Guest Service in the Digital Era

By Shayne Paddock Vice President of Product Development & Innovation, TravelClick | March 27, 2016

It's 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 don't 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" isn't 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 today's 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 aren't 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 couldn't 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 doesn't have to be. The bar is set so low for guests that exceeding one's 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 guest's 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 April 2019...

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.