Room 77 morphs into a hotel booking site with a twist
General manager Kevin Fliess says the site’s Room Concierge ‘combines science and service’
After 10 months of operating solely as a search engine and “room concierge,” Room 77 is getting into the business of taking hotel bookings.
The company has been building a database that doesn’t just describe a hotel; it amasses data on every room in the property, so a user knows whether a room is near the elevator (and noisy) or whether the “ocean view” is really a view of a skyscraper hotel with a tiny sliver of sea off to the side.
When it launched in February, Room 77 acted as a search engine and referred users to hotel websites for booking. The original version also armed the consumer with “information they needed to know about the room at the front desk,” Kevin Fliess, general manager and vice president of products, said.
Now, with a database of more than 750,000 rooms, it shows rates available at a number of online agencies – Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com and Booking.com among them – but offers its free Room Concierge service only to users who book on the Room 77 website.
The Room Concierge service and appends the room requests to the reservations. Then it follows up with the hotel 48 hours prior to check-in. That may entail an e-mail or even a phone call to the hotel.
Fliess said the company “wanted to close the loop for consumers, to let them search, book and make the room request in the same place.”
“We’re combining science and service,” he said.
Over the last few months, Room 77 surveyed customers and found that 93% said they got an average or worse room when they booked online as opposed to other booking methods. It’s not just their imaginations, Fliess said. Online agency customers are at the bottom of the pecking order in hoteliers’ minds. Room 77 asks for users’ loyalty program numbers to help boost them up the pecking order.
But the real “secret sauce” is that “we have insight about the hotel,” Fliess said. “We can make very specific requests on behalf of the customer, and we’re able to clearly articulate them. We’ve captured that insider perspective.” As a result, he said, 90% of the users of Room Concierge say their rooms meet or exceed their expectations.
Users can search for hotels on a list or a map and can refine the results in a number of ways. A slider can set the price requirements, and customers can tick a number of preferences, such as city, garden or water views and free amenities such as Wi-Fi, parking, airport shuttle or breakfast. Customers also can specify the neighborhood; desired amenities that aren’t necessarily free, such as Internet access or fitness center, and star rating.
Once the booking is made on Room 77, the concierge service is applied. The customer can specify what is most important in the room — quiet, size, views, connecting room, etc. — and what would be nice to have. The user can even add a note for special requests.
Led by Calvin Yang, vice president of engineering, Room 77’s team has indexed many of the rooms it sells by category, square footage, bed type, elevator proximity and whether it is a connecting room. It has floor plans that show the exact location of each room.
“We can have a very informed conversation with the hotel,” Fliess said. And we will do everything in our power to make sure our customers get the room that is right for them.”
Read about Sabre’s new defense in US Airways’ antitrust lawsuit in the Jan. 7 issue of TTU.
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