Tarandeep Singh’s Blog

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The Right Customer

I was reading an interview of Puneet Mahindroo who heads the Revenue Management & Distribution at Taj Hotels and he points out the Right Customer being the most critical to address.

Well, I agree to this (and more so considering that I have worked with the man and have been influenced a lot on the RM front) and more so it makes me recall the RM definition of how the Selling of the Right Product at the Right Time to the Right Customer got modified a bit and there came in the selling through the Right Distribution Channel as well.

The competitive pricing in our industry has over the years made us look back to not only our revenue streams but also on the expense side as well. And for three years with the Taj where I was managing RM at various positions, I preached on the original theory but at the same time realized the importance of the distribution platforms as well. The clear and definitive balance that acknowledges long-term and sustainable customer relationships, as he points out, is important to our business and equally important is the fact that the short term tactical rate optimization should not harm this balance. However, this is where I feel that we have a great task on our hands.

India is still going through its learning curve as far as the OTAs and E-Distribution Channels channels are concerned in the lodging domain. And the trends have been exciting and alarming at the same time. I remember, once Expedia representatives were giving us a presentation on their company and the stated that for every 3 people that come to their website, at least 1 calls up the hotel directly or books on hotel website for the booking. So it also acts as a search engine for various customers.

3 years hence, when I am part of a corporate profile and manage my own hotel bookings (unlike the other verticals in my company) within India and abroad, I have realized the importance of Expedia, Travelocity, Make My Trip and most importantly the one that I am hooked upon – Kayak!! And this is all when the company does enjoy special corporate rates with various hotel companies. But a little effort and I end up saving a considerable amount – either for my company or the client who is paying most of the times for my hotel stay.

So, going back to the Right Customer, I am not sure if this balance is as easy to maintain as it’s said. There is supposedly one strategy at the hotel level that drives revenues. This strategy is totally inclined towards the past year performance (usually numbers thrown by a PMS) OR the effort of the sales person to convince the unit to give a better rate on account of overall importance of the account.

Then while on the grind, the task for the RM gets into a different mould of striving to achieve budgets and maintaining the first position in the RevPar Premium City Set. And this is where the magic lies. The magic of getting into a tangent mode and there you have a new RM strategy which drives its’ own numbers and who cares about the Right Customer??

I wish the likes of Optims (Amadeus RMS) and Ideas will be able to account for the customer (company) profile, it’s loyalty to the unit hotel and/or hotel group and then throw up the numbers that it does while the Group Tool is used. And I am assuming this is being used and not that they are being used for taking out lovely graphs for the RM & Projection meetings on weekly basis. And if not, I think there is a lot required to be done at the shop floor level on training people and most importantly retaining them. You do not want to be training ground for the Alofts, Four Points, Hiltons, Dusit Thanis, Moevenpicks of the world to come over into your country and take over your most important asset – Employee apart from the Customer that they will take for sure as all are to eat from the same pie.

RM is both a Strategic and Tactical function. And Puneet did talk about this as well. There needs to be a 1-3-6-9-12 month strategy in place and within the current month, there can be a week to week and day to day detailing (Did someone say – God is in the Details!!). Some time back I was presenting a proposal to the owner, GM, DOS and RM of a leading Delhi hotel on a RM assignment considering that they are really lying low on the city set chart. The DOSM who had recently joined came into defensive and it was hard to convince him. My only question was what is the strategy to tap the Def Expo business for next year when you have an open rate of 8000 Rs available on the open channels and realizing that there is always a short supply of rooms in the city and the Def Expo participants usually book much in advance. The answer to that was simple that I could figure out– There is no Strategic Policy in place. And the result will be again for him and the team to see.

While we all will continue to talk and debate about so many things to be done on the RM front, I have rarely seen a concrete road map for this. With new kids on the block every 1 year, I am sure it does get difficult for the RM bosses as well to put their thoughts into action. How many of these new kids have even realized the importance of the hot seat they are in. One pricing decision can impact revenues to a great extent – Right or Wrong is anybody’s guess. One has to live in the future to be a leader but at the expense of not realizing the present, it can bounce back hard.

I wish the roots are strong enough for any organization to take care of the fruits that will hang over a period of time. And to strengthen the roots, you require good nourishment in the form of motivation and regular training. And I hope it’s’ done soon.


