Case Study:

This issue we would like to focus on a solution ITS recently implemented for one of our clients. Hotel Reservation Management has a subdivision which is a discount hotel reservation service offering great rates to travelers needing accommodations in the Chicagoland area. When they first established their web site seven years ago, the site contained information for a relatively small number of hotels, with an online form customers could use to submit a request for a reservation for a particular hotel. Changes could be easily made to hotel information and prices as needed by Hot Rooms staff.

Challenges Arise

As the business grew, more hotels were added and the online system gradually became unwieldy. As many as 50 hotels wanted to modify rates on a daily basis, or offering specials to fill up the hotel on slow days. In its existing format, availability information was not visible online, causing delays and some dissatisfaction with the reservation process. Hot Rooms staff spent significant amounts of time following up on reservation requests for hotels which had changed rates or limited availability for selected days due to city-wide conventions or events. Hot Rooms estimated they spent several hours per day calling potential guests and hotels to be sure customers were getting the best price for the desired dates. Because the process was cumbersome and could not take place in real-time, a significant number of the initial reservation requests did not turn into actual reservations, translating directly into lost business.


Working with ITS, Hot Rooms identified several key features of a new web site. For example, HRM already had a custom database program on their network for tracking room availability and pricing for use by their telephone representatives. This information needed to be available online for customers to access directly, as close to real-time as possible. However, HRM did not want to allow access into their network from the Internet. Restrictions such as minimum stays needed to be visible as well, so customers would not request pricing which was unavailable to them. Hotels that were unavailable for certain dates would be hidden from customers' view. Except for the reservation process, HRM was satisfied with the overall design of their site, and liked that their staff could maintain most of the site's content in house.


In a relatively short time, ITS implemented a solution which allows customers to input a date range and see exactly which hotels are available, as well as prices for those dates. Since Hot Rooms was already entering this data in their offline database, ITS was able to leverage this effort by writing a program to upload all this data to the web site on demand. Request information is encrypted and stored online for later processing by reservation specialists, who receive an e-mail notification for each request. Upon completing a transaction, customers automatically receive an e-mail confirmation including dates and pricing, eliminating the need for follow-up calls. In addition, ITS was able to implement and test this solution without a large scale redesign of the site, providing for a seamless transition to the new system for Hot Rooms customers.


Positive results were immediately apparent. In January 2003, the first full month after implementation, the number of online reservations increased by 100% over January 2002. Hot Rooms has actually been able to handle significantly more online reservations in the first half of 2003, with less staff. Customer satisfaction has also increased dramatically since current availability and pricing is visible online before a reservation request is made. From July 2002 to December 2002 the number of visitors to the site had actually been steadily decreasing, but jumped about 25% in January 2003. Even better, it has remained relatively constant since then, even increasing slightly. During this same period the average number of pages viewed per visitor had also decreased steadily, only to jump by almost 40% in January 2003. This number has also increased a bit since then. Together, this activity indicates customers are not only returning to the site but staying at the site longer. Since HRM is saving several work hours per day, it is able to handle more reservations with less staff, paying for the project in a short amount of time.


Proper analysis is a critical component of any programming project, whether discussing web sites or traditional application software. Working together, ITS and HRM identified the problem areas of the old site and the cost savings of implementing the new plan, allowing HRM management to make an informed decision on what steps to take. ITS then implemented the new system, integrating it into the existing site. The resulting solution is a success for ITS, HRM, and its customers.

August 2003

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