Why rich guest data is a game changer for hospitality

Seventy percent of consumers expect more personalised services from brands. But until recently, the concept of true personalisation in the hospitality industry was a pipe dream.

Here’s an example: recently, my colleague checked into a hotel where she had stayed twice before. The front desk agent warmly welcomed her. After confirming the details of the reservation, the agent asked, “Have you stayed with us before?”

Naturally, my colleague was taken aback. Not only had she stayed at the hotel before, but she had written a review of the experience on TripAdvisor. The general manager even responded to the review. My colleague had also tweeted at the hotel’s Twitter handle a day before her arrival that she was looking forward to another visit.

This is a great example of a missed opportunity for a hotel to take the guest experience to the next level. But the reality is, the level of personalisation that my colleague expected that day was highly improbable.

Disparate platforms

Why? Because most hotels use disparate platforms for daily functions like POS, PMS, CRM, email marketing and analytics, online reputation management, and others. The reality is, the vast majority of hotels don’t truly know their guests.

The front desk agent can’t be blamed for delivering an imperfect experience that day. I know that even if my colleague’s historical guest data had been captured and stored from previous visits, the data probably lives in silos.

For example, a hotel general manager recently told me that information from his loyalty system can’t be accessed by the quality team. If my colleague had booked through an OTA for her first visit, the hotel wouldn’t have access to her email unless she were to provide it in person at check-in.

Requests made of the concierge are often never captured in digital form. Feedback on TripAdvisor has never been tied back to a guest when he returns to the property for his stay. And the hotel’s marketing team has no way to look at this information in one place, to properly segment the guest database and deliver personally relevant messaging to each guest. While it is one of a hotel’s greatest assets, guest data is often treated like an after-thought.

On the other hand, I myself have stayed at some high-touch hotels where by the time I checked out, I couldn’t wait to re-book. I received a service that seemed custom-designed for my stay. The front desk agent greeted me by name and my favourite newspaper was left outside my door. I received an email shortly after check-in asking if I would like to make a spa reservation.

Treat or inconvenience

However, it is important to remember that what is a treat to one person might be an inconvenience to another. Champagne and strawberries might seem like a great gesture, but what about guests who don’t drink or like strawberries?

An email alerting me to a 3pm craft beer event might be great if I were travelling with a friend for leisure but if I were in a conference on-site it might be an inconvenience.

Hoteliers need to get to know their guests if they’re going to start delivering the personalised, high-touch experiences that today’s travellers expect. They need to think about the relevance of their communications and service to each guest in order to increase guest satisfaction and loyalty.

Knowing what I know about hotel operations, providing this level of service is only possible with the right technology and the right training for staff members. Providing personalised service and communications during the stay (let alone pre- and post-stay) is a daunting challenge for hoteliers. What can they do to meet guest expectations?

Significant steps

The first step is for hotels to capture their guest data to start building profiles of each guest.

The second step is for hotels to create automated and personalised communications at different touchpoints throughout the guest experience.

The third step is for each staff member to have access to all available information about guests at their disposal.

There are at least six types of guest data that a hotel can use to improve the guest experience:

1. contact info: first name, last name, email address, physical address, mobile number
2. demographics: sex, age, nationality
3. usage/history: trip type, number of visits, average spend
4. interests: yoga, golf, spa, foodie
5. preferences: coffee, high floor, quiet room, newspaper, feather pillows
6. experiential: Feedback from reviews or prior surveys, comments made to staff members

Think about what might be possible with all of this data compiled onto one place. You can start with a guest profile, where it is easy to access, sort, track, and take action. The front desk staff could use this profile to proactively remove down pillows for a guest with allergies.

The concierge could sort by interests and send a personalised email to guests interested in golf. The restaurant manager could invite solo travellers to meet at the chef’s table for a communal meal. And post-stay, the marketing team could invite past guests who visited the spa to book their next stay when the spa reopens following a renovation.

Over time, as you build a relationship with each guest, your guest profiles will amass information and data. Soon, you’ll have rich guest profiles with enough connected information to enable a truly personalised guest experience that can drive real loyalty and revenue.

Making the difference

In an increasingly competitive landscape, personalised actions will make the difference between an ordinary stay and one that is truly exceptional. Unfortunately, most hotels are using systems that, while powerful on their own, do not connect and share data with one another. This makes it difficult to aggregate the data to gain insights either on a single guest or the guest database as a whole.

The good news is, there are new technology platforms that specialise in integrating with multiple systems. All data, from bookings, POS, PMS, to loyalty, can be brought together into a single, cloud-based dashboard that’s easily accessed and maintained.

It is now possible to add public social media data, online review data, and other sources of guest information like service requests and post-stay feedback.

The promise of rich guest profiles is here and it will revolutionise hospitality with the potential for a truly personalised guest experience.

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