In our series, ‘Questionnaire for Revenue Managers,’ managers and consultants describe what their everyday business looks like and what challenges they regularly face. Today, we talk to Kirsten Lang, who works as a consultant for hotel groups. She specializes in revenue management and advising and coaching hotels on ways to optimize their business processes and revenue/PMS system implementations.
Why exactly did you choose this job?
My passion for revenue management started in the early days of the field, about fifteen years ago. Even then, it intrigued me how all hotel processes and commercial decisions interlink through revenue management. With the right mindset and focus on setting up basic business processes in the right way (i.e., market segmentation, pricing structures, correct data sets, demand forecasts, etc.), the structure is there for applying revenue management techniques. These techniques immediately have a huge impact on revenue and profitability. The combination of developing strategies, planning and implementing them, and having to deal not only with systems and figures, but also with (persuading) people, creates interesting and varied work. It’s a very rewarding and dynamic job!
What would make your work easier?
I would like to see more awareness of the revenue potential that comes with a structural approach to revenue management (RM). One way to show this is to run scenarios measuring the direct impact of RM on revenue for a hotel that does not yet fully dedicate resources to it.
In addition, there is an overload of data available that can be used in revenue management. We need ways and tools to keep those “big data” manageable and avoid “analysis paralysis,” by being able to pre-define the exceptions we would like to be informed about and in which way.
What kinds of challenges does a consultant for revenue management face every day?
The biggest challenge in revenue management is still the “gut feeling” factor. Especially in hotels where management personnel have been in place for a long time and think they know their business and market inside and out, RM decisions are often made intuitively. It requires quite a culture change to get them to try out and measure different RM strategies or tools.
Also, the tendency of many hotels to consider only the pricing management as a RM tactic is quite a challenge. My job is to make them aware that the main revenue impact can be achieved through more strategic shifting of business mix, length of stay restrictions, proper group displacement analysis, etc., instead of by merely changing the BAR rates every day.
Is there anything that you do that could be automated?
All relevant data could go into one platform that makes it easy to spot high-level trends and exceptions, then filters information down for more detailed analysis. Also, reputation management (online reviews) could be a bigger part of pricing decisions. Finally, automation can help ensure that all RM decisions are measured in NetRevPar (excluding the cost of distribution).
There are some reallynice toolsavailable on the market, but, unfortunately, they are not yet widely used in non-chain hotels.
Which of your tasks are the easiest and which are the most difficult?
If there is a Revenue Management System in place, most of the business analysis, monitoring of results, and (automated) decision uploads make RM much easier and more strategic by reducing the tactical workload. The most difficult task is screening the data quality at all source levels to determine whether it is ‘clean,’ so that the GIGO principle will not pollute all analysis and decisions.
Which of your revenue manager tools could you not do without?
A demand forecast! I cannot understand how any revenue manager would be able to make any proper RM decisions without having a daily demand forecast in place.
And what would you say is your “secret weapon”? How do you use it?
I believe in involving people from various disciplines and all organizational layers right from the start. This helps create understanding, foster commitment, build the right mindset, and remove resistance, and it makes them feel that changes are “theirs.” Also, ensuring that all processes are as lean as possible is important, so the team does not feel any unnecessary workload.
If you look into the future, what does the role of a revenue manager look like?
It will be the “geek that can speak.” :-) In-depth knowledge of business analysis, technology, digital strategy, etc., will be even more important than now. At the same time, a revenue manager should not become ‘an island’ in a hotel organization. (S)he should also be able create a shared responsibility among all teams (RM, Reservations, Sales, Marketing, Finance, etc.). Also, the focus on total hotel revenue (including function space, F&B, spa, etc.) will evolve.
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Kirsten Lang is a native German, born in Switzerland. She has worked in ten countries and now lives in The Netherlands, speaking fluent Dutch, German and English. She has two daughters, loves to play tennis and dine out with friends, and still seizes every opportunity to travel the world.