One of the hot topics at the recent Motel Association road shows has been that of credit cards and the changes in the way the banks are allowing merchants to process cards.
One of the big problems with credit cards is the amount of theft of card numbers to enable the holder to make many purchases and basically steal money off of the card. It is not the theft of actual cards that has caused the biggest problem but the theft of card numbers from computer systems which has resulted in the largest loss. As a consequence of this the banks have now introduced a thing called PCI compliance. This is the criteria required to be able to store credit card numbers on your computer. If you do not meet the requirements of this you are no longer able to process card not present transactions. The cost of meeting this audit process however is in the tens of thousands of dollars and prohibitive to most motels.
Some new lessees have already had this facility removed from their systems when they purchased a motel business. One motelier is only able to process the credit card once the guest has physically arrived and is currently having to give out their bank account number and ask people to direct credit the deposit. If they have been given a credit card and the guest is a no show there is nothing they can do to debit the card. The debt still remains but the motelier now has to use another option to collect it. This makes for a very inefficient way to run a motel business.
What does this mean to you as a moteliers?
Firstly check with your property management system that they are compliant. If they say they are then ask them for a copy of their compliance certificate. Essentially if a credit card is used for fraud and it can be traced back to having come from your computer you can be held liable for the debt. Ensure that you can prove you took steps to become compliant and avoid being the scapegoat.
Secondly if your property management system is not compliant then to avoid not meeting the criteria for storing the credit cards on your computer you can store them somewhere else. For example you can write the card number down and store them in a safe or use a separate hard drive which is disconnected from your internet computer and store this in your safe. Other options for card not present transactions can be to use the old fashioned zipzap machine. This can be used by manually writing the credit card number in and then taking to the bank. Some banks will process this but some will not. Another option can be to discuss with your bank an option of using the banks secure site to process cards. Some banks have a site which you can use instead of an eftpos machine so this may work for you.
If you still have the ability to do card not present transactions then just carry on as is but be aware that the issue may arise in the future for you. As it is obviously going to impact on many areas there will no doubt be some other options which will be introduced in the future and hopefully this will happen before your business is impacted by the fact you cannot do card not present transactions.
One of the hot topics at the recent Motel Association road shows has been that of credit cards and the changes in the way the banks are allowing merchants to process cards.
Bitponics is a new project backed by kickstarter which allows you to monitor your plants on line to assess the moisture, soil content and temperature and determine the optimum needs of your garden. This is a great inexpensive idea for people like me who don’t quite have green fingers. Read More here
The Motel Association of New Zealand held their annual conference in Wellington recently which was as usual a valuable benefit for it’s members. Below is a brief description of the event.
John Key was as usual a very dynamic and informed speaker. Information of the economy, the world and tourism in NZ all delivered with a good dollop of laughter and affinity to the ordinary kiwi person.
Following this Steve Lange the owner who grew Tony’s tyre service to 20 stores gave plenty of advice about customer service, expectations and tips to get all your staff on board with the ethics of your business. Turning complaints in to loyal customers and exceeding your competitors was another strong message to come through.
Debbie Mayo Smith followed up with 8 tips to free up time and make more money. Smart phones were a tool of the customer and needed to be considered from a business point of view. Outlook tips also gave ideas to be far more efficient with the email tasks.
A good time for visiting all the suppliers enabled delegates to make the most of having them all in the one place and get the maximum amount of information without having to spend hours by phone or email contacting them all.
The day was wrapped up with two workshops from Harman’s lawyers and Blakemore group valuers. Seaton Read and Brian Burke discussed improvement rental and the impact on both lessee and lessor and the factors effecting the termination of a lease for various reasons. Bruce Mainwaring gave delegates an insight in to valuation and arbitration processes and highlighted points in a lease which could affect a valuation
All in all it was a very full day loaded with information and tips for delegates. Top this off with the networking and discussions between moteliers and it is not surprising there were so many positive comments from delegates at the end of the day saying how glad they were they had made the decision to attend.
Day two contained the AGM where Peter Blackwell was awarded an Hon life associate membership and the marketing plan of where MANZ is heading in the future. After lunch delegates were given a look at the new website from Maree Surrey along with the capabilities it had and tools it would provide for members. There was also a raft of tips and things delegates should be doing with their own websites. After lunch Jennifer Rolfe gave a fantastic insight in to branding, what it is and how to review or develop your brand.
