As travellers increasingly research trips online and experience more in the virtual world, maintaining online presence has never been so important for hotels, the rapidly growing online customer intelligence sector is testament to this change.
Headed up by CEO and co-founder RJ Friedlander (right), ReviewPro, equips establishments like Red Lion in the US and Dusit and Centara in Asia, with the tools to manage their online reputation and guest management at an average monthly cost of €75-€200 ($83-$220).
The Barcelona-based firm rounded off 2014, its most successful year, with a client base of over 17,000 hotels across more than 100 countries, and world leader in guest intelligence for independent brands.
The critical aim is to turn insight from data and analytics into a money-making action plan for our clients, Friedlander told 4Hoteliers on Wednesday, from his booth at ITB in Berlin.
Since we caught up with you at ITB last year, ReviewPro has grown immensely. What has changed?
Everything around guest feedback and user-generated content in the last year has changed radically. What changed for us was we used to just have an online reputation management tool, and in January last year, we launched a survey tool. It can do customized surveys in multiple languages, it has sentiment analysis "so it’s a very, very powerful but flexible and easy to use" inexpensive tool to create your own direct surveys. So, now for the first time, these two important worlds of guest analytics, which generate very valuable guest intelligence, are combined.
Last year was really a banner year for us because the sale of tools "online tools but also data" of this guest intelligence, grew like crazy. So, now if you take away the big US brands, "the Hiltons and the Marriott and the Hyatts", those, which are big, of the independent brands we’re the world leader.
Is your growth an indicator that hoteliers are ready to modernize, and your message has sunk in?
I think it’s a part of that. Also, what happens is, virtually every hotel sells through online distribution. They know that in booking, if they’ve got a 9.2 on Trip Advisor, they nearly sell out all the time at really high rates. And if they have a 7.8, you almost can’t give the rooms away. It’s kind of a combination of us banging, preaching this message, but they’re also learning it from their own success or their own failure with online distribution.
And really, it’s very, very rare that you find a hotel that doesn’t get it. I think the difference was that they used to see it as just something interesting to track and keep an eye on, and now what they understand is this guest intelligence is absolutely fundamental to their business.
So, the industry is more accepting of guest intelligence going hand in hand with revenue growth?
It’s like with things that are good and that benefit you, you don’t have to encourage people to do more of it. They do it themselves. And so what happens is, we make it easy for them to have these analytics, this insight, which shows them where and how to take action on an operational level and on a service level. And by focusing on these improvements, they deliver better guest experiences. And as they more consistently exceed expectations, they get better review scores, and it creates this really positive cycle.
The hotel industry is not the most innovative, and it’s not the most quick to change. But they’re intelligent people, and when they see something that’s clear, that’s easy and it has an impact, they do it.
What’s the outlook for 2015?
This will be our biggest year ever. We’ll grow more because there are still probably 250,000 hotels that have no reputation tool. Our product "because it’s an online software product" it’s very scalable, very accessible anywhere in the world.
Yesterday, for example, we just signed a very influential chain in Asia, Marco Polo that has 13 hotels in Hong Kong, China and the Philippines. They have amazing five-star hotels, and they switched from two different providers. They had an ORM provider and a survey provider, and they switched to us because they got a much better product and it’s cheaper. We’ve got big growth potential on the side of ORM, on the side of GSS, and also data sales" selling to destinations.
What is your message to those 250,000 hotels that have not made the switch to online reputation management tools?
I would make one clear point: their existence is tied to this. Their ability to maximize guest experiences is tied directly to guest intelligence, and the way that they manage their business: this gives them a roadmap. We give them the ability to make the internal cultural change they need to adapt to the world we live in today, which is made up of people making decisions on mobiles, on tablets. Highly influenced by reviews, highly influenced by what other people say.
Where you see the real value of ReviewPro is that once people start using this, we have 90% of clients repeat, which for renewal rates for software is historic.
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