CULTURE

3 customer service lessons a hotelier can learn from Saas

A high-tech SaaS environment and a hotel business may not seem to have much in common, but both seek customer satisfaction

By Neville Isaac, CCO at Beonprice

I have been working in the hotel business practically my whole professional life, starting straight after graduation and working my way up to General Manager in boutique, upscale properties in London. After moving to Spain, for the past 15 years I have been specializing in Revenue Management and distribution, latterly responsible for the purchase and implementation of RM tools and tech for a large multinational hotel chain. Three years ago, I made a move out of my comfort zone and jumped to the other side: from client to vendor. These past three years have been a rollercoaster ride, (global pandemics weren’t really part of the plan) but great fun and a steep learning curve. As a hotelier, with extensive experience in upscale products where service is key, what lessons can a SaaS company learn from hotels?

On the face of it, a high-tech SaaS environment and a hotel business may not seem to have much in common, however I wanted to focus on the 6 most important lessons that I have learned up to now:

1. Having the customer actually in front of you is not the same as being on the other side of a computer screen

One of the great things about the hotel business (most of the time!) is that you actually have your guests in front of you and interact with them personally. Even in the post-COVID-19 social distancing era this will continue to be the case. Consequently, there is a real customer-centric focus in hotels: the customer is at the centre of everything and even those members of staff who are back of house are very aware of this.

In a SaaS company the direct contact is less. Part of the team has interactions with customers (normally sales and Customer Success) however there is a significant element who do not ever come into contact with a client. There is a danger here of a disconnect which runs the risk of the customer not being front and centre of the decision-making process. In Beonprice we have taken the following measures to address this:

· Create feedback loops to provide qualitative feedback from customers to all the organization — making sure the customers voice is heard at all times

· Involving tech teams in meetings with important customers — a much more direct way of knowing what the customer is thinking

· Training in Revenue Management for all team members. This helps them to understand day to day challenges faced by our customers.

Product development is informed by customers. Clients can be involved in the development of new functionalities through our programme Beonprice Labs, giving them a voice and providing input on the tools they are using.

2. Technology can actually deepen your relationship with your customer

In a tech company you normally have access to a lot of data, and in many cases tools which help you to streamline and automate your processes, removing the human element from the equation. From a traditional hoteliers mindset, this seems a bit scary, however in fact it is exactly the opposite. If used correctly, technology is your friend: it can free up resources so they can focus on where they actually add value.

At Beonprice over the past few months, we have carried out a root and branch review of the way we interact with our customers. We are hugely proud of our customer service, however we realized that we need to put more focus on where we really add value, which is as business experts with vast experience in Revenue Management. We needed to free up our teams to spend more quality time on this with our customers. The solution was to make a step by step review of all our processes, and identify those which were mechanical or repetitive with a view to automating them. This automation frees up time for the teams to focus on what is really important, thus increasing customer satisfaction. Initial results show that our NPS has significantly increased as a result of this. I think hotels can learn from this approach also — this sea change can be seen in response to the Covid19 pandemic — hotels can use technology to free up their staff to do what’s most important: provide customers with great experiences.

3. Metrics are important, but can be a double-edged sword

In a technology environment it is normal to have access to a lot of metrics. One of the first things I discovered was the widespread use of NPS to understand customer satisfaction. This KPI, which is used almost by default in the SaaS world, (and very rarely used in hotels) should tell us how satisfied our customers are, as well as whether our product meets their needs and what growth potential we have (more promoters = more growth potential). Whilst it is undoubtedly very useful, this is in my opinion a blunt instrument: although the question is always the same, the answers can vary significantly according to how you ask the question (what channel), how you present the question (look and feel) and when you ask. Given this level of “volatility” it is essential to not only rely on this number to gauge satisfaction. If you only use your NPS results you don´t learn enough about how to improve. In Beonprice we combine this with a more subjective way of scoring satisfaction (CSAT) at different points in the customer journey, as well as actual qualitative feedback from the customers, which often is the most valuable information that you can have.

Having now been on both sides, I would conclude that the aims are not so different although the approach does vary to some extent. The primary focus must be on meeting and exceeding the customer needs, however the way we understand these needs (the interactions), the way we measure their feedback (the metrics) and the way we communicate (the channels) have to be adapted in each scenario.

At the end of the day, ensuring customer satisfaction revolves around providing the very best technology and accompanying this with an empathetic, human approach where the customer is understood and their needs and wants taken into account: the perfect marriage of man and machine

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