I’m glad I didn’t send the email. While my finger came dangerously close to clicking “submit,” I was granted a moment of clarity amid chaos and remembered the sage advice of my peer: “Never send an email when you’re angry. Go ahead and write it, but always get up, walk around, and give yourself a moment to cool down before sending. Odds are you’ll reconsider.”
I did, in the end (thank goodness). I don’t consider myself hot-headed, but this particularly brash correspondence was bred of weeks of slow and steady gnawing and gnashing that had me at wit’s end. Here’s how it played out …
A few weeks back, my boss received a pitch from a PR rep asking if we accepted pitches for content. He forwarded it my way and asked me to touch base. I reached out immediately.
No more than two minutes later, I received a response of sorts: the same pitch my boss first received, although my version failed to acknowledge I had reached out just moments before. Then my colleagues starting filing into my office one-by-one:
“Hey I got this email from a PR rep asking if we accept content. Want me to forward your way?”
“This person wants to know if we accept outside submissions.”
“Did you get that request?”
“Have you seen this email?”
“A woman just emailed asking about submitting content. What should I tell her?”
A tad aggressive, but thorough. Nothing wrong with covering all bases, I thought.
So I reached out again:
I see you’ve contacted the rest of our staff regarding your recent pitch. I handle third-party content submissions to HotelNewsNow.com, and I’d be happy to discuss the opportunity with you further. Please let me know what time, if any, works best for you.
A few days pass. No response. … Until my boss forwarded me another email from the same PR rep.
“She sent me the pitch again. I thought I asked you take care of this?”
Perhaps my emails were getting lost in cyberspace, I thought.
Not wanting to risk anything to chance, I called. The number in the PR rep’s email signature didn’t work. I looked up the company online, called the correct number, but her particular name wasn’t listed in the automated phone directory. I tried reaching the operator but got disconnected. I eventually just left a voicemail in the general voice box and decided to send another email.
A few hours later, I got an email from the same company—only this time from a different PR rep … with the same original pitch I had been sent a week earlier.
Am I going crazy? I thought.
To make a long story short, several other reps from the same company continued to pepper myself and my colleagues with one email and phone call after another, only to end with a pitch that didn’t fit the needs of our target audience.
Which brings me to the subject of fragmentation.
According to a fascinating report from IBM’s Institute for Business Value, the distribution landscape has reached a point of such intense fragmentation that customers have been left to wander the abyss in a state of confusion, dissatisfaction and frustration. (I wonder how many of them have sent angry emails in response?)
Now perhaps many of you are thinking: “Our hotel website has been optimized for complete ease of use and frequently scores high in guest satisfaction! We don’t need to change!”
Odds are you’re right. But remember that booking a hotel does not exist separately from booking a travel experience in general. Guests don’t magically teleport to your hotel. They have to book cars, rent flights or drive their own cars. They also want to book shows and stays and excursions and then look up the weather forecast and buy a subway ticket and research the best places to eat and see when the museum opens.
And while each of those steps individually might be pleasant enough, tackling them in aggregate can be daunting.
IBM’s report found that more than 20% of global travelers spend more than five hours (!!!) to search and book travel online. More than half of leisure travelers and nearly 40% of business travelers needed more than two hours to accomplish these tasks.
So what can you do to truly differentiate yourself in the marketplace by fostering a comprehensive ease of booking that extends beyond your own platform? IBM says the answer is quite simple: Play nice.
“Fortunately, this morass of competing priorities, objectives, and technologies can be addressed by a dedicated commitment by the industry to put the customer first. The future of distribution will be defined by the success of the travel ecosystem in meeting unique customer needs. Much of that battle can be won with more coordination among competing travel providers and distributors. By sharing information about traveler preferences, the distribution community can formulate a collaborative, more complete view of customers, enhance online interactions and, ultimately, transform the customer experience. The net result promises to be an industry with happier customers and more solidly positioned for healthier financial returns.”
It seems counterintuitive at first. (“Cooperate with my competitors? Clearly Patrick’s been eating too much Easter candy!”)
But there’s money to be made! Think about it. If your company were to exchange information with airlines and car rental companies and (gasp!) OTAs, you’d have a much better understanding of your guest and could find ways to leverage that.
According to the report, “Customers value a more seamless travel experience and show a willingness to compensate any entity that can provide it.”
Had I, for example, been able to avoid the flurry of emails and resulting confusion among my staff when that PR company began its needlessly fragmented media blitz, I may have been far more likely to spend my time and energy to help them tailor the pitch into something more relevant for our readers.
Of course, it’s easy for me to compare an ultimately meaningless interaction with a complete paradigm shift in the distribution landscape. But the point is worth repeating: Your focus should always be on the end user. The better you can serve them, the happier they’ll be, which means the more money they’ll spend at your hotels.
I encourage you to read the full 14-page report. It’s got a number of other interesting tidbits that you might find useful.
Now on to the usual goodies …
Stat of the week
70%: The percentage of unmanaged business travelers in the U.S. market, according to PhoCusWright. The hotel industry for too long has focused on the travel manager. But as more and more business travelers start making their own booking decisions, the focus should shift toward the needs and wants of the end user. (Sound familiar?)
Quote of the week
“You have to think of them as free agents.”
—Carroll Rheem, director of research at PhoCusWright, alerting hoteliers to a shift in thinking about business travelers, who are now booking their own travel more than ever before, as reported in “Business travelers going rogue.”
Comment of the week
“Ric, It seems that brand loyal travelers will be booking on the brand sites. The others are booking on price which is why Marriott, Hilton and InterContinental are the big losers with Room Key. Starwood was smart to stay away.”
—Commenter “Anonymous” in response to HotelNewsNow.com columnist Ric Mandigo’s update on Room Key in “Is Room Key keeping up with OTAs?”
Months after its launch, Room Key is still generating buzz—although not all of it is good.
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.