Contributed by Estella Hale, V.P. of Product, SHR
“Remember, the most important guest preference is not what we say it is, but what the guest says it is. The right data at the right time can help you understand this.”
—Mike Goldenberg, SVP of Business Solutions, Cendyn
As hospitality professionals, we take pride in our ability to serve our customers’ needs more than any other industry. And we know that understanding those customers—our guests—is essential to building lasting relationships, let alone loyalty programs. Yet gathering and understanding today’s smart data, and applying a true 360° marketing approach, with tight CRM, CRS, and PMS integrations, can be more than a little challenging to achieve.
In a recent webinar, Jos Schaap, CEO of StayNTouch, Mike Goldenberg, SVP of Business Solutions for Cendyn, and myself, discussed how to capture, assess, and apply smart data to strengthen relationships and build loyalty programs that are targeted—and truly hear—what matters most to each guest. Considering that 43% of our webinar audience reported that their systems were not fully integrated, we focused on improving system relationships and then using the resulting data to better serve our guests.
Assessing Your Data Connection
First, to create your best data flow, you must know where it’s all coming from and going. Using data from PMS and CRM as it's sent through the CRS can help your packages and rooms, to be more customized. This makes your offerings more personalized, which in turn builds revenues. I recommend that you make sure your guest profiles are “recognized” via your CRM. This will allow you to generate specific rates for loyal guests. It’s also helpful to have the ability for your guest to sign-up right in the booking flow to streamline the process. Ask yourself, do you have communication with your guests via your CRS and PMS both pre- and post-stay? Are you getting guest data in a format that’s actionable for your CRM so that the algorithms it runs are as accurate as possible?
Features that Flow
Having the right features in your booking software can make all the difference when it comes to personalizing guest offerings. One popular feature is add-ons. These are an easy way to boost revenue and improve your guests’ experience at the same time. They consist of virtually any hotel-sponsored products, i.e. shuttles, bicycle rentals, special room prep, foods, wines, etc. Persuasive messaging like strike-through, which shows immediate savings and value on-screen, can help get guests to convert in the moment by showing real-time true value, allowing personalized offerings for each guest group, i.e. tours, weddings, etc. Upgrade availability allows you to list top upgrades for each booked room, and engage in gentle up-selling, making booking more costly rooms less stressful for guests (and more appealing) by taking it in smaller steps. Your direct booking engine empowers the guest by giving them the ability to sign into the CRM, and having relevant information to give them a customized experience of being recognized. And call center whisper screens empower the agent to bring about actions to enhance and customize the guest experience by feeding the agent relevant guest information.
Pursuing Full Connectivity
Jos picked up our discussion with how to really achieve full partner connectivity, which today relies heavily on the modern hotel PMS focusing on excellence for in-house operations. This means a PMS built on an open structure so that it can easily integrate with other top third-party software via today’s best APIs. Because these new pieces are specifically built to be easily integrated through APIs, building the perfect software stack can happen in far less time now.
Your PMS needs to work well with other systems. Connecting to your CRS is essential to ensure that you’re communicating live room availability and rates to maximize room sells. “The key here is having a PMS that allows your hotel staff to turn over rooms quickly and make live updates that are then relayed to the CRS,” Jos said. “Likewise, your CRS should be pushing instant reservation data back to the PMS and needs to have an extensive reach to OTAs and GDS for a healthy distribution mix.” Your PMS should also be pushing guest data to your CRM to support segmented and personalized marketing campaigns. Also, remember that guests do really love a mobile check-in experience, so make sure that it’s easy for them to access and use.
Pushing Guest Profiles to the Forefront
Mike explored how to use guest data to personalize interactions during the stay. As guests move through their hotel journeys, they interact with myriad systems, yet historically, those systems would not talk to each other. “Instead, each system would hold a sliver of information about each customer, but they weren’t stitched together in any meaningful way,” Mike said. “With a CRM that centralizes all this information, you can now engage the guest at every touchpoint with seamless, personalized marketing that anticipates their needs and desires.”
Additionally, employing predictive Intelligence enables you to create relevant messages and actions for your guest via mobile devices. The aim here is to learn about the guests' behavior and use it to predict what they may want to do in the future, then you can identify opportunities to surprise and delight your guest with a higher level of personalized marketing.
As Mike reminded us, engaging across the guest journey means practicing integrated marketing that works in concert with your existing systems, and cueing the most important, tailored messages to build loyalty.
Want to find out more about using smart guest data for better loyalty programs?