Episode Topic: In this episode of Travelpreneur, host Megha McSwain interviews John Seaton, Chief Revenue Officer of Cendyn and Managing Director of Cendyn UK. They discuss how Cendyn serves as a catalyst for digital transformation in the hospitality industry, global growth strategies, and the evolving landscape of hospitality technology, including the role of AI.
Lessons You’ll Learn: Throughout the conversation, several key lessons emerge. Firstly, the importance of embracing technology and innovation to enhance guest experiences and increase efficiency. Secondly, the significance of data integration and actionable data in driving guest recognition, personalization, and profitability. Lastly, the value of keeping an open mind, fostering thought leadership and welcoming young talent to drive innovation in the industry.
About Our Guest: John Seaton, Managing Director of Cendyn and a seasoned expert in the hospitality and technology sectors, shares insights from his extensive experience, emphasizing the guest-centric approach and the importance of staying open to new ideas.
Topics Covered: The conversation covers various topics, including Cendyn’s role in digital transformation, global expansion strategies, success stories from the hospitality industry, the impact of AI on technology solutions, challenges in integrating different systems, and Cendyn’s focus on consolidating its products for seamless guest communication. John also highlights the importance of putting guests at the forefront of technology-driven solutions in the hospitality sector.
Our Guest: John Seaton – Managing Director of Cendyn
John Seaton is a distinguished figure in the hospitality and travel industry, holding the pivotal role of Managing Director of Cendyn UK. With an extensive career that spans both national and international landscapes, John is widely acknowledged as an industry thought leader, strategist, and global business executive of exceptional caliber. Throughout his career, John has consistently exhibited an unwavering commitment to achieving results, earning him a reputation as a highly motivated and results-driven individual. His track record at an executive level is marked by a series of successes and accomplishments that underscore his exceptional leadership abilities.
John is not only a leader but also a lateral thinker with an impressive aptitude for navigating the intricacies of organizations, whether within the boundaries of a single entity or across a global customer base. His experience encompasses a rich tapestry of global engagements, and he is well-versed in working with diverse teams and cultures. His multifaceted skill set is a testament to his versatility and depth of knowledge. Leadership, people management, SaaS sales, account management, and marketing are among his core proficiencies. John’s strategic prowess is a cornerstone of his approach, underpinned by his ability to provide consultancy that steers organizations toward their objectives.
As the Managing Director of Cendyn UK, John Seaton continues to drive innovation and excellence within the hospitality and travel industry. His dynamic leadership, coupled with a deep-seated commitment to achieving company goals and revenue objectives, makes him an indispensable asset to the industry.
John Seaton: We dived into that as well, is it taking jobs away? And actually, we found it hasn’t because what’s happened is the human agent to actually focus on more of the complex reservations and more interesting reservations. So actually what the hotel has seen is actually a 30% uplift in efficiency by the actual human agent.
Megha McSwain: Welcome to Travelpreneur, the weekly business show for the travel industry. I’m your host, Houston-based travel journalist Megha McSwain. Each episode, we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the travel industry. From conversations with leading travel business executives and industry-focused venture capitalists to exploring the innovations that are shaping the next generation of travel business, if it impacts the travel industry, we cover it here on Travelpreneur.
Megha McSwain: Hello, welcome to the Travelpreneur Podcast. I’m your host, Megha McSwain. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with John Seaton, Chief Revenue Officer of Cendyn and Managing Director of Cendyn UK. Hello, John. Thanks for joining us today.
John Seaton: Thank you very much for having me. It’s very kind.
Megha McSwain: So can you provide our listeners with an overview of how Cendyn serves as a catalyst for digital transformation in the hospitality industry?
John Seaton: Yeah. For those who don’t know, Cendyn in Cendyn is a hospitality-focused technology company, and we provide a number of solutions to the industry from booking engine revenue management systems, CRM. We build and host websites and we provide digital marketing services. And really, that’s a lot. Yeah. And when we talk to hotels, there’s always a bit of an eye-opener when people do that. At the end of the day, the simple way to think about this is we’re always looking at ways to innovate and empower our hotel customers to drive more profitable revenue. That’s in essence, what we do. In our experience, technology and services work together hand in hand. And probably the easiest way to explain it is if you take our recent acquisition of Whip, for example, just a few weeks ago, Whip for those who don’t know, they provides a number of digital marketing services. They complement Centene’s mission in enabling hotels to drive direct bookings. So they’ve just launched a digital ad platform and they combine that with a CMS, which really helps hoteliers across the globe have easier access to digital marketing services and really to drive that profitable revenue, as I said before. So you think about that and then you combine that with Cendyn and CRS and booking engine products, and then you’re now able to more easily as a hotel not only push traffic but actually convert that traffic to direct bookings as well, because basically, every hotel wants to try and get more bookings direct to their website then through an OTA. And that’s really what the goal is.
