Five Startup Tips from Hotels.com and Getaroom.com Co-Founder Bob Diener
Do you have what it takes to launch a startup? Find out with this handy checklist from Hotels.com co-founder and Getaroom.com co-founder and President Bob Diener.
To say that Bob Diener is an expert in building hotel startups would be an understatement. From the Hotel Reservations Network to its evolution as Hotels.com, Diener was there at the onset of the Internet. He built an empire, changed the way hotel reservations are made, and inspired other companies to do the same.
Benzinga's own Hilary Farrell recently interviewed the hotel dot-com mastermind, who is making waves with his latest creation – Getaroom.com.
“I saw this as a great opportunity to build a great call center business around the Internet,” Diener said. “So many people are frustrated if they get an agent that can't speak good English. People need assistance with reservations, and people want to know if there is a real call center. So we built a call center that is 100% U.S.-based.”
Diener said that he and his team started by building amazing call centers. “Went to hotels, we told them what we were doing, and we said, 'We need lower rates for the call center,” he said. “We can hide them and we don't publish them on the Internet, but if you give us 20%, 30%, 40%, 50% off the rate, we'll move a lot more rooms, and we won't publish it online.'”
More than 2,000 hotels (in the U.S. and in major cities in Europe) now participate. “It's been incredibly successful. We're expanding in a great way,” Diener boasts. “We have no competition on it. We're the exclusive provider of unpublished rates.”
How did Getaroom.com pull this off? How did Diener, a serial entrepreneur, create not one but two major hotel reservation enterprises? Diener has provided Benzinga with a checklist of details that could help aspiring entrepreneurs get started:
1. Surround Yourself with the Best People
Diener insists that employees are the key to any successful business. “If you have the right employees that are smart, that are capable, that have succeeded in the past…your likelihood of succeeding in the future [increases],” he said. “No one can do everything [themselves].”
2. Customer Service is King
If you think the customer is important, you're not thinking hard enough. “[Having] a high degree of customer service [is] really key,” he said. “Our customer service manager was with us at Hotels.com before [coming to Getaroom.com]. We had some very strong training in customer service to make sure that the customer was satisfied and comes back again.”
3. Be Prepared to Adapt – NOW!
Unless you run a brick-and-mortar shop without any online connectivity whatsoever, Diener says that you must always be prepared to adapt. “And you gotta adapt fast,” he insists. “It's a fast-moving marketplace, being an online business.”
4. Don't Forget to do Your Homework
“That means really understanding the marketplace, understanding the competition, and finding something to offer that others don't have,” Diener insists.
5. Value Customer Preference
In the hotel industry, reservations were once made through call centers. Now they are made almost exclusively online. “That's not really the way the world works,” Diener warns. “People want a combination of both.”
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