Monetization of Customer Experience for hotels – Big Data & Sentiment Analysis


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Big Data must create value – real and tangible economic value for it to be meaningful. And it must do more than just what a traditional Datawarehouse could achieve. Taking structured transactional data, putting it in a Datawarehouse and mining it for statistical analysis to obtain customer insights is nothing new or revolutionary for all of us to spend so much time talking about. So the volume of data generated, the velocity it is generated with, the variety that the data holds, its variability and its veracity (the 5 Vs of Big Data) only hold relevance if there is Value (the Big V) of that data to begin with. The maximum amount of data (and one with largest growth rate) that is being generated nowadays is unstructured and with cameras in every phone, a lot of this data consists of multimedia like video and pictures. Tagging these videos with metadata and annotations tries to put some structure around these large files. For example, when you watch a video on Youtube, how does it know what else to “recommend”, what to “feature” and what to “suggest”? Youtube’s search ranking algorithm tries to constantly stay ahead of the game by delivering the most relevant and engaging content, so as to optimise the return-on-investment for its advertisers. Similarly, TripAdvisor’s ability to put structure around the large volume of its unstructured data (namely hotel reviews, pictures, ratings, etc.) is proving to be financially successful for both itself and its partners. One reality of all this large volume of data being created rapidly is how do you, as a hotelier, stay ahead of the game and continuously innovate to make more money than your competitors? What is it that should be measured and what should be ignored?

For purposes of illustration we can look at Hotel industry’s adoption of Sentiment Analysis and how it has used the technology to positively influence its room pricing abilities. Hotel industry is abuzz with something called “Online Reputation Management”. Hotel Customer Journey Customer Experience StagesOnline Reputation Management is not just good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), it is the ability to measure (and hence manage) what your customers perceive of you and what they want others to think of you based on their experiences with you. So in a way you are trying to influence what your customers are saying online about their experiences with you in order to influence others to make a purchase with you. What your customers say of you and how you engage with them is the fundamental building block of any customer experience lifecycle. For hotels, this means that sentiment analysis and online reputation management are key aspects of Digital Customer Experience.

Companies like Radian6 (SalesForce Subsidiary in Canada), ReviewPro (Spain), Brand Karma (US) Hootsuite (US), ViralHeat (US) and SocialNuggests (US), ClaraBridge, SentiRate and TrustYou(with US based subsidiary called Review Analyst) along with the field’s largest player TripAdvisor are all trying to tame the large volume of data consisting of hotel reviews (mostly text for now) in meaningful manner. Additionally, it is creating substantial all-round economic value. For hotels it’s creating the ability for them to charge higher premiums compared to their competitors. For customers it is giving them the ability to get maximum value for their money by learning in advance what experiences to expect when onsite the hotel property. For technology providers, it is creating ability to offer a host of new age services both to the businesses like hotels as well as directly to customers. Larger technology players like Tripadvisor are minting money multiple ways. From offering value added services to customers by becoming the default site for hotel value comparisons (both price and reputation comparisons), they are able to sell digital real estate to the highest bidder for ad space as well as charging commissions to hotels for bookings generated from their website. In the end both the customer and the hotels get exactly what they are looking for – increased value for their money….

Monetization of Sentiment Analysis is one of biggest challenge that the technology players in the “Customer Experience” field are constantly working to solve and when done right, it unlocks tremendous economic potential for everyone…

A Hotel Page on TripAdvisorA Hotel Page on TripAdvisor

Ideal Reputation Management software can process all this data to highlight performance trends, areas for improving the guest experience of a hotel property or areas of competitive advantage. It would also highlight the, preferably in a predictive manner, the scenarios of “service lapses” as well as help you keep tabs on the feelings and sentiments of your top money generating guests by monitoring their online comments, tweets, recommendations and utilisation of competitors’ hotels (think experience-based-customer-segmentation merged with lifetime-customer-value). In a good-case scenario, the sentiment analysis would be based on at least a 5 dimensional model. First would be the Primary Language (or localisation) – Choice of audience with varying primary Language, their use of basic grammar and how multilingual backgrounds make the analysis of English text complicated. Second would the temporal aspects – Changing spellings and grammar of the Gen Ys and Gen Z from the baby boomers and Gen Xs . Thirdly the Domain specific terminology E.g. A bus in transport means something very different from a bus in computer hardware. Similarly the word “hot” has a different meaning in fashion than it does in cuisine. Predictive Analysis would be fifth. Finally, Contextualisation – Use of word “prime” in mathematics means very different from its use in real-estate. Building on these pillars, Big Data can be used for the development of a vocabulary model for sentiment analysis, its practical applications and limitations.

Hotel-centric algorithms can be directly extended to bars, clubs, restaurants, retail, airlines, car rental companies, cruise, resorts, etc. Using understanding of Semantic Technologies, industry specific vocabulary models can be created for the sister-industries.

Next imagine a world of video reviews (like Youtube) and picture reviews (hint: Pinterest) all getting organised and sorted to provide meaningful analysis for customers shopping the market for their ideal honeymoon destination or their dream vacation or just a weekend getaway… when you merge the potential of technology evolutions (Big Data & Sentiment Analysis) with a business concepts (online reputation management and Customer Experience), it starts to unlock substantial financial benefits.

Tremendous opportunity with lots of money for everyone to make… Are you game?

Abhishek Singh
Currently, Abhishek holds the responsibility for conceptualizing, implementing and managing the IT product strategies for Infosys subsidiary, EdgeVerve, in the Digital space. Prior to this, several years at Singapore Airlines as well as his years of entrepreneurship ingrained in him the importance of customer experience.


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