Friday, August 31, 2012

What if there were a Distribution Doctor?

Yesterday at Mike Pusateri's memorial service I was talking with Gideon Dean and he was telling me about his firm's HotelDoctor™ program - an intensive multi-day program to help a hotel property turn around to reach profitability. I was intrigued. 

[And lest you think that it was disrespectful to talk business at a memorial service, Gideon and I agreed that it would have made Mike very happy to see that people that he had introduced were finding ways to do new things together).

It made me think of what the Rx would look like for suppliers for distribution. 

1. Make your products/services as accessible as possible to professional travel agents (yes, even through GDS). Trust me on this one the yield IS higher and covers the cost of distribution.)

2. Know your fully burdened internal cost of attracting customers to each of your channels and especially the web.   Don't forget to include both online and offline brand spending aimed at driving online traffic.  Consumer direct is fine, but can be your lowest yield if you guarantee the lowest rate. Having your products on sale 7x24x365 simply can't produce the best yield.

3. Weigh the volume that you can get from OTAs (where you pay nothing for the aggregation of those buyers because they invest tens of millions to attract consumers) and make sure that the commission or merchant/net rate deal doesn't exceed your internal costs and that your direct yield is actually higher than the OTA. It is pretty silly to pay to shift channels AND get a lower rate for your product.

4.  Revisit your position on the use of metasearch (whether you do or you don't participate) and measure the cost against your other distribution costs.

5. Know your break even occupancy/ capacity and understand opaque, deals sites and last minute options to fill excess capacity (even at lower price). But beware, it must be gravy to you. This is a bad basic strategy in isolation of the others.

6. Don't be a sheep. Sheep follow other sheep. Think for yourself. Do your own math.

Tweak, Rinse, Repeat.....

Need help? Just give the distribution doctor a call.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Monday, August 27, 2012

Another goodbye to an industry colleague and friend

Mike Pusateri Wow, in as many weeks, I have said goodbye to two amazing men in the travel industry.

Yesterday afternoon I learned of the untimely death of Mike Pusateri. 

I first met Mike when he was the COO and SVP of the US Travel Association (then TIA).  TIA had just taken over the TravelCom conference and since I was on the board, I had the pleasure of working closely with Mike. 

Mike and I worked together on a number of initiatives, both related to the conference and for his company, Vantage Strategies and mine, Solutionz.  He was also on the board of one of my start up ventures.  I also worked with Mike on the startup of Ataway Exchange, the industry's newest conference. 

Mike was a friend and mentor.  He had boundless energy and enthusiasm and he fearlessly pursued his vision to help the industry embrace new ways of marrying buyers and sellers and to tap into the power of technology to make that happen. 

He was loved and respected and will be sorely missed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. 

This is one more reminder to cherish life.

The family made final arrangements for Mike this morning.  

There will be a Remembrance Tribute and Celebration of Life held on Thursday, August 30th between 4-8 pm at Lasting Tributes Funeral Care, 814 Bestgate Rd. Annapolis, MD. 21401

Online condolences may be made at:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Complaint about complaints - Help Us Help You!

The old complaint form shown here was actually a pretty smart idea, as it walked people through what was needed to handle their complaints.  
What we need is an online equivalent to help online companies help those who have had problems buying online.
This is a huge departure from my normal blog topic, so let me back up, as you may wonder why I'm writing this blog about complaints. 
In addition to running my strategic consulting firm that specializes in distribution, I have the pleasure of running one of the largest hotel sites in the country.  And one of the things that I get to do as the CEO of the company is to handle all of the written complaints and complaints that come through the Better Business Bureau.
I am not going to make this a commercial for that site, but suffice it to say that after less than two years, we are in the Top 100 travel sites as reported by Hitwise. 
[For anyone that has tried to grow an online business you will understand the magnitude of reaching that milestone in such a short period of time. ]
Back to the topic of complaints.  Fortunately, out of tens of thousands of reservations per month, we have only had a total of about 30 written complaints in the 23 months that we have been in business.
Out of those, a whopping 100% are missing some critical piece of information in order for us to either research the problem or to contact them when we have resolved their complaint (or if we need more information, which is most often the case).
Here are the essential elements of a complaint about an online transaction. 
·      Your name and phone number in case we need more information.
·      The confirmation number.  If there are more than one numbers on the document, include all relevant numbers (or better yet, just forward or include a copy of the original confirmation in your complaint).  For hotel reservations, there is often an itinerary number (internal to the retailer) and a hotel confirmation number. 
·      The email that you used to make the reservation.  For our system, this is how we retrieve the reservation.
·      The salient details of the complaint (normally the client is pretty good at this one!)
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that if you run an online site, you should actually have a form on your website or a section where you tell people what you need from the consumer in order to research a complaint.
If you are a consumer, just know that we want to help.  We want to resolve issues. 
Help us help you!

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