October 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

The Saga of CWG & Incredible India

I am on board Indian Railways as I continue my journey from Agra to Jaipur (of course on business!!) and this story is on the brand standards that we have created for ourselves across the world

I started the day at 0400 hrs, took the Bhopal Shatabdi at New Delhi Railway Station at 0615 hrs after picking up a colleague from The Lalit hotel at Barakhamba Road New Delhi. Onboard I was going through a daily newspaper and was not so amazed to find quite a few articles on the Commonwealth Games preparation whether it’s infrastructure or our own readiness or the proposed change in behavior that is now being sought after (maybe to shift focus from the slow pace of infrastructure)

We are talking about getting ourselves ready for the CWG and I was taking a train early in the morning from Paharganj side. The traffic jam that prevailed at the traffic light right in front of the entrance of the station was amazing. Of course I had a good dose of honking in the morning to begin with. The good bit was that the train started on time (considering it originates from Delhi), the service was good (if not great) and the meal quality was also fine (I am not going to compare it with in-flight meal service here).

And there I was reading all those articles. Reached Agra and was welcomed to the city of monument of love by nothing less than a mess. It was raining when we reached and the site of the railway station, the only other option apart from road, would have put our railway and tourism minister to shame. The exit of the station on both sides has for some reason iron bars in zig zag manner so the crowd has to wait and go one by one to move out. The problem is that the taxi operators are pouncing on one another to get the foreign tourist into their taxi. Even though the pre paid taxi service booth is just in front with two policemen doing the clerical job, there is absolutely no control on the way the cars are moving out, the way drivers are dressed, check on the car numbers leaving the parking bay. And if you hear these taxi men fighting with each other, it further puts you to shame. They use all kinds of abusive language thinking that only foreigners are around them and talk in a nice sweet language the moment they approach the tourist.

The rain had ensured that both sides of the exit were full of standing water. While leaving the parking, a policeman is just to be shown even from a distance that the pre paid slip has been collected. The main exit of the station is again worth visiting. The road is surrounded by the “Shudh Vaishno Dhabas” on both sides with of course a Sarkari Theka!! There is absolutely no drainage system that I could see and hence the roads were flooded with rain water. The moment you leave the station, you find endless planter guards in green triangular shape that are supposed to protect saplings from getting destroyed by the easily available herd of cattle on roads. Unfortunately there are hardly any saplings that are being protected by these metallic guards and all they are doing is to provide a good marketing opportunity for advertising and you see the LIC and the BSNL advts all along. Someone has been smart enough in the government to first come up with a great idea and then sell it within the public sector to get further advertising revenues. The best is yet to come though. Amongst this endless sight of guards I found a few that had some broken flowerpots placed in the centre with of course a dead sapling hanging from it. Why on earth you will place regular earthen flowerpots on road sides and cover them with metallic guards. Half of them would have got picked up on the night they were placed and the rest were left to die a natural death.

I reached my hotel to again find a pool of water at the entrance and the reason was simple, there was absolutely no famed Nalla anywhere. Where will the water go and I am on Taj Road the one that actually leads to the Taj Mahal.

So this is the plight of affairs at a destination which is bound and destined to get the maximum pull of visitors when the CWG begins or ends as part of various itineraries and I am sure using the morning Shatabdi or Train for that matter will be a sought after option for most of the tourists.

Just in case Delhi is able to change, let’s imagine for a moment, I am sure the tourists are going to get a shock treatment at Agra. My humble request to the ministers in Delhi Government to please ask Behen Mayawati to get the Agra taxi drivers and guides to attend the training sessions in Delhi. All in the name of brand standards and the brand being Incredible India!!

My journey continues now from Agra to Jaipur and the 2965 Gwalior Udaipur Superfast Train is already running late by 30 minutes. Another eye opener for the tourist of 2010. When you travel AC Chair Car on Shatabdi you will be given a newspaper, a Flask of Tea, Breakfast, Mineral Water bottle. Now when you continue your journey from Agra to Jaipur (and the AC chair car in this train is full of these tourists) you just get nothing. Boarding the train at 1745 and a scheduled arrival time in Jaipur at 2215 hrs. An attendant with water has passed now at 2131 hours. I requested for a cup of tea and the attendant is yet to come by. The attendant serving snacks – veg cutlet and omelet + bread had nothing even close to warm snacks and of course you are to pay for everything unlike the complimentary stuff that you got in the morning. Now look at the math:
Delhi to Agra – 195 kms – 740 Rs – AC Chair Car Approx 4 Rs per Km
Agra to Jaipur – 245 kms – 610 Rs – AC Chair Car Approx 2 Rs per km

So by saving 2 Rs per km, the railways decided to not offer anything on board the 5 hour journey. Ok, but at least give some decent options and above all the service. Or may be learn from the LCAs. You book on Indigo online and have an option to add a meal of your choice. Why not copy that? Alternatively, please mention on the tickets that you will be served any meals or not. We could have got some decent stuff packed from the hotel and had on board.

My journey will now continue to Jaipur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Khajuraho and will end in Delhi thereafter. I am sure I will some more eye openers for the people responsible. But is there someone listening?

October 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment