If you ask Chris Stacey, Internet marketing manager for Venetian Hotels and Resorts in Las Vegas, what the Venetian is doing differently on their Web site than other hotel Web sites, he will laughingly respond, “Where do I start?” And certainly, the scope of www.venetian.com is just as grand as the scope of the massive hotel and resort that it represents. The Venetian provides customers with an impressive array of customer service options and value adds on their Web site, and they do it with flair.
The Venetian decided to rebuild their Web site about six months ago, when they realized that the site could use a little more polish and that the information available to guests was becoming outdated. Faced with these issues, Stacey and the Venetian IT staff first decided to make as much of the site as possible available to guests in real time. “We wanted to make everything available in real time,” says Stacey. “It really didn’t matter what it was.”
This may seem a lofty goal, but it’s one that the Venetian has steadily pursued and achieved. In May 2000, the Venetian added its first real-time service to the site with its online booking feature. The Venetian created the real-time booking tool using Res.net, a Web solution available from Inter-American Data Inc., who also provides the Venetian with their property management solution, Lodging Management System (LMS). Res.net is a generic solution that allows hotels to get online quickly and provide real-time booking through a two-way connection with the LMS property management system.
But even though the goal of real-time booking was achieved, the Venetian wasn’t completely satisfied. “I love the functionality of Res.net, but I hate the message it gives guests,” admits Stacey. “It was a very cold reservation process.” In order to warm up their online booking options, which initially offered booking in only one suite type and limited access to room rates, the Venetian added functionality to allow guests to select from four different suites and provide per night rates for the suite chosen. Additionally, the guest is automatically offered an upgrade to the next suite type and the difference in the costs of the two suites for the dates they want to stay.
Last month, the Venetian added an e-mail confirmation feature to the process as well. After guests make their reservations, they are automatically e-mailed their confirmation number. Then, adding a little guest service panache to the process, the Venetian sends an e-mail one week prior to guest arrival letting them know the hotel is expecting them and offering an opportunity to make special requests, make dinner reservations, or speak with the concierge.
Step number two, initiated in October 2000, was the addition of another reservation function, this one for making dinner reservations. OpenTable.com, a restaurant reservation and table management system, was added to the site and the restaurants that reside at the hotel were given the opportunity to make reservations available via the Web site.
“The OpenTable project was challenging because we don’t own the restaurants; we’re kind of like a giant landlord,” comments Stacey. “They wanted to know what we were going to support, and we wanted to know who was signed up with OpenTable. So finally, we said we would put our foot in the fire first. We put the system together with OpenTable, and it’s working flawlessly.”
And although there was a little push back from some of the restaurants initially, nearly all of the restaurants have opted to be included in reservations offering. All of the restaurants, with the exception of the Delmonico Steakhouse, the Royal Star and some restaurants that don’t accept reservations, have agreed to participate. However, the Delmonico is currently evaluating OpenTable.com in Louisiana, and it is anticipated that they will soon join the others.
The integration of OpenTable.com has benefited both the hotel and the restaurants. The hotel benefits because their concierge can now book dinner reservations for guests through the Web site, rather than having to make an additional phone call to the restaurant. The restaurants benefit from database and table management functionality. They can also use OpenTable.com to anticipate their business for the evening and give the staff a heads up on the dinner rush. Guests love it too. Reports Stacey, “Last month, we did 1,100 reservations [through OpenTable]. And that’s not heads; it’s 1,100 reservations.”
The next order of business was purely a customer service piece. In January of this year, using ITXC’s Push to Talk technology, the Venetian added an Internet calling option to the site so that guest’s would have another option for contacting customer service. Guests can call customer service from their computer, using the microphone and speakers that accompany the PC. If guests don’t have a microphone with their PC, they can enter the number of a nearby phone and the computer will call that number, wait for the customer to pick up, call the requested customer service line, and then join the two calls.
Guests have also responded well to the Internet calling service, and the hotel receives upwards of 1,000 calls a month from the option. “In surveys, the guests have reported that the service is fantastic,” says Stacey. “It connects quickly. The only people who are experiencing any delays are those calling from behind a proxy. It still goes through, it just takes a little longer,” he adds. Another value add the Venetian has introduced to their customers by way of the Web site is a new perk to their Player’s Club members that, according to Stacey, no one else on the Vegas strip is offering. The Venetian has taken its rated, Player’s Club profiles and is using them to target specific offers to players who come to the Web site and log on with their ID and password.
The functionality was designed in conjunction with Interactive Sites, and it allows the Venetian to check player status in real time and generate offers based on the level of that player. Targeted offers can include reduced room rates, blackjack tournaments or poker tournaments, among others, and they’re generated as soon as the player logs in to the Player’s Club portion of the site.
The next step in revitalizing the site is purely cosmetic. With the help of Interactive Sites, the Venetian plans to re-release the site some time in the upcoming weeks, adding a flash introduction, enhanced graphics, music and more.
But the end goal the Venetian hopes to achieve by adding all of this technology to their site isn’t a massive influx of Web browsers. Rather, they hope that the improvements to their site will attract a certain type of Internet wanderer: one who is willing to buy. “We’re really not interested in having 30,000 people on our site unless it’s 30,000 people who match our demographic,” says Stacey. “I don’t care how the hook is set,” he adds. “I don’t care how they choose to do business with us, as long as they do.”