During its annual convention, Best Western Hotels & Resorts continued to emphasize the importance of technology to its members as the company outlined a number of initiatives designed to help increase revenue and improve customer satisfaction.
Greg Adams, VP & chief digital officer, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, framed the company’s efforts for its membership at the Gaylord Resort & Convention Center in Nashville last week. “Emerging technologies have dramatically altered the balance of power between customers and companies. This trend will continue to increase as technology plays a bigger and bigger role in our everyday lives. This is why it’s important to continue to identify opportunities to improve our customer journey,” he said.
Adams specifically referenced emerging technologies such as voice recognition, virtual and augmented reality, biometrics and artificial intelligence. He also praised the membership for passing the technology assessment ballet to increase funding in 2015 while touting the aggressive digital transformation the company embarked on more than three years ago.
“It was designed to reinvent our business capabilities. Our mission was to harness our numerous digital assets and ecosystems so we could continually improve customer outcomes, shorten our time to market, and ultimately drive more revenue to you,” he told the membership.
Adams provided some evidence of the company’s progress as it relates to the digital transformation.
For example, he noted in 2013 that Best Western’s technology supported the delivery of $1.2 billion to its hotels globally via digital channels. In 2014, that number increased to $1.3 billion, a 7.2 percent year-over-year increase. In 2015, the amount of revenue reached $1.6 billion, a 23.7 percent increase over the previous year. Finally, in 2016, the company’s technology supported the delivery of some $2 billion to Best Western hotels around the world, a 25 percent year-over-year increase, according to Adams.
One of the major initiatives of the transformation has been the restructuring of the company’s website, Bestwestern.com, which was overhauled beginning in October of last year.
“We did something many on the outside may have questioned, we took an award winning website and we shut it down,” he said, later adding, “This wasn’t a redesign, we built an entirely new global digital platform from the ground up.”
Adams noted the company left behind a site that offered no content management platform or robust analysis capabilities, as well as failing to support rich media and not adapting to customer’s screens.
He stressed, however, that that has changed. “We replaced it with a site that has enabled us to introduce multiple performance improving enhancements every two to three weeks since launch,” he said.
In terms of performance, Adams was quick to point out that “most companies that complete a major redesign of their website can initially expect a 20 percent decrease in performance starting out.”
From October through May, Adams acknowledged Best Western experienced a 6.1 percent year-over-year decrease. However, he noted the company has since seen five straight months of year-over-year revenue growth for the new site. He added that in September the revenue generated from Bestwestern.com increased 11.9 percent, and in October year-over-year revenue spiked 28 percent, which represented over $13 million more than 2016.
Nevertheless, Adams noted that the company is not done yet. “We’ve identified numerous additional improvements to the site that will drive even more revenue to you and keep us busy through March of next year. I can assure you we have no intention of letting up any time soon,” he commented.
Adams emphasized that going forward one of the key issues for the company revolved around too many disparate property management systems. “We currently support two-way connections to 18 different PMS products, the most of any hotel company in the world. This is a number we have to reduce if we truly want to be competitive. It is inefficient and it leads to increased cost for development, testing and support. It acts as an anchor around our necks and dramatically increases the amount of time it takes to bring new innovations to market,” he stated.
In other initiatives, Adams noted the company “recently introduced totally redesigned confirmation and prearrrival emails for each of our brands. This is yet another step to improve the customer service journey,” he noted.
In addition, Best Western has introduced a mobile guest engagement platform supporting mobile check-in invites, on-property interactions and express checkouts.