Guest Service in the Digital Era
By Shayne Paddock, Chief Innovation Officer / Guest Management Solutions, TravelClick
It's easier to keep a guest smiling if you know a little something about them. Would you buy a gift for somebody without knowing anything about them? Of course not. So why try to service a guest that way if you don't have to.
Collecting guest data is on the minds of many marketing and revenue manager these days. Not a day goes by that the term "Big Data" isn't mentioned in one of the many hospitality blogs or press releases. But what does it all really mean?
The vast majority of hoteliers are unable to deal with deciphering petabytes of data. They need tools that crunch abundant amounts of data and turn it into very distinct pieces of information that can be used to intelligently run the hotel.
Using guest data should not only be reserved for the marketing department. Hotels are missing the point if they go through the trouble of collecting guest preferences, likes/dislikes, past stay information, survey results, or any problems had during the stay and not sharing it with every department that could benefit from it. A big part of the job for today's hotel CIO is to manage guest data but more importantly get it into the hands of the hotel staff that need it, when they need it, and deliver it in a way they can consume it. Having detailed guest dashboards that are best viewed on a 24 inch monitor aren't helping the housekeeping staff too much.
Luxury hotels are very good at this but many of them put a lot of manpower behind data management that the rest of the hotel space couldn't possibly afford. Not just for the sake of doing it; luxury properties want to know everything about their hotel visitors so that they can personalize every guest experience and anticipate their every need. The way in which the data is collected, managed and utilized keep their guests smiling and help maximize the properties share of the guest wallet.
This might seem like a daunting task for the non-luxury segment, but it doesn't have to be. The bar is set so low for guests that exceeding one's expectations can be surprisingly easy. It really starts with just a few data points. Knowing if a guest is traveling for business or pleasure changes everything. Determine the nature of a guest's visit and record it somewhere on the reservation. Are they traveling with kids or not. If a guest is traveling with kids every recommendation should be centered around that.
There's no point in sending a personalized spa offer to a single mom with 2 kids unless your hotel provides child care. If that's the case then that would be golden, otherwise it's just a dream offer. Find out just a few things about what the guest likes to do. This doesn't have to be a 20 page survey (and it shouldn't be) but just a few bullets that either a call center can check off, a front desk agent can quickly ask, or a guest can fill in on a pre-stay survey. Knowing just a few interests can really shape the recommendations you provide your guests. If they are there to shop then it might not be that wise to tell them all the great rock climbing haunts. Don't assume every guest is the same.
There are many ways to capture this data. Make sure at every customer interaction the information being given to you is being stored. Guests will tell you a lot about themselves if you know where to look. What pages on your website are they most interested in, did they spend a lot of time searching your spa, or were they on the attractions pages. When they called the hotel and asked a few questions did you jot those notes down and store it on a guest profile or pre-check certain preferences based on the conversation. Which package items did they buy and did you record it so you can reference it later. Did you ask a few questions upon check-in? What items did they consume from the mini-bar? When they filled out the satisfaction survey does it just boil up into aggregate reports or do you have the ability to take the individual guest data and include it in the guest profile to use for the next stay?
Approximately 25% of guests make a request while on property. Are you capturing those requests so the next time the guest stays they don't have to make the same request again? In this day and age guests expect you to remember their requests and preferences. There's nothing worse than having to repeat yourself over and over. More to the point, if those extra towels are in the room the next time, the guest will notice. All those little things add up. If you exceed the guest's expectations they are more likely to dismiss other things that go wrong during their stay.
Put yourself in the guest's shoes. What would matter to you? Many times it's the simple things that people remember. A hand written note in the room upon check-in. The front desk agent remembering your name from your last stay. A great restaurant recommendation suited just for you. Being put in a quiet room when you have a big presentation the next day. The guest isn't there just for your hotel. In most cases your guest is visiting your hotel for something that is happening outside of your four walls. A business meeting, a conference, a shopping trip, a baseball tournament, or a family vacation all come to mind. For most guests, to keep them smiling is to help ensure they have a great time with everything else outside of your hotel. In order to win at that game it really starts with having a superb guest focussed staff that have a passion for your location and a passion for serving others. These people are hard to find, but when you do, do everything in your power to keep them happy. Keeping your guests smiling starts with keeping your staff smiling. Staff that grew up in the area, know all of the local hotspots and more importantly which spots to avoid are pure gold.
So Who Benefits From All of This Data Collection?
The Marketing Team - If this data gets stored in a marketing system then the marketing team is able to get email campaigns out faster, automate manual tasks (loading data, triggered pre-arrival emails), and measure the ROI for their efforts.
The Revenue Management Team - Revenue managers are maximizing guest revenue through room upgrades, package upsells, and recovered website bookings. By knowing the guest these offers can be personalized to the guest based on their past spend or based on other similar guests. Guest data can also be passed to revenue management systems so that rates can be personalized for loyalty members, or guests within a certain geographic region.
The Front Desk Team - Front Desk clerks can check guests in with ease knowing they have the complete guest profile at their fingertips, allowing them serve the arriving guests at the highest possible level. Simple things like "Welcome back Mr. Smith". If a guest normally books a spa treatment they can remind them to book it right then and there.
The Concierge - Requests can be electronically routed to the concierge for fulfillment. With the full guest profile available he or she can make strong recommendations for things to do in the area based on what he or she already knows about the guest from their past stays. By asking the guest ahead of time what their interests are allows the concierge to have those recommendations ready when the guest arrives.
The General Manager - The General Manager can monitor a guest dashboard to keep an eye on the overall happiness of his guests. He has the reassurance that guests are being taken care of in every digital channel possible. Sentiment analysis tools make looking at trending phrases and comments very easy. Lastly he can be satisfied that he has given his staff the very best tools for success.
The Housekeeping Staff - A printed arrivals report showing which guests don't want towels replaced every day or what snack the guest prefers in their room upon arrival can be very effective.
The Food and Beverage Team - Addressing a guest by name or being able to pull up a guest's favourite cocktail can be a really nice plus. Knowing that the guest is allergic to peanuts or prefers gluten free options can really help with entrée recommendations.
The Guest - The guest has the best experience possible and isn't that what true hospitality is all about!
The words Big Data can be intimidating. It's easy for small hoteliers to think that it must just be for the big brands. You don't have to have a data analyst on staff to make these simple things a reality. The key to using guest data to your advantage is to start small. If you try and do too much all at once other priorities will creep in and the project will stagnate. Pick one or two of the ideas above and implement it with your team. Do it in a way that you can measure the results. But like I said, the success of the project will be highly dependent on the staff you already have. If you have an excellent guest focused staff they will immediately want to embrace an initiative like this, it's in their nature. If your staff come to work every day with a frown on their face, regardless of how much you know about your guests it will be difficult to keep them smiling.
Shayne Paddock is a technology and business leader with over 20 years of experience in product management, software development, CRM, Marketing Automation, Guest Profiling, Loyalty Management, Search Engine Marketing, Email Marketing, and Hospitality Systems Integration. He is currently the Chief Innovation Officer for Guest Management Solutions at TravelClick. His responsibilities include Product Management, Customer Engagement, Sales Engineering, and the overall thought leadership of TravelClick’s suite of Guest Management solutions. Mr. Paddock holds a diploma in Business Administration with a major in Information Systems from Algonquin College as well as two patents in the email marketing space with regards to dynamic content and personalization. Mr. Paddock can be contacted at 212-817-4819 or email@example.com Please visit http://www.travelclick.com for more information. Extended Bio...
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