Hoteliers traditionally consider room inventory to be their primary assets. However, in other industries, companies look at their customers as assets. Where a hotel might say, “We’re a full-service resort with 200 rooms,” a consumer-goods company might say, “We have 10,000 customers.” When you think about your business, are you thinking about the right assets? Are you thinking about your property, or are you thinking about your hotel’s best asset — your guests?
Among growing numbers of millennials and other technology-savvy travelers, guest expectations are evolving. Hotels are finding that general marketing is failing to cut through the noise and build loyalty with repeat guests. But, with more advanced marketing techniques and an increased level of personalized communication, hoteliers can drive higher revenue per guest and do so through the entire guest lifecycle.
Revenue is more than a single booking
To take this concept a step further, hoteliers typically look at revenue as derived from a single booking. If a guest books a room at $150/night for three nights, that’s $450 in revenue. But in this way of thinking, hoteliers are missing the chance to drive additional revenue. Instead of analyzing revenue only from discrete room bookings, there is an opportunity to consider the entire guest experience, from search, to bookings, the on-property experience, and even after the stay when guests provide feedback.
If you invite your guests to return for additional stays, you can begin to look at the lifetime value of a guest as a cyclical experience.
Personalization is the #1 priority
So, how should marketers engage guests throughout the guest lifecycle? A 2014 study of marketing trends by Adobe discovered that personalization is the most important need of marketers today. This is not a huge surprise. The evolution of technology has resulted in marketing tools that didn’t exist before. The emergence of more personalized marketing has also shifted consumer expectations and the way your guests react to your messaging.
The accelerated need for CRM in hospitality
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is not new in the hospitality space. But, the need for CRM in hospitality has accelerated and intensified in recent years as a result of changing technology and consumer expectations.
In the past, hotel marketers focused on database management. That is not what today’s CRM is all about. Hotels now have access to a huge amount of guest data, and with the right CRM system, they can use that data to deliver personally relevant messaging to each guest. CRM today has truly evolved to focus on developing long-term, one-to-one guest relationships using advanced technology.
Arming your hotel with the right data
The problem is, it’s very hard for an hotelier to deliver a personalized experience without the right tools. Typically, the average hotelier only sees very basic information about its guests, such as name, check in date, stay length, and daily rate. Often times, there is no access to email, phone contact information, or stay history.
But, with modern technology, there’s a ton of information on your guests that is available in your systems. There is also a huge amount of data to draw from public domains like social media and TripAdvisor. When you combine all the tools available to hoteliers, it is possible to use specific, personal data about each guest, from demographic information, to past stay data, to previous reviews they’ve written, and whether they’re active on social media. This is all valuable information that can help hoteliers personalize a guest experience and drive guest loyalty.
It is also important to note that consumers today are very savvy. They know that their data is valuable, and they expect it to be used for their own benefit, not exploited for the hotel’s benefit. That means that hoteliers must approach the collection of this data as an opportunity to engage with guests individually and deliver value to them through every stage of the relationship.
CRM enables Guest Lifecycle Management
The consolidation of this guest data is what enables you and your staff to focus on a guest-centric marketing strategy. Once you have an understanding of the data at your disposal, the next step is to think about guest communications through the lens of the customer lifecycle by identifying each interaction point.
Say you have a complete profile on a guest named Rob Smith. Rob’s profile tells you, at a glance, about his stay history, average spend, and interests, as well as social data and previous hotel reviews. With this kind of profile you could tell that someone like Rob is an avid golfer and big spender. In this case, the marketing team could send a series of targeted messages to Rob, guiding him through his experience with your hotel.
Rob can also be included in one of many different segments of customers you track and communicate with. One segment might be guests who are interested in golf and weekend escapes, who live within two hours of the hotel. Once Rob has booked his stay, you can then deliver customized service while he is on property. For example, you could book him for the golf simulator, and perhaps offer him a wine special at the bar based on his previous orders.
Finally, once the guest has checked out, build loyalty with targeted messaging. Getting email addresses from guests and marketing to them personally can drive direct bookings, allowing you to eliminate middlemen like OTAs from the process.
We realize that changing the way your hotel interacts with its guests on a daily basis may seem like a huge task. Don’t panic. Here are some basic next steps that can get you on your way to providing your guests with personally relevant, customized service:
- Examine your hotel’s approach to measuring revenue performance.
- Perform a guest data review. What do you know about your guests, and how are you capturing guest data today?
- Brainstorm ways customization can be employed to enhance your guest experience.
- Evaluate your current tools, as well as those available on the market, to determine whether they can facilitate this process.
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