Five Commandments of Voice and Data Management

I. The First Commandment: Thou Shalt Believe in Your Own Capacity to Understand

The Description: If your vendor, supplier, or service provider canít make you understand precisely what they are talking about in ten minutes or less, then they lack an adequate command of their subject matter and need to be escorted out of you office.

Among the biggest barriers to successful voice and data management is the fallacy that the topic is just ďtoo technicalĒ for the average hotel manager. If itís too technical, the salesperson or technician sitting across from you doesnít have adequate command of the topic. Itís not you.

The Amusing Illustrative Anecdote: The manager of a 200 room, full service, downtown hotel receives a voice long distance bill that is approximately 10 times larger than ever before. The manager examines occupancy, telephone revenues, and call accounting volumes and can find no common sense reason for the increase.

The manager asks the long distance carrier to look into the billing. The carrier gives the manager a long, incomprehensible technical explanation of how the manager should look elsewhere because carrier-billing systems are incapable of making such errors.

In a complete state of confusion, the manager now goes looking at other vendors, PABX, call accounting local carrier etc. as the responsible party. Months go by, problem persists.

The new manager assigned to the problem demands that the carrier look into and explain the billing increase. Carrier discovers that they are billing hotel for their own traffic plus the telemarketing agency down the street. Overbilling stops...refunds paid.

II. The Commandment: Thou Shalt Manage (And not schlep around)

The Description: Managers are at their best when they are utilizing good information to execute decisions that solve problems or maximize opportunities. Managers are not at their best when they are conducting research projects necessitated by bad management processes.

The Amusing Illustrative Anecdote: Two carriers propose programs that are virtually the same except for a $.00025 price per minute differential and one other ďminorĒ difference. The more expensive carrierís monthly billing will represent call traffic for the calendar month while the less expensive carrierís billing will represent traffic from the sixteenth of the month through the fifteenth of the following month.

Who do you choose?

The least expensive program? Wrong! (meaning we respectfully disagree)

In order to manage your profitability, you will need to regularly monitor your usage costs to corresponding revenues. Your revenue period is calendar month. In this case, the carrier with the cheaper rate has made the correlation just about impossible because the cost period does not match the revenue period. The $.00025 per minute savings is not sufficient to offset the management inconvenience. Where possible make your decision based upon which program is easier to manage.

III. The Commandment: Thou Shalt only Rely Upon Answers That You Can Verify

The Description: In attempting to gain answers to the fundamental questions of telephone department management, never accept answers that you cannot verify to be true or applicable to your particular circumstance.

The Amusing Illustrative Anecdote: A general manager takes over a new hotel. Among the first thing she notices is a telephone department profitability that is substantially lower than that which she has seen at previous properties.

The manager calls the Corporate Headquarters who informs the manager that, they believe, the reason for the low profit margin is the fact that non-revenue generating, Toll Free 800/888 calls have dramatically increased industry wide. The manager decides that the experts at corporate know best, and scratches telecom off of her things to worry about list.

While the 800/888-volume increase might be a generally true statement, it wasnít the reason for the poor profitability at this hotel. The reason was a malfunctioning Call Accounting to PMS interface that failed to post 25% of the revenue eligible calls. Had the manager identified Corporate's answer as unusable, then she would have kept looking and uncovered the problem much sooner.

IV. The Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Worship False Idols

The Description: Never rely on Advice from Sources Who are Not Accountable for the Repercussions of that Advice. Every technology and network provider that deals with the hotel industry knows that hotel managers are hungry for any assistance that they can get. Frequently they will insert themselves in a consultancy role to the property issuing advice thatís outside their core expertise and outside their accountability.

Amusing Illustrative Anecdote: Long distance sales manager is interviewing prospective long distance sales rep'í to sell to the hotel industry. Twenty three-year-old salesman from a competitor comes in to interview.

Interviewer: When selling to hotels, how do you differentiate yourself and your company from the competition.

Interviewee: I try to convince the manager that Iím not just his salesperson but his telecommunications consultant as well.

Interviewer: But you donít have any practical experience outside of selling long distance. (and not much of that).

Interviewee: Thatís true, but they donít know that.

V. The Commandment: Thou Shalt Best Serve Your Guests by Managing Well

The Description: In this case managing well means realizing maximum profitability through ensuring that the department is operating at maximum efficiency.

The Amusing Illustrative Anecdote: An airport hotel was getting more and more complaints from guests regarding excessive rates on bill-to-room long distance calls. Market study reveals that rates are nearly 50% higher than competitors. When asked why rates were so high, hotel manager responded that frequent rate increases were required to offset profitability decline.

By focussing on efficiency performance, rather than rate increases, the property was able to reduce rates to competitive levels and increase net profitability.

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