The lobby can only have so many chandeliers, the sheets can only be so soft, the caviar can only taste so good. When you’re a luxury hotel brand targeting VIP guests and you need to take that extra step to stand out among other luxury accommodations, it always comes down to service. Today, luxury hotels are not only providing the white-glove treatment, they’re getting to know their guests so well that they can personalize each and every part of the guest experience.
Langham Hospitality Group is rooted in luxury. It encompasses a family of distinctive hotels under The Langham Hotels and Resorts and Cordis brands, with more than 30 projects currently either confirmed or in a developed stage of negotiation across the world. The Group takes its name from the legendary Langham in London, which was widely recognized as Europe’s first Grand Hotel when it opened in 1865. Competition in the luxury space is fierce, with the likes of Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Rosewood all expanding their global footprints. So Langham Hospitality Group is turning to an unlikely source to take their service to the next level – data.
Under Shrikant Shenoy, senior VP of innovation, digital transformation and strategy, the Group has embarked on a journey to provide their guests with personalized experiences. To do so, they are searching for the holy grail: a full, 360-degree view of the guest. The hotel operator collects and stores some key pieces of information about the guest’s preferences and past interactions with the group in order to tailor their experience during their stay. An added bonus, Shenoy says, is that providing an above-and-beyond guest experience will undoubtedly also help the hotels capture the most revenue.
“The business objective is to make sure the guest knows they are staying with us and feels those moments of engagement, so they enjoy their stay more. This will also usually motivate them to spend more with us and we can make sure they come back,” Shenoy says. “A big part of doing that is being able to personalize the service, so we treat you like an individual – we know a little bit about you.”
What does forming a 360-degree view of the guest allow a hotel to accomplish? “The basic element is if you’ve stayed with us in multiple hotels, we have a single profile for you, not one in each hotel. We have your accurate profile information stored in our system and can access it automatically,” Shenoy says. “Maybe our hotel in London noted that you like a certain kind of tea, and our hotel in Hong Kong noted that you like a certain kind of wine. Individually, these might not mean much, but together they give us a fuller picture of who you are. Not only would this information tell us you’re a high-value customer in the F&B department, but when we know what you like to eat and drink, we can better tailor your service – so, for example, when you check in, we make sure we have your favorite tea bags in the room, and perhaps your favorite wine in the minibar.”
Taking that concept a step further, Langham Hospitality Group plans to connect data from the F&B outlets with guest data from the hotels. “Maybe you regularly dine at one of our three Michelin-starred restaurants,” Shenoy says. “I want to recognize that, of course, when you come back to the restaurant, which our restaurant colleagues are already good at doing. But I also want to have that information when you come stay at one of our hotels, so the team knows you better and treats you as a VIP.”
Collecting and storing the information about hundreds of thousands of guests is one thing. The challenge becomes making this data actionable – that is, using multiple connected systems to analyze it and serve it up at the right time to the hotel staff on the front line who make the greatest impact on the guest experience.
Building the Framework
In 2019, Shenoy and Langham Hospitality Group embarked on a journey to build the infrastructure that would allow for true guest personalization. He and his team explored several CRMs built specifically for hospitality, but they each had their shortcomings. He found that, in each case, the Group would be restricted to the supplier’s priorities and limited to what the supplier used as guest profile attributes. Relying on previous experience, Shenoy chose to partner with Salesforce, which he calls a “best-in-class” CRM.
But building a Salesforce interface to each property-level PMS in Langham Hospitality Group’s portfolio would be costly and time consuming. Fortunately, right around decision-making time, Shenoy caught wind of Hapi, a data-integration platform that allows companies to build one API that will centralize, clean and normalize the data from each of their PMSs. A Hapi integration allows data to flow in both directions – they can pull data from the PMS and write back to the PMS in real time.
“This is where Hapi – and especially the API part – has been very useful for us,” Shenoy says. “They help us integrate across a number of those different systems, normalize our guest data and analyze it in a more comprehensive way.”
Through the first half of 2020, more than 5 million guest profiles were imported, matched and cleansed – and nearly 60,000 guest requests – using Hapi Connect’s integration and matching flows in Salesforce. Hundreds of thousands of duplicate profiles were removed.
With the deep, two-way integration in place, Langham Hospitality Group can now get more out of Salesforce. Information from guest profiles can be analyzed centrally and served up at the appropriate moments throughout the guest journey, ensuring staff at each hotel across the portfolio can access all guest data and history when they need it. Preferences, interests, services, revenue spend and recent activity are all stored centrally in order to help the Group build smarter customer segments and communications to drive upselling revenue and cultivate repeat business. Now, corporate operations teams are able to view portfolio-wide performance indicators and converted revenue data. Marketing teams can now use guest history to guide them on more personal journeys.
The magic won’t happen overnight. Shenoy knows that to get the most benefit out of the technology, his colleagues in operations must understand why it’s important and how to use it.
“It’s a journey, but we’re headed in the right direction,” Shenoy says. “In operations, there’s always a metaphorical fire to put out. For many of these things to work correctly, we need to help our operations colleagues to see the benefits and to change the way they work. If they don’t know how to get the most out of the system, it can become a mechanical exercise for them and they won’t truly realize the benefits.”
Not only is the Salesforce connection helping Langham Hospitality Group store and action guest profiles, it’s helping ensure they send more targeted marketing as well. Guests see more relevant offers, which helps increase conversion.
“We’re trying to give the guest a tailored experience, but we’re also trying to maximize revenue,” Shenoy says.