Of course the night displayed all the delegates in their finery at the Gala Dinner. The mass of black ties and fancy dresses created an amazing atmosphere which set the scene for a great night. During the night The AA host supreme award was won by Roselle and Peter from Shadzz in Palmerston North. Congratulations to them on this. Then in typical conference tradition there was dancing well in to the night.
Today had Kerry Prendergast describe the direction and activities of Tourism New Zealand and then a final session by Pam Corkery Which was highly entertaining but also very poignant and reminded us to make sure our life was full of good memories by ensuring we create them with the way we live our life.
This conference certainly delivered what it needed to for its delegates. Everyone should go home with ideas for their business, new skills and highlighted areas to expand their learning and knowledge, but also with new friends or further cemented old friend relationships. Moteliers are a special group of people and those proactive ones who attended conference have shown just how good they are.
I have just read the blog post by James Hacon http://t.co/vYqUXQfY on the Hotel . Com survey for guest amenities. The pattern shows a trend as discussed in my blog on 3rd February http://bit.ly/HvMwFs
Good reading but also thought provoking especially one comment from Anna Pollock which stated it can be very difficult to get business services including printers whilst travelling.
I have recently purchased a new printer and following on from Anna’s comment I thought it would be great to have in a motel situation. The printer is an HP wireless 6500A which obviously prints wirelessly so any personal or office computers can print without the need for cables. Great to tidy up that precious office space in a motel. The function which I thought would be more beneficial however is the ability to print via the internet. This means provided someone has the access codes to the printer they can email print jobs to it and voila the printer churns out the required hard copy. This would be a great function to enable you to provide your guests with an easy to use print facility.
I am sure there are other brands which do the same thing or can even provide more facilities but it is food for thought to look for extra functions with technology when purchasing new items and think of ways these can provide an even better experience for your guests.
There is an interesting comment thread on The New Zealand tourism Industry Blog at present about the attachment of Trip Advisor to Tourism New Zealand’s web site. Here is a link to the discussion.
It is obvious from the comments in this topic that there are many differing opinions on the benefits and disadvantages of Trip Advisor. The reality however is that this type of advertising is here and isn’t going to simply go away. It is in a way no different to the old traditional word of mouth advertising but is able to reach far more people far quicker.
One benefit I see is that at least service providers know what is being said about them and can reply or take appropriate action to fix a problem if necessary rather than being completely oblivious to the old word of mouth be it good or bad stories being told about them.
It is important for any service provider to be confident in their product and their pricing structure so that when a customer threatens a bad review in return for something free the operator can refuse. It is only by these people being refused they will realise that the practice won’t work and then it may cease. It is the same as people who seek a discount on a quoted price. If there weren’t any operators who gave a discount then people would stop asking for one.
Confidence in your product, pricing structure and service will alleviate most customer problems.
This extract from the Trip Advisor survey shows trends for US hotels and compares them to the rest of the world.
There are some interesting findings such as how many hotels use discounting as a “top deal” and the increase in importance of mobile device strategies. There is also a heavy emphasis on social media and responding to comments.
I found when reading the article myself I couldn’t help but wonder about the fact it was trip advisor undertaking the survey and their product relies strongly on social media and comments and also that it is the owners of the properties being surveyed not the guests. I wonder if guests would have rated things in the same order of priorities?
Social and Mobile Marketing: Engaging Travelers Online and “On the Go”
Percentages following each statement are for U.S. and the WORLD respectively.
Social media marketing:
Expect social media marketing budget to increase in 2012 (of those who had such a budget in 2011) 52% 50%
Plan to monitor social media for mentions of the property 80% 76%
Plan to respond to guest reviews about their property on TripAdvisor 91% 87%
Plan to offer a program to engage travelers using mobile devices (e.g., a mobile app, special offers on mobile, booking through a mobile device) in 2012 61% 53%
Plan to offer a program to engage travelers using mobile devices for the first time in 2012 27% 28%
Services and Amenities: Free or Fees
Plan to add services or amenities in 2012
Foresee adding fees for services or amenities in 2012
Plan to offer free in-room Internet access to guests in 2012 89% 77%
Top Deals and Special Offers: Attracting Guests in 2012
Discounts on rooms
Special amenities/services (e.g., free Wi-Fi Internet access)
Free parking 38% 32%
“Hoteliers’ plans to engage with travelers using social media and mobile devices are also important trends this year,” said Petersen. “While it’s encouraging to see so many planning to respond to online guest reviews in 2012, TripAdvisor’s data show that only 15 percent of property reviews currently have management responses. The owners and managers who follow through on plans to respond to reviews will have an advantage over their competition.”
