After celebrating a 10-year anniversary, it was time to discover more about the driving forces behind SiteMinder’s ongoing success. In this four-part interview series, co-founders Mike Ford and Mike Rogers talk about their business philosophies, share their expertise, and take a deep dive into SiteMinder’s industry-leading products.
Today, chief technical officer Mike Rogers speaks about the creation of SiteMinder’s online distribution solution The Channel Manager, and its unique pricing intelligence tool Prophet.
As discussed previously by Mike Rogers and Mike Ford, SiteMinder has excelled from its start-up phase of development to become a world-leading hotel technology provider, enabling properties across the globe to better manage their online distribution, capture direct bookings, optimise their website, connect with corporate business, and set their rates.
All this in little more than 10 years is an impressive feat and it’s the quality of the products that has driven such success.
Here Mike Rogers tells us more about SiteMinder’s launch product The Channel Manager, its newest addition Prophet, and what goes into building new systems.
A look behind the makings of ‘The Channel Manager’
Establishing connection with online travel agents and generating more efficient bookings for hotels was the first priority for SiteMinder when it was founded. However, a simple problem doesn’t always have a simple solution, explains Mike.
“Conceptually it’s pretty straightforward, but really difficult to implement. Previously if you wanted to distribute your rates, availability, restrictions etc. to all the online systems without a channel manager you would sign up to various OTAs, log in and manage your rates and availability manually on each one. Not only does this become tedious and error-prone but it’s prohibitive because it becomes too hard to sell on more than a couple of channels at any particular time.”
This is time and effort hotels simply couldn’t afford if they wanted a strong revenue stream to build a profitable business. The Channel Manager dissolves huge amounts of time and hassle, according to Mike.
“The Channel Manager is about giving you a single interface where you can connect to all your distribution channels at once. Initially it might just seem like a time-saving purpose but then you realise it’s just as easy to manage 10 channels as three, so you end up joining more channels and distributing across a broader range of OTAs and soon you have the chance to connect to wholesalers and GDSs.
“It’s also more than that because it connects back to your property management system. Every time you get a reservation, we’re dropping them straight into your PMS so there’s no need to manually enter them back into the system.
“Whenever you change inventory it gets automatically sent out to your booking channels. This two-way connection saves so much time, which can then be spent on other things like pricing strategy. We get so many hotels who see a large increase in revenue after setting up purely because they can manage their rates more accurately.”
A look behind the makings of Prophet
Revenue management is a complicated issue for hotels to stay on top of. Ensuring the correct rates are being shopped, costs are within normal range, and where to delegate budget is a constant headache.
With Prophet, SiteMinder never intended to build a revenue management system per se, but wanted to make things as simple as possible for the hotelier. Mike reveals the thinking behind the project.
“Prophet isn’t a revenue management system, it’s a recommendation and business intelligence system. It’s about getting information to hoteliers so they can make their own decisions on how they want to manage their room inventory.
“If you look at smaller properties, do they really need a complex revenue management system to tell them what the price of their rooms should be when they’ve only got 10 boutique rooms? Prophet was born on the idea of avoiding difficult software configuration and hard-to-grasp revenue management strategies.
“It’s going to have a very long trajectory, we’ll be bringing more and more information into the system over time, but still present it in a simple way that customers can get their heads around. From day one we want them to be thinking ‘this is easy to use’.”
Prophet is a tool that gives hoteliers a lot of control, allowing them to set rules and notifications based on their own preferences. However, it includes a healthy amount of programmed intelligence and expertise.
“We knew just by interacting with customers that for many hoteliers pricing their rooms was partially by gut-feel. We were wondering how exactly they were coming to their conclusions. Rather than telling hotels what to do, we’re giving them information in a very digestible way.
“We alert them based on their preferences to let them know when they might need to make adjustments. In that way it’s an advisory system that can save you a lot of time and help you get your pricing right.”
A look behind SiteMinder’s ongoing hotel technology development
Ongoing development and innovation is a passion that runs throughout every aspect of the SiteMinder business and Mike explains that a new product is always a serious undertaking.
“It’s very difficult. You have to be careful not to overthink it. You ask yourself how can you build just the ‘right’ thing so it can make it to market and people can use it in its simplest form, so there’s not a 100 facets that people have to learn. You have to understand your initial core values well and build those pieces simply so the hotels can understand and use them quickly. Then you need to get a good feedback loop going so you can see what does or doesn’t work and what hotels genuinely want as new features. That’s a pretty universal concept, but the hard part is actually managing to achieve it without too many hiccups.”
Existing products are never put to bed either.
“We have a very excited product crew here so it’s always about driving forward. Whether it’s adding new PMSs or new channels, or enhancing connection, or working on the next phases of Canvas, it’s definitely a constant process.
“I catch up with Mike Ford all the time and talk about product and so do the other people we work with. There’s definitely not a feeling of ‘wow this has been a hard slog’. It’s still super exciting to create new products and see customers getting value out of them. We’re certainly not going to stop and just milk these existing products for as long as we can.
“You’ve got to keep innovating – and not just because of competitors – it’s actually fun to take on the challenge of the changing technology landscape.”
Make sure you tune in next week for Mike Ford’s views on the makings of TheBookingButton and Canvas.