These days consumers have active voices in demanding services in hospitality and entertainment, from hotels and travel to events, theme parks and cruise lines. Faced with intense price pressures and the influence of consumers on others through social media, the hospitality industry struggles to adjust to shifting demand fast enough to optimize operations to reach the desired financial outcomes. The best way to understand, demand and tailor services to it is to use analytics to understand the voice of the consumer. The goal is to provide high-quality service at prices that deliver optimal margins for the organization, but it's a combination not easy to balance.

The hospitality industry provides services that must be managed like any other supply chain, from marketing and sales to fulfillment at any location. It has to deliver the experience the customer expects while managing the workforce to meet quality-of-service requirements and finance to reach profitability goals. This supply chain is complicated by silos of applications and underlying data that are not easy to access, let alone analyze. Making these systems available is the first step toward applying analytics across the service chain.

To improve future outcomes of its services, the hospitality industry has to understand what the voice of the customer is saying and the impact of consumers' reviews of services. Analytics can measure these factors across social media forums such as group discussion sites or Twitter on the Internet. A range of text analytics can determine the sentiments of consumers, and feedback management software can bring depth to the customer satisfaction survey. Like other industries, hospitality has to support multiple channels of interaction from agencies, online sites and even contact centers where information is required to make a purchasing decision. The front-office organizations of marketing, sales and customer service can use analytics and these channels to make significant impacts on the financial outcome of the organization. My colleague recently pointed out the importance of social media and customer service.

The workforce is an especially critical element of service in hospitality that should not be underestimated. Analytics can be applied to the attributes of the workforce in recruitment and retention, to identify education to provide through learning systems or to coach them on new practices in interaction with customers. Applying workforce analytics for determining who to attract and to assess the performance of those in the organization can help manage this important factor in the customer experience. Human Resources can help operations be more effective, and using analytics and metrics on the workforce can provide a baseline for dialogue on improving the customer's opinion of the business.

Analytics can help maximize the value of services in hospitality by balancing spend in marketing and sales and in staffing and fulfillment. It can provide deeper knowledge than merely increasing or decreasing spending based on volume; to communicate this knowledge for everything from food planning to coordination with suppliers is essential to optimize profitability. In addition the necessary business governance across the organization from financials to operations can be automated to ensure adherence to policies through use of analytics on the underlying data. This can apply to regulatory compliance, customer activities or safety of employees in the work environment. Governance, risk and compliance (GRC) strategies are especially critical for this industry to ensure safety and take preventive action, and in the process limit negative impacts on brands and reputation.

To take the kinds of steps outlined above, the hospitality industry has to use technology that is more capable than spreadsheets and e-mail. At the same time analysis should not be limited to traditional structured data but must make text and interactions of customers available for review and analysis. One step further, hospitality companies need to invest in predictive analytics that go beyond response models from marketing to examine utilization of resources and costing to determine optimal levels of profitability. This is where the finance group can play a key role by evaluating analytics that can be used across the entire organization to go well beyond just budgeting and planning to set guidelines for the entire demand chain from marketing to fulfillment.

Our examination over the last several years shows that the hospitality industry is in the early stages of adopting analytics; doing so requires some maturation of technology to support these business imperatives. To optimize consumer brand potential and profitability, Hospitality will need to become smart stewards of its data to support the analytics required to be not just efficient but effective and profitable. Getting away from the silos of spreadsheets and the inefficiency of electronic mail is a must; you need an analytic process that operates across the service chain of activities and helps business areas work collaboratively. That requires an effort to find the right technology that meets your requirements for budget and speed of deployment.

Mark also blogs at