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Spotlight: Michael McNames, Sandman Hotel Group

In the latest in our CEO Spotlight interview series, Gary Glodowski, Director of Customer Marketing, Duetto, caught up with Michael McNames, Corporate Director of Revenue at Sandman Hotel Group, to hear how the group is using controlled automation to drive revenue efficiencies, deploy enterprise-level rule and roll out bespoke revenue strategies on a property-by-property basis.

Catch the highlights below or watch the video on demand here.

How long have you worked in revenue and what was your path to Sandman Hospitality Group?

I've been in revenue management for 17 years. I started with Fairmont Hotels. I also worked at Pan Pacific Hotels and from there transitioned over to Sutton Place, as corporate director of revenue management.

Sutton Place was acquired by Northland Properties, which is the parent company of Sandman Hotel Group, and for the past five years now I've been looking after the revenue management for both Sandman and Sutton Place.

We have five on the team. We had a larger team, but then COVID hit. Luckily, Duetto has helped us look at our labor a little bit differently – which is certainly a benefit right now and a real ROI on our investment.

Looking back, how did you sell the concept of Controlled Automation and Duetto within your organization?

We knew there was a gap in revenue management within our company and, as proud as we were of our information and how we worked with the properties, there was only so much we could do with the tools that we had at that time. We had identified the gap and acknowledged it, so that's where the conversation started.

But at the end of the day, it all comes down to generating a positive return for the company and we felt, through our due diligence, that Duetto would certainly have a positive impact in that area. The efficiencies would improve as well as how we work with the group.

One of the areas that is overlooked, because you can't pick it up in the numbers, is how Duetto has positively affected the culture within the company from a revenue management perspective. And there are a couple of things that helped with that. Our strong leadership within the company helped us move this forward. They were certainly behind this, as was ownership. But then you have the individuals in the field; the general managers, the sales managers, and everybody who's been involved in the decision making, really buying into the concept of Duetto and automated revenue management helped us drive forward the culture change as well and that's key.

it's great to have a wonderful tool like Duetto, but if people don't buy into it, it makes it a little bit more challenging to generate the returns that we do require. At the end of the day, it's about the team, and everybody's bought in.

You went all-in with autopilot Tell us how embracing revenue automation is helping you execute your strategies?

We had a path that we wanted to go down with regards to using all the automation that Duetto offers. But again, we had to get the buy-in from everybody involved before we could go down that path because if the people who use the product and have the benefit from the product don't believe in the path we're going down it could prove to be challenging.

We had some technical challenges upgrading our tech stack from a proprietary CRS which limited our ability to move forward quickly with Duetto. But I think that was good for us because it allowed the team to start to understand Duetto and that they could make manual changes as well.

Over the last year, they came to understand and trust what Duetto was doing for them, and we now have a high adoption rate of the [pricing] decisions being rendered by Duetto.

Automation is certainly where we want to be and that's not just coming from me, it's not just coming from a couple of individuals within the company, but it's been embraced by everybody, so I think that's positive.

The evolution of your tech stack over the last 12 months has been great to watch. Tell us a little bit more about the efficiencies that you feel that this has created.

It's very simple, and this is one of the key selling points when you're selling this product up. Pre-Duetto the revenue team was spending 90% of their time collecting and interpreting data and about 10% of their time collaborating and working with the properties. What Duetto has allowed us to do is flip that, so they spend 10% of their time now collecting, understanding, interpreting. And the remaining amount of time is collaborating with the property. It's a dramatic shift in how we work with the properties and how we can support the properties.

We've opened up Duetto so everybody can access it. It's changed how we work, how we communicate. It's been super effective for us.

One of the great benefits of working with Duetto is the ability to tailor the applications.

We've gone through some significant changes with COVID. Duetto has allowed us to adapt to the different market conditions and our needs, which have certainly changed!

The flexibility that Duetto offers us, and the strong engagement with the Customer Success team, allowed us to customize each property to meet its unique needs.

As we move into a recovery phase, what are your hopes and expectations from your tech vendors?

There are multiple reasons why we chose Duetto and, hopefully, why you chose us - it was no one-sided affair.

We wanted to grow and work with a partner that was very flexible and wanted to work with us, and I believe that we've found that. We ask that of our other vendors as well.

We’re happy with where we're at with Duetto. But then we must talk with our other partners as well, to make sure that everything is seamless and efficient. We'd like to see continued partnership and discussions among multiple vendors that we facilitate, letting everybody know where we want to go and how we, as a group, can move forward.

We've got properties in very different positions right now amongst the portfolio and those properties are set up slightly differently and going through some different challenges. Duetto has allowed us to optimize those properties differently.

It's going to be us working with Duetto and XYZ and we all collaborate and hopefully, that happens because the pace of change is just so quick. Having those types of conversations is going to be key; it's going to drive your success and that will drive our success.

Watch the full interview here.

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Sarah McCay Tams, Director of Marketing Communications

Sarah joined Duetto in 2015 as a contributing editor covering Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA). In 2017, she was promoted to Director of Content, EMEA, and in 2022 promoted to Director of Marketing Communications. An experienced B2B travel industry journalist, Sarah spent 14 years working in the Middle East, most notably as senior editor – hospitality for ITP Publishing Group in Dubai, where she headed up the editorial teams on Hotelier Middle East, Caterer Middle East and Arabian Travel News. Sarah is now based back in the UK.

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