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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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.