It’s Wednesday morning, 10 am…the boardroom’s booked, the report packages are ready…the “usual suspects” enter the room to participate in this week’s revenue management meeting. The revenue manager has prepared the latest pick-up report, updated the rate shopping data, downloaded the STAR report and killed a few trees photo-copying the lot.
As the meeting comes to order, everyone is multi-tasking trying to answer at least two more emails on their smartphones before the “gavel” comes down demanding their undivided attention. The meeting begins with a review of pick-up and some discussion (happy or sad) on the week-over-week results. Somehow the meeting goes off on a tangent regarding some recurring issue and before you know it…20 minutes have passed. Sound familiar?
Well, in my experience all too often this is a pretty accurate example of the typical weekly revenue meeting. Now your hotel may be the exception, where highly effective revenue meetings take place every week, with full participation, ample collaboration and remarkable accountability. If this is an accurate description of your meetings, read no further!
If, on the other hand, there may be that remote chance that your weekly revenue meeting could be improved, then welcome to the real world. And considering how everyone is pressed for time these days, and that the revenue meeting is a pretty expensive gathering of talent for most hotels, then it’s important to get it right. What would getting it right look like? Consider this.
A viable weekly revenue meeting should involve four structured components, should not last longer than an hour, and should include an ample dose of accountability. Once a month a fifth component should be added. Imagine these components like concentric circles on a target – the meeting starts with the outermost circle and involves relevant general information; then proceeds to move progressively to more detailed and specific property information until the meeting reaches the center of the target where strategies and tactics are finalized. The five key components include:
1) Marketplace dynamics & general economic climate
2) Competitive information
3) Property performance trends
4) Sell strategy development
5) Month-end post mortem + 365-day outlook (once a month)
Responsibility for these components should be assigned to different members of the revenue team – with marketplace information handled by the director of sales & marketing or, in a smaller hotel, the general manager. This part of the meeting is all about the general economic climate, marketplace activities (conferences, sporting events, community events, etc.), city or resort seasonal promotions, public relations efforts, new or renovated properties, etc. The key is to highlight circumstances that have an impact on demand – i.e., demand influencers. And these may be demand generators or detractors. This discussion sets the stage for the next component.
The second step is to zero in on competitive information and activities. This typically involves the revenue manager, the front office manager, and the director of sales. Topics often include general rate positioning (data from a rate shopping tool, a local call around, Google Hotel Finder, etc.), competitor marketing initiatives, Google alerts, Technorati feedback, reputation management reports, STAR indices, etc. This component is about any information and/or data that can help the team better understand the competitive landscape. What measures are your competitors taking that impact your ability to optimize demand?
For this part of the meeting it’s especially helpful to assign each member of the revenue team one competitor to research and follow. They become the “subject matter expert” on that competitor and they are responsible for knowing what that competitor is up to at all times. It’s impossible for the revenue manager to keep on top of every move every competitor makes. Here, the extra hands ensure that very little is missed. And this research means being on the competitor’s email list, following them on Facebook and Twitter, checking for blogs posts and/or Google alerts, looking for YouTube videos, etc.
Once the marketplace and competitive landscape have been reviewed, it’s time to showcase the property data. Too often the property data is introduced and discussed first, without the advantage of a relevant context. But by discussing marketplace dynamics and competitor information first, the revenue team then has a foundation or platform (a “lens” if you will) from which to view their place in the competitive playing field. From this vantage point, the hotel stands a better chance of pinpointing opportunities and avoiding pitfalls.
The revenue manager typically leads this component of the meeting with assistance from other revenue team members as necessary. Depending on the type of hotel, this overview focuses on the next 60 to 90 days – with longer horizons being examined when issues are present. Data review includes many different data sets:
- Group and tour block pick-up/management
- Unconstrained demand, STAR report data (with an emphasis on relative index balance)
- GDS market capture/opportunities
- Performance to budget & forecast
- Week-over-week pace by market segment
- Same time last year pace comparisons by market segment
- Denials, rate resistance feedback, general reservations climate (all sources)
- Reservation call statistics (volumes, abandoned ratios, conversion ratios)
- Online conversion statistics (what’s selling? what isn’t?)
- Promotional offers, results of marketing initiatives, etc.
- Rate and stay controls currently in place and impact on pace
- Critical dates of high and low demand outside the 60- to 90-day window
- Consumer review scores/trends (reputation management) – with emphasis on the value score
The assumption here is that the revenue manager has already reviewed this data and is able to guide the discussion to the most relevant pieces of information – those pieces that have the strongest possibility to provide insight into demand trends.
The final component to the meeting involves setting sell levels. This of course involves price positioning, leveraging room types, optimizing stay patterns, balancing inventory, setting allocations by channel, adjusting transient protection based on new information, etc. This part of the meeting is a team effort and takes into consideration all of the previous pieces of information. If the first three components have been effectively and efficiently addressed, this part should be straightforward.
Believe it or not, I’ve repeatedly witnessed highly effective weekly revenue meetings that follow this structure and are completed in 60 minutes – the four standard components taking approximately 10, 15, 20 and 15 minutes respectively. But to accomplish this, revenue team members have to come prepared and relevant data sets must be made available to team members in advance. Logistically, it’s best to have as little on paper as possible, utilize an overhead projector to share reports, and have direct access to hotel systems during the meeting (property management, sales/catering, revenue management, central reservations, third party intelligence, etc.).
Finally, it’s advantageous to put aside one meeting a month that has a timeframe of 90 minutes in which two additional objectives can be accomplished. The first is a review of the results from the previous month – what went right?…what went wrong?…what can we learn from the past? The second objective is to look forward 365 days and, working with new information, to update sell strategies to optimize demand.
The key element in all of this is accountability. Make every revenue team member accountable for key pieces of information. It makes no sense to have the revenue manager do all the work, while others show up for the meeting. When team members know they are responsible for certain parts of the meeting, the whole team benefits and sell strategies will be more carefully determined and more effective in fully optimizing demand.
By Bonnie Buckhiester, President & CEO of Buckhiester Management Limited, and member of HSMAI’s Revenue Management Advisory Board