Until recently, the concept of true personalization in the hospitality industry was a pipe dream. Most hotels use disparate platforms for booking, point-of-sale, property management systems, loyalty, ticketing, etc., which make capturing critical guest data extremely complicated. Additionally, if a guest books a room through an OTA, the hotel doesn’t get access to my email unless I provide it in person at check-in.
Having worked in the hospitality industry for many years, I understand the difficulty in capturing and using guest data for more relevant engagement. But in other industries like retail, I see how powerful it can be when my data is used to anticipate my needs, send me relevant offers, and personalize the shopping experience.
Unfortunately, hoteliers today are still missing the mark. Here’s a personal example: A few weeks ago, I checked into a hotel that I have stayed at twice before. The woman checking me in warmly welcomed me. After confirming the details of my reservation she asked, “Have you stayed with us before?” I bristled. Not only had I stayed at the hotel before, but I wrote a review of my experience on TripAdvisor. The General Manager even responded to my review. I had also tweeted a day before my arrival that I was looking forward to another visit to the hotel, and I included the hotel’s Twitter handle in my tweet.
This is a great example of a missed opportunity for a hotel to take the guest experience to the next level. I don’t blame the front desk staff that day for my imperfect experience. I know that even if my guest data had been collected and stored from previous visits, making that data available to all staff members for effective guest engagement is a complicated feat.
I’m not alone in expecting and appreciating personalized service from the hotels where I choose to stay. In a May 2014 Yahoo survey, 78% of consumers expressed a desire for some kind of personalization.
I have stayed at some high-touch hotels where I received service that seemed custom-designed for my stay. The staff left my favorite newspaper outside my door and addressed me by name. I got a call when I arrived in my room asking if I would like to make a spa reservation. I left feeling like I had a dozen new friends and couldn’t wait to rebook.
However, it is important to remember that what is a treat to one person might be an inconvenience to another. An invitation to a happy hour might be laugh-worthy to a mom traveling with her young son. But a young business traveler with no plans for the evening might relish the opportunity to network with other hotel guests. Also, the purpose of each stay may change the preferences of the guest. An email alerting me to an open 3 pm slot at the spa when I am in a conference on-site might be an inconvenience. But, if I were traveling with a friend for leisure, I would love the interruption and the opportunity to get a sought-after reservation. Hoteliers need to think about the relevance of their communications and service to satisfy their guests.
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