitors, how we are doing in the future at capturing global distribution system market share, as well as the latest online guest reviews, TripAdvisor ratings and social media posts. Revenue-management systems spit out the latest pick-up numbers and tell us what pricing changes our competition has made. E-commerce reports scream for our attention regarding landing page visits, website referrals, channel attribution and conversions.

Simultaneously, asset managers and owner representatives subscribe to mostly the same reporting streams. Therefore, they are more involved than ever and seem to be always calling or emailing for an action plan in response to the latest bump in the numbers on any key report.

As a result, GMs, marketing directors and revenue-management executives are increasingly feeling “data fatigue,” finding themselves locked in their offices scanning the latest reports, responding to owner emails and drafting their own internal emails to their operations support staff.

Those of us who came up through the ranks of hotel operations in the late 1980s learned about a management style called ”management by wandering around” from the best-selling book by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman “In Search of Excellence.” Peters often spoke of inspired, in-touch leaders at the 43 “excellent” companies they studied who were available and accessible and who knew what was going on every day on the front lines of their operations.

I recall well some of my own personal mentors who were GMs that lived by this principle. They always started their day by walking the hotel floor and greeting every employee by name, taking time to ask about their personal well-being and also to check in with questions such as, “What was our average daily rate and occupancy last night?” and “What groups do we have arriving today?” We knew we had to be ready. They also took time to greet guests personally in the lobby and elsewhere.

As my frequent readers know, I often refer to lessons I learned growing up in a small family business my mom founded called the Kennedy Craft Shop. My mom Barbara, also known as “Mrs. Craft,” started the business to help pay off medical bills after the youngest off her four children entered first grade. She rented the smallest space in the nearest shopping center, which happened to be at the end of a long arcade hallway and right across from the dumpster. Working there from age 9 to 20, I watched her grow that business into a successful enterprise with three locations in the premium spaces. After a few years, my father George left his job as an engineer and opened a wholesale division of Kennedy Crafts to supply other craft shops.

My dad was the epitome of a “big data” business leader. He brought the same process mentality he had learned in his engineering profession into the world of craft supplies and on his own created a very sophisticated inventory management system. While the system usually worked, we often found that we would suddenly run out of a key craft supply that was fundamental to a particular project; without that item we would lose the entire sale because the craft project would not be done without it. For decoupage projects, this included Oriental Lacquer varnish. For plaster crafts, this would be basecoat and for macramé this would be 6 mm natural cord.

When this would happen, the whole supply chain for our top-selling projects would screech to a halt and customers would be forced to shop elsewhere. Mrs. Craft would become so frustrated at dad’s reliance on his systems, and I recall very well she often said, “I don’t know why he doesn’t just take time to get out of his office and walk down the aisles of his warehouse to see what’s selling out.”

I suppose the lessons I learned in that craft shop helped me see the relevance of what Peters and Waterman wrote in “In Search of Excellence,” and to recognize what great mentors my managers exemplified daily at the Marriott family’s 125th hotel in their chain where I started my career.

I certainly understand that today’s hotel industry environment is different and we do in fact need the big data reports to stay ahead of—or at least keep up with—the competition. However, there needs to be a balance. Here are some training tips:

  • If you are a midlevel operations or marketing executive, take back control of your daily agenda by “scheduling time for unscheduled time.” Carve out blocks of time on a regular basis to unplug yourself from email and the data stream and to work the desk with your front-line colleagues for a bit, answer some calls, and greet guests in the lobby or at the breakfast bar.
  • If you are an asset manager or owner, be sensitive to the operational challenges—like groups, holidays and heavy turns—going on at the hotel on any given day and be flexible when asking for responses and reactions.
  • Rather than emailing a constant stream of questions or inquiries, first make a list of tasks to discuss with each colleague. Then consider setting a time to talk through the issues vs. going back and forth through emails, which not only can save time but can help clarify understanding.

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