Megha McSwain: So in your role as Chief Revenue Officer, you’re responsible for driving Cendyn’s global growth. What strategies and initiatives have you undertaken to expand the company’s reach? It’s a global brand at this point.
John Seaton: Yeah, it is. As a company, we’re about 22 years old and so we’ve been around. We started. Most people knew us as a CRM company. So I guess our I will biggest initiative is to really expand beyond the Americas and really grow in, say, Asian Pacific. We have teams in Singapore, Bangkok, Macao, Tokyo, Sydney. Not just from a having people there, but how do we support our customers from a global perspective? We’ve increased our operations in India, we’ve expanded in Hyderabad and Delhi as an example, and we’re really investing heavily in each geographic market so that we can support our customers locally and support them not just from an operational perspective, but support them also with their growth and with their key objectives, their strategies as well. You know, as we sit down with our customers, we’re always asking the question, okay, what are you trying to achieve? What’s next for you as a hotel company? you buying more properties somewhere or are you trying to tap into a new market segment? Well, by being global and acting local, it helps us when we’re talking to those hotel companies to understand the market they’re in and then provide the level of expertise that they really need in order to be successful.
Megha McSwain: Right. Because I can only imagine how different the markets are from country to country or what their focus is.
John Seaton: Even Within the type of properties we have, whether you’re a city center versus resort versus casino, we have a strong customer base in the gaming world. Say it would be Vegas or some of the tribes as well as in Macau, and they act very differently to a traditional hotel. So you’re right, we have to have the expertise in-house and our products and our technology ha to be designed in a way and rolled out in a way that really supports that hotel’s objectives. It’s a challenge.
Megha McSwain: Yeah, that’s a big challenge. I can imagine.
John Seaton: Yeah, it is. But, you know, we do it. We’ve got a significant number of customers around the world, all different types.
Megha McSwain: Right.
John Seaton: And give us an example. In Europe, for example, we have set hotels that are they’re based out of the UK, They’ve got hotels in Europe, they’re expanding into new markets, they’re expanding into Latin America as an example. They use our CRM solution to drive loyalty and personalization. So when you take someone like that and you say, okay, what are they looking for from a technology partner? Well, they’re very specific around, well, we need to be able to consolidate our guest data from the various systems our hotels have around the different hotels in the different geographic markets so that they can have a single view of a guest. Has a guest stayed at more than one of my hotels, for example?
Megha McSwain: Sure.
John Seaton: So when you think about that and you think, okay, well, has someone stayed at more than one hotels, Well, they want to then be able to communicate effectively with that guest as well as try and increase their operational efficiency and actually find new guests. That’s a very specific challenge that we would have to overcome. And we use a CRM technology for that compared to someone like our hotels, for example. And they’re based in the US, a brand new brand, and they use us for a digital marketing because they needed help to expand their reach using a multichannel campaign, for example. And so as a new brand, how do you grow your customer data, and how do you actually socialise with that audience through social media? So that’s how they use us. So you can see.
Megha McSwain: Right.
John Seaton: It depends who you are and where you are and what you’re trying to achieve is how you can utilise Cendyn’s technology in different ways.
Megha McSwain: So you mentioned having offices in the US, Germany, UK, Singapore, Bangkok, India sending clearly serves the vast global clientele. Can you share an example of a success story where sending technology solutions made a significant difference for a hotel or resort or a gaming hotel?
John Seaton: A good example. I’ve just given two examples with having set a good example is probably Sky City based out of New Zealand. They came to send line with a really interesting challenge and this was about around competing for the gaming customers in a traditional hotel environment. When you look at that and you think, okay, what’s their metric for success? And it’s really looking at the gaming contribution to their hotels. So what we did is we actually looked at that and said, okay, let’s look at what the data points and what are they trying to achieve from and to. And their previous year was I think around 12, 13% of gaming customers contribution to their hotels. They really wanted to grow that to 20%. So when sometimes set a challenge like that, we then look at our suite of technology and say, okay, what can we do and how can we help them achieve that? So actually we used in that example, we used our revenue management system and our BI solution to help them actually, well, they actually achieved a 24%, so they exceeded their goal. And how do we do that? We did it by creating effective data-driven pricing strategies that worked for their entire portfolio. So again, it’s really understanding what a hotel company is trying to achieve and then looking at the technology stack. Okay, what have we got that really can help that hotel company achieve that goal? And it may be a combination of products, right? So it’s never simply just what sells them one system and that’s it. It could be a combination that really then gets the success that the hotel company needs. It’s quite an interesting way of looking at it.