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/21/4278895/tripadvisor-business-survey-reveals.html#storylink=cpy
Online reviews require dedication and time but can really build your business. It is now believed that there is a need to allocate someone to managing reviews and then making the whole process a team effort.
The reviews can also be used as feedback to staff for either re-enforcing the things which are being done well or pointing out areas where there is room for improvement. Reviews must be monitored, acted on and responded to. By doing this in a team environment the whole business embraces the culture of reviews and using them to benefit the motel business.
Trip advisor has also just launched its new management centre which has tools to help with the review area of your business. This gives accommodation providers “more functionality and new educational content, such as a library of videos, resources for training new staff, tip sheets, in-depth how-to guides and a blog with updated sources of information. It is intended to work in tandem with third-party reputation management software that aggregates feedback from additional sources.”
Online reviews are an important part of your business these days and cannot be ignored. Like any trend or development within the area of motel management you need to understand it and use it to your advantage.
For more details have a look at this post by “hotel news now” http://bit.ly/qBEiLo .
Do you have a buyer persona?
If you are like me before you can answer this question you will say “what is a buyer persona” A buyer persona is used to identify the needs of the people you are advertising to. That is your buyer or customer. Basically it means developing a persona or character which fits your clients. This then means that you can identify the features and functionality which will make your advertising or website a success by catering to the needs of your persona and the people who will be using your products. Thus the persona drives the content you are creating for your advertising.
When developing a persona what’s important is not necessarily that you get the persona 100 percent right, but if you can get it kind of 90 percent right it is okay. Having that ability, having that understanding of who that person is, will help you decide what content you should be producing, what content those people are more likely to share in social media, what content they’re more likely to subscribe to, what things they’re probably searching. Having a deeper understanding of who that person is can be really, really helpful.
Although personas are fictitious, they are based on knowledge of real users. Some form of user research is conducted before they are written to ensure they represent end users rather than the opinion of the person writing the personas. Do you research your guests? Who are they? What do your guests need? What makes things easier for them to use you? The persona should be developed to create advertising which suits the client rather than what you think as the writer of the persona.
Creating a persona
Step One Decide on the research method:
To develop a persona you must first do the research. This can be done by various methods but an interview if possible is one of the best ways to gather the information.
Decide who to interview by listing the groups of people that might use the website. Trends are usually seen after talking to around 10 or so users, however you may need to speak to more if there are a lot users with vastly different needs. Once you hear the same thing over and over again, it’s time to stop.
If you really can’t get interview users then attempt a combination of research methods. Try not to rely on a single method, rather use at least two avenues of research. Also, if you interview users, consider supplementing the interviews with one of the research methods below. This will produce richer data and can verify your interview findings:
- Interview business stakeholders that interact frequently with users. Respect the wealth of knowledge your business stakeholders hold and get them involved early on in the persona research. This helps to build their buy in to the persona technique.
- Review market research, again these people have frequent interaction with end users and are trained to pick up patterns in attitudes and behaviours.
- If you are designing a web site, talk to friends and family that are users of the current website or potential users of the new website. Chat to people over dinner parties or at the pub.
Step Two: Conduct the research:
One way of creating a persona is to conduct interviews and the type of information gathered could be as below. Remember to prepare a list of interview questions, but remain open to an alternative path of questioning if it leads to uncovering user attitudes and behaviours. Also, don’t ask questions like ‘What are your goals when using the website?’. You will need to infer the goals from questions like ‘What things frustrate you the most?’, ‘What makes a good working day?’, and ‘What will help you to do your job better?’
Information to gather during interviews could be.
- Basic demographics such as age, job, family, hobbies and interests
- What a typical day looks like
- Common questions or tasks in relation to the website’s domain
- Major frustrations when trying to achieve goals related to the website’s domain. For example, if it is a travel website, what frustrates the person most about researching and booking travel (online and offline)
- What the person likes best about the website’s domain. For example, what does the interviewee like best about travel
- Who does the person interact with most when completing tasks. For example, does the person rely on the travel agent for advice or do they like to make their own travel decisions.
- Skill levels relating to tasks as well as technology
- How time poor or rich the person is
- Goals, attitudes, beliefs (conscious and subconscious)
Step three: Analyse research:
Review all the research data and look for patterns in attitudes and behaviours. For example, if you interviewed people about your motel, you might find patterns like users who are price driven as opposed to quality driven, users who travel frequently as opposed to infrequently, and users who prefer to research their holiday rather than asking others for suggestions.
