Over the weekend, because as a startup founder I no longer have a social life, I read a fascinating Forrester report – Customer Experience in Hospitality: Embrace Customer Data and Elevate the Guest Experience.
The report bears out something that we at Representasia have been saying for a while – that far from depersonalising the guest experience, greater technology adoption facilitates the gathering of customer data which can in turn be used to enhance the levels of personalisation offered by hotels.
The report states that personalisation is becoming increasingly important – less than 50% of all hotel guests consider themselves to be loyal to a particular hotel brand, and enhancing the guest experience is a proven driver of guest loyalty. 39% of guests prefer to stay in a hotel that knows them and their preferences, as opposed to a mere 21% of rather strange people who don’t!
More than half of hotel guests are happy to share personal data – but only if they get something in return, such as deals, discounts or loyalty points. And 37% of guests will even share personal data in return for personal touches in their room. Such touches are a lot more personal and effective than one-size-fits-all loyalty programmes.
Hotels, however, not only struggle to collect data, but also to effectively use the data they have. As one VP of Revenue quoted in the report puts it, “We have a hard time welcoming guests back”. The main issue is that guest data is generally held in various different databases that don’t communicate with each other:
“Years of independent technology purchases coupled with a lack of integrated enterprise solutions leave most hotels with customer data scattered across shopping, booking, reservation, property management and customer relationship management systems” (Forrester)
So let’s start with looking at how many different data collection points hotels can use to learn more about individual guests – and remember, we’re not talking “big data” here, we’re talking SMALL data, about individual customers!
Obviously the booking stage, as the first point of guest contact, is the perfect place to start. And as hotels get more data from guests who book direct (vs those who book via OTAs), driving more direct bookings using a good web booking engine is key here. Asking for too much information at this stage is a leading cause of booking abandonment so take it easy – you shouldn’t really be asking for much more than names, nationalities and contact details. The rest can come later!
Most hotels give guests a checkout survey of some kind, but very few ask questions BEFORE the guest arrives. But an email sent to the guest a week or so prior to arrival is a great way to learn more about the guest’s preferences and act on them – smoking/non-smoking, pillows, aircon temperature, whatever you need to know. And it’s also a great opportunity to upsell.
Here’s where you finally get your hands on the guest’s passport/ID and get hold of some key demographic data – in particular the guest’s age and nationality.
Many hotels are already using beacon technology to facilitate remote check-in and keyless entry. But beacons are also invaluable when it comes to tracking guest movement, as well as monitoring footfall.
If you’re using smart controls – ie you and your guest can control the room temperature and lighting electronically, even remotely – you’ll be able to collect valuable data on how warm/cool or light/dark your guest likes their room to be, so you can set the room up to their liking next time they stay. You can even learn what time a guest goes to bed, how long they sleep, what time they get up, and how much time they spend in the room, as well as how much electricity they typically use during a stay.
If properly set up, your hotel’s WiFi service can be a valuable source of data. Implementing a Social WiFi solution (with which guests access your free WiFi network using their social media or email accounts) may not give you more of an insight into your in-house guests, but it will help you collect valuable data from those passing through – essential if you have numerous F&B outlets and busy conference facilities.
Your concierge desk is a valuable source of data, and if you’re one of the growing number of hotels using a virtual concierge app, the data is captured automatically. This data can tell you what information the guest typically asks for – limo rental, theatre tickets, fine dining reservations, walking tours etc – and how much they typically spend on such activities whilst staying with you.
Spa and F&B
Your spa and restaurant systems are invaluable sources of guests data to find out about what in-house activities a guest enjoys, what their culinary preferences are, and again, how much they typically spend on top of their room bill. This is great data for personalising future stays, and offering discounts – if you know a guest is going to spend $$$ on meals and drinks, maybe they deserve a room discount!
There’s an argument that, as hotels collect more data and feedback during the guest’s stay, the checkout survey is almost becoming redundant. After all, once a guest is at the checkout desk it’s too late to solve any problems they may have had, and if you’re offering some kind of mobile concierge app or in-room tablet service, it should be possible to get feedback every day.
Nevertheless, the checkout questionnaire remains the best way to assess overall guest sentiment about their stay and find out what things they liked, and what things they didn’t, and to assess the likelihood of them returning! If your hotel is still doing paper questionnaires and entering the data by hand, then recycle those questionnaires and go electronic. And rather than make your guest rush the survey during the checkout process, send it to them by email a day or so later, when their feedback will be more considered.
So that’s at least nine very valuable data collection points in your property. But how do you extract all this data from your various tech solutions and put it into one place?
The simplest way, and one which avoids scrapping all your existing solutions, is to integrate your solutions so that they talk to each other. At the very least, customer data from your PMS, web booking engine/channel manager and in-house POS systems should all feed back into your CRM to give you a 360 view of guest details and activity. It may cost you in terms of XML/API development, but the gains will be worth it.
If you are currently using numerous solutions that will be difficult to integrate, it’s probably time to upgrade. Think about investing in a solution that can replace 3 or 4 of your current solutions – there are various solutions that integrate PMS, web booking engine, channel manager and CRM at the very least.
If integration is too difficult/costly, and upgrading isn’t an option, then it’s worth looking at investing in an analytics/BI solution that can sit “on top” of your existing applications and collate data from each of them. The advantage of such a solution is that not only will it collate “small data” about each guest, but it will also give you the big picture and provide your management team with a single dashboard view of the whole business, again something that many hotels sorely need and struggle to achieve.
To summarise, in an increasingly competitive market, personalisation is the best way to provide a terrific guest experience and increase customer loyalty, and it has never been easier to collect the data required to make guests feel more welcome. The challenge is twofold – mining that data and collating it in one place, and then acting on it!
If your property needs help managing and using its guest data, we have the knowledge and the solutions to help. Visit www.represent.asia, or email Tim on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your challenges and requirements!