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Megha McSwain: So you mentioned that it’s been over 20 years. Cendyn’s been in business. Technology is a driving force in the hospitality industry. More and more every day. How do you perceive the evolving landscape of hospitality technology and what trends do you anticipate that will shape the future?
John Seaton: Yeah, it’s a good question. Probably the biggest thing is around I’ll be honest with you, I think we’re already seeing AI play a role in the hospitality technology space. I certainly see that increasing significantly from how it’s being utilized today. I mentioned earlier about through our whip acquisition that digital ad platform. Well, that’s using AI. We now have the ability to manage Google’s performance,Max The travel goals, Right. So what’s that mean? Well, it’s in essence, it’s leveraging AI to allow hotels to manage all their ad campaigns across the Google Network and improve campaign performance with pretty minimal effort. I’m honest.
Megha McSwain: Yeah, right.
John Seaton: So Google have come out with that. They’re obviously a driving force behind AI and it’s really us as a technology company enabling our customers then to really maximize that. And then if you think about AI and how it enables hotels to optimize performance, guess one of the challenges I think the industry’s had since COVID is staff shortages. And so you think about, okay, everyone’s had these staff shortages, so how do we do more with less basically? So we’re always looking at AI within our own product set. We’re lucky we have a proprietary web platform and so we’re starting to look at how AI can surface content to the consumer via chatbot.
John Seaton: For example, know why do we want to do that? Well, time is precious for everybody, including the Booker right? The consumer on busy. So if we can enable a guest to more easily find relevant content quickly on a hotel’s website, then scrolling around the screen and trying to find what you want, that’s surely a benefit to the guest or the future guest and therefore the hotel, because hopefully that increase conversions, we have the benefit of our own CMS and its hospitality focus. So it’s really then when you plug in two elements of revenue management elements and elements, then we can surface real time rates and improve conversions. That’s how we do it. So there’s there’s other examples of that as well, not just with sending.
Megha McSwain: Right.
John Seaton: But honest. We partner with a company called PolyAI. We’ve incorporated PolyAI into our new call center application and in a very short period of time we’ve seen huge returns. So give an example. In a casino customer, I can’t say who they are, but the casino customer, When we implemented PolyAI into the call center application, AI is now handling 90% of all their non-reservation calls. And when I first looked at that, I’ll be honest with you, I was quite staggered by that number.
Megha McSwain: Sure. Yeah.
John Seaton: I think having problem doesn’t sound right. If I’m honest. We dived into it and it is right. And so I was thinking, okay, if 90% of non reservation calls are now being handled by AI, well, how many of the reservation calls are being handled? And actually, that was a staggering 12%, which was far greater than I thought.
Megha McSwain: Right.
John Seaton: So we’re already seeing how AI is playing a part. And interestingly, someone was asking me and said, well, do you not think that’s taking things away from our role, away from the human agent?
Megha McSwain: like taking Jobs away? Sure. Yeah. That’s the big.
John Seaton: And, and, and that’s a really, really good question. So we dived into that and we said, well, is it taking jobs away? And actually, we found it hasn’t because what’s happened is the human agent to actually focus on more of the complex reservation and more interesting reservations and actually removed the, dare I say, the mundane.
Megha McSwain: Mundane, That’s the word I.
John Seaton: Going to say that you would get.
John Seaton: To a call center. Right. So actually, what the hotel, in this case, the casino scene is actually a 30% uplift in efficiency by the actual human agent. So we haven’t seen it take away jobs. What we’ve seen is it’s actually helped those staff members become much more efficient, which I think is a really good thing.
Megha McSwain: Yeah, that’s an excellent thing. So at times, hotels can face a complexities in integrating various technology solutions. I mean, it’s hard to move forward and look to the future no matter who you are. It’s difficult. So can you shed light on the specific challenges and how Cendyn’s platform simplifies this process for your clients?