Whilst listing these patterns, you will begin to see clusters of attitudes and behaviours that make up different personas, such as the frequent traveller that is skilled in researching holidays and finding the best prices. This persona is motivated by keeping the cost of each holiday down so they can travel more in the future. The persona’s goal is to go on as many holidays as possible.
Once you have defined these clusters of attitudes and behaviours, give each persona a brief description, such as ‘independent traveller’ or ‘bargain hunter’. There is no ideal number of personas, however try to keep the set small. Four or five personas work as effective design tools, whilst over ten personas may introduce the same confusion as a large user requirements document.
Step Four: Write the persona
Start writing the personas by adding details around the behavioural traits. Select details from your research, such as working environment, frustrations, relationships with others, skill level, and some demographics. Give each persona a name and a photo, unless you are better suited to the more generic personas such as a series of bullet points.
Here are some tips to follow regardless of whether you write your personas as narrative or bullet points:
- Keep your personas to one page, so they remain effective communication tools and can be referred to quickly during design discussions.
- Add personal details but don’t go overboard.
- Include goals for each persona. This can include experience goals as well as end goals. In the case of Jane the budget traveller her experience goal might be to have an enjoyable holiday now but her long term goal is to have a number of holidays within her budget.
- Once your personas are written, review them to ensure they have remained realistic and based on your research data. Check that you have a manageable number of personas, and if two personas seem close in behaviours and goals, see if you can merge them into one persona. Finally, to ensure you have a polished product, ask someone to review the personas for accuracy in spelling and grammar.
Step Five: Using personas
Once the persona is developed you have a fictitious person who you can ask yourself questions about. “Would this persona like this content?” Say things like, “Well, would Mary really like this website? Is that the thing Mary would be interested in? Why would Mary share that with her friends?” If you can have that mindset, you’re going to start to think a little bit more like a media company and having that capability, to maybe compete more with the media moguls and have a better shot of attracting your audience.
The personas will allow you to make many marketing decisions based on how they would react to it. You can identify the features which are relevant and deliver value to your clients. Decide if one size fits all or if you need to have a different approach in different areas of your advertising.
Your personas should be used in all areas. If you are talking with your web designer give them your personas and make sure they are creating something of value for your guests and ultimately for you. Any branding or print advertising should also be created from these personas. Even get your staff to buy in to the personas. If they know who they are doing things for and it is a person with a name, even a fictitious person, it is easier for them to have a connection and understand what they should be doing and why.
Personas allow you to identify and communicate user needs efficiently and effectively. By developing ‘stand in’ users, based on real user data, you can create a culture within your business which meets the needs of your broader customer base, gives them a good customer experience and enhances the value of your business.
One of the newer additions to social media is Foursquare. This basic concept is that people check in when they are visiting places such as cafes shops etc and the person who visits the one place the most becomes the mayor of that place. To learn more look at this website http://foursquare.com/businesses/
Some businesses are using this concept to their advantage by creating added value for people who use the foursquare concept. This builds your current customers in to more loyal customers and can also attract new customers.
One icecream shop gave the mayor for each day a free icecream and increased their business substantially. If there is a choice between shops and you may get something extra from one place then it is most likely you will choose that place.
Another example is a hotel who offer a bar discount to their patrons who check in on four square http://www.hotelworldnetwork.com/customer-loyalty-programs/aloft-introduces-social-networking-rewards-9746
All these things create loyalty with customers and increase your exposure on the web. What can you do with this type of advertising media to improve your business?
Seeing this recent release in regard to Tourism New Zealands latest campaign made me think about how important it is for motels to take advantage of opportunities. One motel operator will look at this and say wow I hope some of these people stay with me. Another operator will look at it and say Wow there will soon be a lot of people surfing the net looking for Ski related holidays in New Zealand. I need to add a package or a reference to Skiing in New Zealand to my web site so they find me.
Which one are you and how are you going to make the most of every opportunity you see?
Campaign aims to drive Aussies to NZ slopes again
Tourism New Zealand launched Sunday its new early-bird ski campaign aimed at attracting keen Australian skiers and snowboarders to NZ’s slopes.
The tourism body said television commercials would run in Sydney and Brisbane for the next two weeks encouraging Aussies to make early bookings.
It also aims to repeat last year’s early campaign success according to Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler.
“Last year was the first year Tourism New Zealand and the industry went into market with an early ski campaign and we had a strong ski season, with the industry here reporting an influx of Australians on the slopes” he said.
In 2009, New Zealand’s slopes welcomed around 70,000 Australians with Australian holiday arrivals over the winter season of June, July and August up 28% compared to the same period in 2008.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: J.L