Need Customers? Then “Customer Relationship Management” Matters!

By Rob Kall President, Bookt LLC | December 18, 2011

You have heard it all before. The Internet has leveled the playing field for travel … today's lodging-shopper has more channels and choices … new strategies and tactics are needed to effectively compete in today's socially connected online world. Okay. That is the way it is. Let's talk about Customer Relationship Management as a practical approach and toolset that can give you an edge within today's reality.

Gaining and Retaining Customers

Back in the late 1950s, IBM developed the first true automation innovation in the travel industry by envisioning and launching SABRE, the first computerized reservation system, automating the way American Airlines booked reservations. SABRE really "took-off" so to speak and sparked a revolution in travel technology. It is not too surprising then that IBM again, in 2001, produced the definitive "blueprint for customer relationship management in the travel industry" – and it remains as solid today as it was when penned 10 years ago.

Basically, IBM knowingly said that it takes a "disciplined" approach to collect and then apply traveler information to the building of strong customer relationships. That methodically, in a step-wise approach, you must:

  1. Continually refine your insights into customer needs, habits, and economics
  2. Develop and deliver targeted and tailored value propositions based on that knowledge
  3. Focus your time and business resources on activities that help produce what is above in 1 and 2

Cause and effect. Today's even greater level of interaction with past guests and prospects (the cause) provides the opportunity (the effect) to even better understand the needs, behavior and values of individual customers and customer segments. Which is a good thing as the intense global competition for lodging consumers tends to make our offerings and services increasingly similar, so customer "relationships" have become the transactional currency of successful sales, marketing and service-driven lodging companies. Truly, "relationships" matter and are today's powerful brand differentiator. This is where CRM comes in and can make the difference between a booking for you or one of your competitors.

CRM for Lodging Companies – the M is as important as the R

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.