Skift Take

Hotel groups are constantly developing new digital initiatives to improve the experiences of their hotel guests. Accor believes that the experiences of the hotel owners they work with are just as important.

In recent years, most large hotel groups have adopted asset-light growth models — meaning they don’t own the actual properties that carry their brands — to free up capital and allow for faster expansion. It’s usually a win-win for both the hotel group and the hotel owner.

Hotel groups need the hotel owners to expand their network footprint and generate fees against the services provided. Meanwhile, hotel owners need hotel groups to select from renowned hotel brands and benefit from powerful distribution and loyalty systems, the latest technology capabilities, and hospitality expert teams.

Accor has a hotel network of 2,900 entities in Europe alone, spread among approximately 800 hotel owners, of different structure type: wealthy individual, family office, private equity, public institution funds, and more. Within each structure, several contacts interact with Accor, such as owners themselves or their representatives, investors, lawyers, asset managers, or even family members. These individuals account for more than 5,000 contacts in the region, and their expectations receive close attention.

SkiftX spoke with Christine Ravanat, Accor’s senior vice president, business-to-owners, about the digital strategy Accor takes when it comes to managing its relationships with its hotel owners and the innovative thinking behind it.

SkiftX: What are some initiatives Accor is taking to drive hotel owner satisfaction in Europe?

Christine Ravanat: Over the past few years, Accor has focused our digital transformation on improving the experience of three key targets: hotel guests, hotel owners, and internal Accor teams. Overall, this means streamlining the processes for each of these targets and providing the best service possible by empowering our teams who handle the relationships with our guests and owners.

When it comes to how we specifically work with our hotel owners, we have built a unique digital ecosystem to best serve them through MAX, our external-facing website and app dedicated to their needs, and WeMAX, an internal platform supporting our team’s relationship management them. MAX and WeMAX each have their dedicated audiences, but constitute one single system to simplify interactions, build loyalty, and develop the business.

SkiftX: Why did Accor decide to address its hotel owners as an audience that needed its own support ecosystem?

Ravanat: Accor pays very close attention to our owners’ needs and ensures they’re benefiting from the best services and newest technologies. We wanted to enable our owners with more transparency, more efficient tools to share information, and more collaboration in decision making. All of this helps build trust, which is the best lever for a long-term partnership.

SkiftX: Can you tell us more about the strategy behind MAX and how it’s used by hotel owners?

Ravanat: The human touch remains essential in building trust and loyalty in sales and business relations, and digital obviously plays a major role in this. This is what MAX is all about: It’s a one-stop shop website and app dedicated to hotel owners to simplify access to a wide range of information, reports, and services, allowing them better interaction with Accor team members, and in the end, better performance of their property.

SkiftX: What are you doing to empower the internal teams at Accor working with hotel owners?

Ravanat: Accor teams interact with hotel owners throughout the entire hotel lifecycle, from hotel prospecting, deal negotiating, contract signing, hotel opening, operating, solutions upselling, and contract renewing. They have two goals when it comes to working with them: to expand the Accor hotel network and to optimize the hotel brand performance.

This requires a ton of internal coordination and communication. The WeMAX platform was designed to help make this process more seamless by providing Accor team members with valuable knowledge on the owners’ past, present, and potential activity. It also allows team members to share this information across local and global teams. It helps us develop hotels, follow hotel performance, and track potential solutions needed. We believe that the better the experience for Accor teams, the better the experience for hotel owners.

SkiftX: How do the different Accor teams work with hotel owners?

Ravanat: About 300 of Accor’s team members directly interact with European hotel owners. We divide them into three groups with specific needs. The “Developers” team has a goal to expand the hotel network. They prospect new hotel opportunities, negotiate deals, and sign the agreements with the owners. The “Operations” team follows the run of the hotel once it’s part of Accor’s network. Their purpose is to sustain the performance of the property by coordinating all Accor resources and demonstrating value to the owner. The last group are the “Solution Experts.” Their purpose is to assist with hotel owners’ specific needs, such as maximizing revenue, mastering costs, easing operations, or empowering hotel staff.

SkiftX: How has this translated to making the jobs easier for Accor’s internal employees?

Ravanat: Efficiency is key. To be more specific, here are some examples of what WeMAX, our internal platform, brings to Accor teams: Our developers can search for any key players currently in a deal through the platform. Our director of operations can easily prepare a business review with an owner or his representative thanks to hotel performance reports, key performance metrics, and key information available in singular platform. Our head of country can identify owners with key issues, contract ending dates, or solution offers which sell best, all at a glance.

MAX, our external platform dedicated to hotel owners, benefits Accor teams as well, particularly through the efficient sharing of information. They no longer need to worry about sending emails, reports, and reviews to owners, as everything is shared automatically in one single channel in MAX. This real-time transparency translates to deeper and more convenient collaboration between Accor teams and hotel owners.

SkiftX: How can this further strengthen hotel expansion?

Ravanat: Our digital ecosystem takes over low-impact tasks to free up time for high-impact, personal exchanges. MAX is a great sales tool for potential owners. It showcases Accor’s value proposition and point of difference. It’s also a great management tool for current owners who now have real-time insight into hotel portfolio performance and other relevant activities. WeMAX allows Accor teams to track and share information, monitor overall portfolio performance, and measure the value of business opportunities. We believe that together, these platforms place Accor at the forefront of the industry and support the company for further hotel expansion.

SkiftX: What has the general response been among Accor’s hotel owners and its internal teams?

Ravanat: Over 12 European countries are now using MAX and WeMAX, with ongoing demands for more digital capabilities. User adoption is high, with 70 percent of our hotel owners engaged on MAX and Accor teams connecting on a daily basis to WeMAX. We’ve found that when you truly make people’s lives easier through digital, transformation becomes a given and organizations adopt change naturally.

This content was created collaboratively by Accor Group and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

Tags: accor, Accor 2019 Year In Review, asset-light, b2b, franchising, hotel owners

Photo credit: Credit: Getty Images