Jost: Quality remains undervalued as a hard data point in hotel pricing


TrustYou Expands Beyond Hospitality, Evaluates Remote / Hybrid Work Model

EVEN though the space for hotel reviews and sentiment analysis has been around for about 15 years – Circos Brand Karma was founded in 2006, TrustYou in 2008 and Revinate 2009, to name just a few of the startups in this area. industry, it is still “completely undervalued,” said Benjamin Jost, CEO and co-founder of hotel reputation management software platform TrustYou.

“Quality as a hard data point is always underused and underestimated by hoteliers,” he told WiT in an interview with Zoom from his Hamburg office. “Look at how much emphasis is still placed on price and revenue management, rather than quality metrics. There is a reason it is more difficult to look at reputation management analysis and combine it with price analysis; hoteliers are used to looking at pure price measures.

Benjamin Jost: “The world of journals which was used more for long-term strategic decisions has also evolved into an operational matrix.

Being optimistic however, he hopes that Covid and the industry’s desire to rebuild better with quality tourism will speed up hoteliers’ thinking to continue their business using quality data points rather than just price.

“If you take a hotel that charges $ 150 with a score of 9 versus a hotel that charges $ 120 with a score of 7, the consumer will choose 9. A few hoteliers understand this, but the vast majority still don’t. “

Jost had just returned from a management retirement where the company, which was acquired by Japanese Recruit Holdings in 2017, spent a few days looking at its future as well as the space in which it operates.

There are two big priorities on his plate – how to reorganize his workplace and teams into a new world of remote working and add non-hospital and travel-related verticals such as tours and activities, attractions and experiences. restaurants on its platform, which evolved into a more proactive live chat product, covering stays before, during and after customers.

On the workforce side, its team of 160 people is widely distributed with offices in Madrid, Munich, San Diego, Singapore, Tokyo and Romania. It has an office in Munich that can accommodate 100 employees, but “now on the good days 10 people are coming in,” Jost said. “Our challenge is how to keep the TrustYou culture intact with remote working and a hybrid model. “

While reducing office space might save some costs, Jost said, “In the end, it’ll probably cost a lot more money if we’re going to do it right – because all of those savings would go towards organizing events. meetings and team interaction events, getting all the teams together and getting everyone together.

The new model poses interesting challenges in attracting and retaining talent. “The days of hiring an engineer in Romania for 50 to 60% less than in Germany or Spain for 30% less are over. There is now a level playing field for talent in terms of pay level and we can now hire anyone in Europe, regardless of location.

“Getting the right salary scale will be a challenge – we can no longer consider paying Romanian or German salaries, but rethinking the grid of junior, middle and senior talent and hiring to fit into that grid. “

On the business side, Jost said it made sense for TrustYou to add tours and activities, attractions and restaurants to its underlying technology and “focus on streamlining before, during and after travel.”

“We want to create a platform that anyone can use and that is agnostic for every leg of the journey for many types of businesses. “

Although he estimates that Covid cost him two years, it has also caused his product to evolve towards a ‘live experience’ (live surveys and live messaging) and it is a force as travel in Europe come back.

“People travel and have the best summer of their life in Europe. What we found on returning from the trip, people had more questions than usual and it was more important for travelers to communicate with hotels before they arrived and during their stay, so our question was, how do we use technology to facilitate communication between the hotel and the traveler?

“We’ve always had the post-stay experience, but we’ve brought in the live experience and expanded it into a channel of communication. Think of it as a WhatsApp group on steroids; hoteliers can immediately respond to customers.

“The global adoption of QR codes has also made this easier to implement. They’re popping up everywhere and the days of the hotel phone are gone, there will be a QR code for you to scan. “

This means, said Jost, that “the world of reviews, which was used more for long-term strategic decisions, has also evolved into an operational matrix. Can someone say, I need two towels in my room, and the hotel can operationalize it, so the operating system and live chat can sit together in one tech stack.

TrustYou was of course not spared the pandemic. On course for a huge year in 2020, with big expansion plans, it has been in survival mode for most of the year. “Nobody knew what was going to happen and we put the brakes on everything. How much money are we going to lose? How much money do we have in the bank?

Fortunately, he said, his subscription model turned out to be a savior. “When you have an annual recurring activity, it might be a downside in some years, but it spared us. We lost business, but not that much.

This year was therefore the year of “regrouping, re-planning, reorganization” to prepare for 2022. TrustYou is no stranger to the pivots. It started out with the ambition to be a consumer meta-search for hospitality, but just couldn’t find traction or compete with Kayak and Trivago.

“That’s when we thought, maybe we can use the data we’ve collected to create dashboards for hoteliers and monetize them. It was a side activity that became our core business, ”said Jost.

Since its acquisition by Recruit, Jost has said he has been left on his own to operate fairly independently. “They support us in terms of funding and advice.

He remains a great fan of travel. “It’s a dive. If you zoom out and look at it, it’s a two year blip. I am generally optimistic about travel and hospitality. And I’m optimistic about players like us who specialize in travel. “

Image Credit Featured: Fullerton Hotel, Singapore


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