Mr. Benjamin

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

Using Technology to Deliver a Personalized Experience

By Mike Benjamin, Vice President Sales, Guestware

It is important to organize hotel data in such a way that easily displays detailed guest profile information such as past requests, incidents, revenue, stay nights and their personal preferences. Personalizing the guest experience in hotels has become much easier thanks to technology and software applications. What hotel staff does with this important information can shape the overall experience for a returning guest while building reliable, sustainable processes to capture and maintain meaningful guest service information for future stays and process improvement.

With the help of modern customer relationship management (CRM) solutions for the hotel industry, hoteliers can develop an actionable plan and routine for pre-arrival planning, servicing, and follow-up for their valued guests while establishing relationships with returning guests. This gives the hotel an opportunity to impress their guests with tailored services and create a solid, loyal customer for life.

Get to Know Your Guests Before They Arrive

By using a CRM solution that includes a Guest Recognition tool interfaced with the PMS, hotel staff can easily look up their guest profile data before they arrive. This gives staff the actionable information to know who their top guests are and how to proactively prepare for them. However, pre-arrival planning is easier said than done. Although this requires resources and time, an integrated guest recognition system automates laborious manual processes that prohibit many front office teams from doing the job well. With a seamless PMS and CRM integration, reservations can be organized by an accurate matching process that compares expected arrivals with past customers to identify each repeat guest while it also detects duplicates and questionable matches to make sure all of the repeat guests receive the special attention they deserve. The front desk can view the guest profile which holds previous requests, past experiences, and preferences to insure the guest is greeted with the proper room assignment and expected services delivered via associate facing mobile technology. When Guest Recognition is used in conjunction with a Rapid Response and Auto Dispatch tool, guest amenity requests are automatically dispatched to a runner upon check-in. Mobile device integration greatly speeds up the delivery of services. Tools like this are invaluable in environments where rapid attention is a preset expectation.

Allow Guests to Communicate From Their Mobile Devices

Since the advent of Smart phones, many hotel guests now wish to communicate their requests directly from their mobile device. Giving them the convenience and flexibility to chat before, during, or after their stay only strengthens their personalized experience. Endlessly ringing phones or being placed on hold can adversely affect a stay right from the start. Forward thinking solutions to engage with guests are necessary to compete in today's market. However, advanced communication is just the beginning. With a modern form of correspondence in place, it is also important to remember to have a back-end CRM solution that not only records the data from the conversation for future review and analysis, but automatically dispatches the request to staff for fulfillment and links every interaction with the guest's profile in the CRM. Automation of processes greatly increases the consistency proper service delivery while ultimately improving guest experiences.

Often times the chat conversation begins before the guest arrives at the hotel. For instance, the guest may be at the airport about to board the plane and wants to let the hotel know that they would like to have a laptop charger waiting in the room upon check-in. With the flexibility to chat with the hotel from their phone, the guest is able to communicate this request immediately and the hotel can provide the service before the guest arrives at the hotel. It is also a more discrete form of communication which can be valuable amid the hustle and bustle of a busy airport terminal.

Deliver Exceptional Service

To give valued guests a personalized experience, a Guest Response system should be in place to efficiently and reliably deliver services. This will help you consistently deliver service requests faster without letting anything slip through the cracks. It can improve staff productivity and customer satisfaction by streamlining service delivery. The electronic system should include a fast and reliable way for staff to log, dispatch, and follow-up on all guest requests and incidents. At the same time, all of this information builds a database of incidents that allow staff to pinpoint trends for process improvement. Automated response systems have proved themselves mission critical for present day hotel operations, especially for properties looking to boost their guest service satisfaction scores. Guest Response systems have been widely adopted in full service hotels and resorts but now with the adoption of cloud based software as a service (SaaS) and lower cost room based pricing models, the category is rapidly taking off with smaller boutique and limited service hotels. The latest generation of hotel managers realize paper processes for such critical tasks are a thing of the past.

Ensure a Flawless Room

Guests often have to deal with a long travel journey before arriving at the hotel. The last thing they want to encounter is a room with issues, as in most cases this results in a need to repack and return to the front desk in hopes another suitable room is available. Having a proper maintenance system in place insures that the rooms are problem-free and ready for a guest's stay, every time. Many maintenance management systems exist in the market, but few are designed specifically for hotel operators where guest experience data prioritizes the maintenance work that needs to be done. With a CRM system that includes a facilities management tool, the guest service data drives the prioritization and scheduling of maintenance work that needs to be performed, and the maintenance work performed drives a high quality, personalized product delivered to the guest. A well maintained room inventory is as important to guest experiences as it is to asset management. Poorly maintained hotel rooms and equipment inevitably lead to unexpected costs, which the majority of hotel operators simply cannot afford. The ongoing value of a regimented maintenance program cannot be overstated.

Measuring the Experience

It is important to measure - if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Automatic analysis of guest experiences captured by a solid CRM system delivers a significant return on investment. Get to them before they leave! It is too late if you have to wait until the guest fills out a survey or an online review to learn about a problem. Identifying and correcting a recurring negative guest experience early leads to lower operating costs and increased revenue from satisfied return guests. Average response time and goal analysis are each helpful metrics that improve processes. Reviewing these for each request or problem type, by runner, by time of day and by day of week can shed light on problems and inspire potential solutions. A common use of this information is to shift staffing levels to maintain delivery standards. Paper processes offer no ability to correlate data and make it virtually impossible to quickly notice trends.

It is far easier and more productive to send managers alerts and trend reports via their smart phone than to read printed reports. This efficiently provides management with a daily pulse on hotel service operations and guest information. It also offers the convenience of reviewing metrics from the comfort of home. Guest reporting and analytics help service teams identify opportunities to grow profitable relationships with their best guests. A program with interactive data visualization dashboards and reports makes it fast and easy to explore demographics on the guests booking visits as well as their spending habits once they arrive. These insights empower the staff to reach out to the types of guests they know make good long term happy and loyal customers. Guests like to feel known and tools that assist with truly personalized touches lead to loyalty that lasts a lifetime.

Team-wide buy-in is crucial to the success of these systems. No matter what types of data is generated from a real-time CRM system, they will be ineffective if there is not a formal process to use the information to work smarter and improve processes. Assembling a team from key departments to meet every other week to review the information and put together action plans for addressing key opportunities. Include those who know how to focus on the problems and the solutions. The CRM reporting tool is critical so managers spend more time managing positive change rather than collecting and tallying data. An integrated CRM and Guest Response system makes it easy to collect and analyze the data, but effective strategies and procedures to drive change are needed to achieve the potential and significant return on investment.

We have learned firsthand from our customers the most successful hotels at delivering exceptional and personalized service have strong leadership who understand how to get value out of technology. They understand that the people and the processes are the most critical part of achieving success with technology, but without these systems hotels are operating in the dark ages.

Mike Benjamin is the Vice President of Sales and co-owner of Guestware – a hospitality customer relationship management (CRM) and Guest Experience software and solution provider. Mr. Benjamin co-founded the company in 1990 after working at Boeing for five years as a Mechanical Engineer. By 1993, he had established a niche in the lodging industry. By 1996, the software had evolved into a fully developed hotel CRM system for hotels and resorts, and the trade name Guestware was formed. Guestware is a powerful, integrated CRM software solution used by hospitality companies around the world to attain the highest levels of guest satisfaction. Mr. Benjamin can be contacted at 206-233-0110 or mike.benjamin@guestware.com Please visit http://www.guestware.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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