Guest Service in the Digital Era

By Shayne Paddock Chief Innovation Officer / Guest Management Solutions, TravelClick | March 27, 2016

Itís 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 donít 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" isnít 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 todayís 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 arenít 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 couldnít 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 doesnít have to be. The bar is set so low for guests that exceeding oneís 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 guestís 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.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.