When it comes to booking hotels, business travellers look for an intuitive and straightforward experience. Moreover, it can be challenging for them to find a hotel that matches all their preferences. ehotel recognizes this need of business travellers and helps them find the right tools and processes to navigate through options and make the best choice.
In conversation with Fritz Zerweck, CEO, ehotel
Why was the company set up?
We wanted to make it easier for companies and employees to find hotels right from the start. We were considered to be the pioneers of hotel search portals when we developed our technology twenty years ago. We were also driven by the special service concept of making (business) life much easier for our customers. Both approaches are still firmly embedded in our corporate culture to this very day. We’re a no surprise package, and our growth is as transparent as our offerings.
The fact that we can now offer packages that include everything from travel bookings to settlement accounting and also currently have a good 7 million hotels in our portfolio is no surprise as we have never lost sight of our goals.
Tell us about the challenges that you had to go through in your initial years.
It was certainly a challenge to put our vision of innovative WAP technology into practice in the beginning, but there were also challenges that every young company probably knows. We needed to achieve a certain level of brand recognition in order to build a customer base that would allow us to have a chance in the market as a hotel booking portal. We achieved this primarily by offering customised solutions for small and medium-sized companies and by being the first booking platform to be able to actually compare offerings.
Our approach of simplifying the search for cheap hotel rooms and the associated booking procedure for business travellers and companies was original and it still is. In contrast to large portals that attract customers with discount offers and best price promises, ehotel still offers reliable META SEARCH technology. And, from the outset, we employ neither advertising tricks nor unclear business methods. This continues to pay off to this day.
How successful was your first project roll on?
We didn’t have a first project; we offered a search engine that worked. Our customers trusted us that we would disclose all the available information, and they would find suitable hotel rooms according to their criteria. Of course, the technology didn’t always work properly in the beginning and we discovered that customers think differently than we had predicted and programmed for during the test phase, but that’s only normal.
To this extent, it can be said that we were successful right from the start, even though the first few customer clicks didn’t bring us any monetary gains. It also took us a while to become profitable, after all, we had more employees than customers during those early days.
How have consumer responses motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
We have achieved an extremely high level of satisfaction among our customers and that has always been important to us. Of course, our service sometimes receives a complaint here and there, but these are rarely things that we are to blame for, and always things that we can clear up. We take care of it.
Our customers’ wishes inspired us to customise our billing services so that we could accommodate a wide variety of systems and company philosophies. Our comprehensive META search technology is complemented by integrated payment and billing solutions – that’s the key.
Is your company a ‘leader or follower’? Do you formulate your own core values?
We are pioneers – always have been, so we see ourselves as leaders, not followers. Our ideas are original, and we are constantly developing new ideas. Our values are honesty, reliability, openness, diligence and creativity if that counts as a virtue.
We are a team that works together, develops ideas together and celebrates successes together, so no one in our team ever has to wonder how to figure out how to optimise results by themselves or which issues need to be tackled. Everyone thinks together.
Trust is a difficult attribute to measure and a delicate dynamic to maintain. How do you maintain this with your employees?
We don’t see trust as a feat of strength. It’s a basic principle for us, and this philosophy has worked very well for the past 20 years. It’s comparable to any relationship; if you have any doubts, the end is inevitable. After all, you can’t actively or spontaneously prove that you deserve trust, can you?
If you have to list a few factors that have been the biggest asset to your organisation, what would they be and why?
Our unique idea not only offers business travellers a comprehensive hotel room search service but also allows us to tailor the search and invoicing solutions to company requests. Filters based on a company’s specifications can be applied immediately during the search process. Our second asset is our employees, who can identify with ehotel and who support our service concept. Furthermore, our values and approach to providing transparency and fairness to clients can certainly be considered an asset.
Where do you see you and your company a couple of years from now?
We see ourselves being on the market for a long time, that’s for sure. Besides that, we are constantly working on improving ourselves. We also want to bridge the last gaps in our system for companies in the field of travel booking in order to offer them a complete digital cycle. Despite enormous customer satisfaction, we never take our success for granted.
The Leading Light
Fritz Zerweck, CEO
Fritz has been leading the operations at ehotel as the CEO since 2006. He is an economics graduate and a financial expert, who considers customer satisfaction and teamwork above everything else. As a proactive thinker and innovator, his contribution to creating ehotel’s meta-search technology has been invaluable.
“We believe in friendliness, reliability and transparency. We believe in them because it’s in our DNA and our customers benefit from this too.”