John Seaton: Yes. First of all, hotels use a variety of systems, and unfortunately, they don’t typically integrate with each other very well, especially when they’re different technology vendors involved. And it’s certainly something that Cendyn takes seriously. And so we are always looking at how we can work with other technology vendors to simplify that process for our mutual customers. The reality is these systems capture really valuable data about a guest, and so when you fully integrate the systems, that data can be turned into actionable data, which is really what everybody’s trying to achieve. So when you have actionable data, you’re really enabling a hotel then to be able to have a greater understanding of that guest, and then that drives guest recognition. It drives personalization and as you and many other benefits as well. So that’s why Cendyn’s platform strategy is to seamlessly enable data to be shared across systems so that hotels can effectively understand better their guests and ultimately improve communication to that. Guest, It’s much easier to do that within our own suite of products and solutions, but we do it with third-party vendors as well. We’re always sitting down with our industry peers and discussing how we can work together for the benefit of a of a hotel company, a mutual customer.
Megha McSwain: Can you share any upcoming innovations or developments that Cendyn is working on to sort of further enhance the guest loyalty and profitability? For the clients?
John Seaton: Yeah! So really our focus is around actually product consolidation, if I’ll be honest with you, is around looking at what we’re trying to achieve from an integration perspective. We’ve obviously done a lot of M&A. We’ve obviously launched through the whole performance Max piece. Let’s be honest with you, our focus is very much on continuing to integrate our various products into one.
Megha McSwain: Keep on keeping on.
John Seaton: Yeah, we have to. And we’ve had a significant amount of success already, but we still got a long way to go. And so everything we do, whether it be a product roadmap perspective and how we can bring these systems together or even from an M&A strategy is again, okay. Everything’s focused on how do we bring that into one single platform solution for for a hotel company so everything can seamlessly talk to each other. That’s really what’s critical for us.
Megha McSwain: So for aspiring professionals in the hospitality and technology sectors, what advice would you offer as they sort of embark on their journeys, given your extensive experience?
John Seaton: That’s a great question. So love the hospitality industry and I like technology. It’s interesting, my son, who’s 20, just joined the industry, actually, which which gave me a lot of joy. And I sat down with him and asked him why he joining the industry, apart from your dad being in it. And it’s about his point was about the guests and that side of hospitality, which I think is amazing to me. It’s about I love it because with technology you’re always trying to solve problems.
Megha McSwain: Right.
John Seaton: Through the use of which ultimately makes someone else’s job easier. And that’s really what drives me. My advice is to anyone to join the industry, to keep an open mind. You know, we struggle with legacy technology as an example, right? So we actually need young talent to help guide us and guide the industry to improve and innovate. I think that’s absolutely critical because I grew up with it about everything around email. Well, nowadays it’s about Snapchat and various other ways.
Megha McSwain: Right.
John Seaton: To communicate. And so.
Megha McSwain: Tick Tock and social media.
John Seaton: Exactly right and so I’m never going to do a TikTok video. I can pull it out for nothing. But you need the young, the young blood to come into the industry to help us take us where we need to go. And that may be down some new way to communicate that we haven’t even thought of yet as a world. So I think anyone that’s coming in has got an open mind and got the hunger and eagerness to think outside the box and really try and drive us where we need to go. I think bring it on. You know
Megha McSwain: And your son mentioned, to really in technology with hospitality, it’s easy to forget that at the end of all of that is a guest that you’re aiming to please or to serve. So it’s important to keep that at front of mind as well through all of this.
John Seaton: Absolutely. And it is. And it’s always about the guests that’s important for same nine as well. As I said right at the start, we’re all about the guest and help hotels sort of communicate with those guests in a much better and more meaningful way. So. So yeah. Let’s keep it going.
Megha McSwain: Yeah! Well, thank you so much, John. This was so insightful. We really appreciate you sharing so much about Cendyn in your role in the business and we would love for you to share where people can learn more about it, read about it, share a website, or how they can get in contact with you.
John Seaton: Yeah, absolutely. I’m happy to share that. We’ve also got a number of videos and case studies we’re happy to share. We’re always interested in what people are thinking as well. So if people got ideas, we’re really thought leadership is really key thing to send out. And so we’re always welcoming people just to have a conversation with us and say, Have you thought of this? And let’s talk about it. And yeah. Love that. I’d be really, really good.
Megha McSwain: What’s Cendyn’s website or website or LinkedIn or?
John Seaton: So our website is quite easy. It’s www.cendyn.com. It’s very easy. Go on there. And there’s a way to even communicate with us.
Megha McSwain: Great.
John Seaton: So yeah, go and have a look and hopefully, we can share my contact details as well. And.
Megha McSwain: Yeah,
John Seaton: I’m always open to talking to people.
Megha McSwain: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, John. We look forward to talking to you again in the future and learning more about Cendyn. Thank you so much for joining us today.
John Seaton: Thank you for the opportunity. We really appreciate it.
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