While hotels have long competed with one another for guests at the street corner level, over the past few decades they’ve found themselves facing increased competition from outsiders, such as OTAs and alternative accommodations. Therefore, many travel players have developed a focus on better “owning” the relationship with their guests, aimed at driving loyalty and more profitable direct business.
A key component to driving engagement and building better relationships with your guests is personalization. Personalizing the guest experience doesn’t start when travelers arrive at your hotel. There are many different touchpoints before, during, and after the stay that work together to make a cohesive guest experience.
At its core, offering a personalized guest experience at each stage of the customer journey requires a centralized data strategy to serve as the foundation for a seamless, integrated technology stack. By informing sales and marketing activities with clean guest data flowing into a CRM, automated campaigns will help you drive and convert more direct demand and ultimately better serve the guest.
Here are six fundamental steps to offering a true 360-degree, guest-centric guest experience:
- Capture, capture and capture some more. An integrated platform lives on the first party guest data that flows within it, so the goal is to have all systems within the tech stack communicate and share data.
- Keep it clean. Rigid measures are necessary to clean, merge and deduplicate all the data from various sources coming into the platform, so that this guest data can ultimately reside within one centralized guest profile that’s free from extraneous entries. Automate this task as much as is feasible, since the intricacies and detail may be challenging and time consuming for staff, to say the least. Ongoing maintenance and monitoring, as well as the continued updating of data collection methods, must also evolve over time.
- Get smart. Once your guest data is clean, you can start to leverage AI tools to create guest affinity tools and next best offers in Salesforce to quickly engage as many high value customers as possible, based on key data points like purchase history. These types of customer insights can also be used to promote a hotel’s themes and unique demand drivers more effectively. Discounted rates, various loyalty perks and rewards, or add-on extras during their stay that are tailored to the individual to enhance and appeal.
- Communicate with style. A hotel’s first contact with a customer is its confirmation email sent in real time based on PMS updates, yet this initial stage of the guest journey is often neglected. It’s easy and effective to personalize a hotel’s confirmation email and pre-arrival emails, using the customer data already on file. The basic focus should be to provide essential information and ease customer concerns, but hotel confirmation emails are also essential for branding and building loyalty. Personalization in the pre-arrival communications means creating dynamic offers for your incoming guests based on their preferences or past behaviors. Proper execution here promotes greater experiences for the guest and higher revenue for the hotel.
- Be Consistent and Efficient. The plan should be to personalize every stage of the guest journey; not just some. So while automated confirmation and pre-arrival emails are great, also remember to personalize the guest journey during the initial booking experience, during the stay, and later when collecting feedback. All of these efforts should be done at the brand level to create leverage for the investment required, create consistency for guests and create efficiency by centralizing efforts.
- Don’t sweat it; automate! What’s great about tech is it can actually do more with less, by both freeing up staff and accomplishing tasks that would require additional manpower. For example by automating your hotel’s pricing according to CRM/CRS data, you can rapidly price on the fly for each customer, enabling customized offers that boost direct bookings. Hotels can also automate upsell emails, driving incremental revenue with minimal effort. And later, when the guest arrives, there are automated check-in and check-out features that enhance the guest experience while potentially boosting productivity.
If nothing else, remember this: Every customer wants to feel unique, loved, and catered to. The only way to satisfy these urges is to know your customer. With data and automation, that goal is now finally within reach.