Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

Back to Stories

HO BING ZHAO

DATA ANALYST

MARINA BAY SANDS

How long have you been in the hotel industry? Almost five years. I spent some time at the Pan Pacific Group Corporate Office before joining Marina Bay Sands about two years ago.

Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? I work with a team of data analysts and we analyse all aspects of non-casino related operations, such as how to increase productivity and how to improve service levels in our Food and Beverage (F&B) operations.

Something I’m working on now is to find a way to allocate manpower and staff more efficiently by studying the data we have about the demand for services at our F&B outlets. We hope to staff our outlets better according to demand, so we can avoid being understaffed during busy periods or overstaffed during less busy periods.

What inspired you to join the hotel industry? I have a degree in Hotel Administration. But before that, I was actually studying Material Science Engineering. However, after about a year, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to pursue that field. I have a passion for cooking, and the university I was at happened to have one of the best hotel studies faculties in the world. There was a certain charm about the hospitality school and its students that made me interested in pursuing that path.

So I decided to make the switch to pursue my interest and learn more about the F&B industry.

How did you end up becoming a Data Analyst? Ultimately, I still love working with numbers, so I gravitated towards Revenue Management in the hotel industry. After a few years, I was offered this position as a Data Analyst and I took it on as it offered an opportunity for me to try something new.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? The excitement. My job isn’t typical nor repetitive, so no two days are the same. Sometimes the solutions I come up with will work for a while, and then things change and I’ll have to adapt and use new data to come up with better solutions.

I also like how my job is never really ‘completed’. I have to take incremental steps like data collection, assessing the demand for the restaurants, and continually see how we can use the data to improve and create better business forecasts. There’s always something to be done for each step, and it never really ends because I want to keep improving the business.

How do you derive insights from data and translate them into practical solutions to improve the guest experience? One example is something called the “Market Basket Analysis”. It’s a term I borrowed from the supermarket industry. We looked at which products are commonly purchased together when customers dine across our numerous restaurants. For example, we use historical data to work out the most popular food and wine pairings that customers order in our restaurants. This then allows our restaurant managers to make better recommendations and deliver better service to our customers.

What kind of challenges do you face at work, and how do you overcome them? Firstly, I feel that there’s never enough data available. Whatever data we have is more top-line and I wish we could gather more in-depth data that can give us better insights on how we can improve our guests’ experiences.

Another challenge I face is that the hotel industry in general is not that data-savvy yet, since it’s only starting to embrace the power of data. Only with data can we better understand what customers truly want. Data can be interpreted in so many ways, and can offer a whole new world of possibilities. I’m excited to see how we can effectively use data to come up with better solutions to benefit the hotel industry.

You are an advocate for a data-driven culture in this industry. Is there a reason for this? The simplest reason would be that with data, we will be able to provide much better service. For example, there’s no way you can convey a particular guest’s preferences to all the hundreds of staff members across the various departments in the hotel. But with a methodical pipeline of quality data, you can easily keep track of the guest’s preferences, and you’ll be able to deliver a more personalised service that the guest will definitely appreciate.

How do you think automation can improve the hotel industry? I think automation can help us to better make use of our manpower in the hotel. For example, robots can do tasks that are repetitive, time-consuming, or physically challenging – so that we can deploy our staff members elsewhere where their time and skills can be put to better use. We recently introduced a cutlery roll-up machine that can fold napkins and place cutlery in the napkins. This is the sort of repetitive and time-consuming work that we feel would be better done by a robot, so our F&B staff can focus on other tasks.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering joining the industry? The most important lesson I’ve learnt so far, which was also a quote by E.M. Statler which I find to be quite inspiring: “Life is service – the one who progresses is the one who gives his fellow men a little more – a little better service.” What that means is that if you really want to work in the hotel industry, you have to give it your all. Do more than what’s expected of you, improve the lives of your customers and those surrounding you, and life will be infinitely more rewarding.