Extending the Value of CRM Investment

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | March 29, 2015

According to Gartner, the customer relationship management (CRM) market is projected to increase to $36.5 billion by 2017. Businesses across all industries are looking to improve customer interactions through technology, but this is particularly critical for hoteliers who are losing ownership of customer relationships to online travel agencies (OTAs) that are outspending them on CRM technology and marketing. CRM applications have the ability to enable real-time connections between hospitality companies and their customers, and benefits are only compounded when solutions are integrated with advanced platforms for revenue management, mobility and business intelligence.

Targeting the Right Guest with the Right Offer

Long gone are the days of "spray and pray" when sending customers every marketing offer imaginable, despite its relevance, was the best way to maximize return. Today's generation of guests expects a more personalized experience that allows them to interact with the hotel property in real-time. This is where CRM technology plays an essential role. By selecting the latest in marketing management solutions to help drive multi-channel and multi-wave campaigns, hoteliers can deliver promotional packages that take guest preferences, demographics and relevance into account. In today's increasingly competitive market, delivering the right offer to the right customer with the appropriate timing is essential to facilitate higher acceptance rates. Increased acceptance indicates greater guest satisfaction, ultimately impacting both revenue and the overall guest experience to help boost top line profits.

When selecting a CRM application, hoteliers should look for functionality that will allow the organization to build interaction profiles in real-time as customers engage with the property or chain. By automatically storing information on individual preferences and past responses, hoteliers have the necessary insight to send offers that are most likely to elicit a response. This makes the guest feel as if they have a more personal relationship with the property because offers are always timely and applicable, which helps to drive the customer's loyalty to the brand. A CRM system that simply automates email creation is no longer adequate. Communications must be meaningful and dynamic versus static, and "learn" from each interaction in order for hoteliers to maximize the return on offers and realize their full benefit.

Consider this illustration. Mr. X is a VIP guest and frequent patron at a luxury resort. Almost any property management system will display his VIP status and preferences to resort employees, and some more modern ones will show purchase history. However, without an integrated CRM application, that is usually where the information stops. Without more guidance from a CRM application, employees will miss opportunities to present him with offers during multiple interactions throughout the day. If the property equipped users with a real-time CRM system, information on this guest would not only be displayed, but it would also be accompanied by recommendations for relevant deals or experiences of interest.

Synchronizing Marketing and Revenue Management

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.