In our increasingly connected world, today’s consumers expect more personalized service from brands and this is especially true of the hospitality industry. To stand out in such a competitive market, a hotel needs to provide personally relevant (and therefore memorable) guest experiences — the key to which lies in guest data.
Guest data has long been leveraged by luxury properties catering to discerning guests, but now operators of all types of lodgings, from motels to B&Bs, are recognizing the value in utilizing guest data to build stronger guest relationships that differentiate a property from its competition.
Here are some tips for building guest profiles that empower lodging operators to elevate the guest experience.
Guest Email Addresses
Guest email addresses are a crucial part of the equation. Without them, hotels are unable to take ownership of the guest relationship pre- and post-stay.
Most consumers are willing to provide their email address when booking accommodation online in order to receive a confirmation email. Therefore, properties that offer direct online bookings on their website are probably already collecting customer email addresses via their online booking engine — a process made even more seamless when the online booking engine is directly integrated with their property management system (PMS) so that direct online booking and guest data is automatically recorded in the PMS.
When bookings come through third parties, the property might not always receive the guest’s email address, but this doesn’t mean you should give up on guests with blank email fields. Front desk agents can politely ask for email addresses during check-in or check-out, telling guests they’d like to send them discounts for future stays or to pass along to a friend. Or offer to email guests their check-in/out receipt instead of printing one. Properties with a loyalty program can gather email addresses (and other guest data) by inviting guests to join.
Customers are more likely to share their email address if there’s something in it for them.
From allergies to room preferences, special requests are like gold nuggets in the world of guest data, providing obvious cues for how to personalize the guest experience.
Booking engines allow properties to offer guests the opportunity to make special requests at the time of booking, such as requesting in-room extras like wine and chocolates, adding activities to the reservation, requesting a pet-friendly room, or informing the property of any special dietary requests. This data is automatically recorded on reservation folios and can be saved in guest profiles to anticipate guest needs for future stays.
Special requests and guest preferences can also be noted through direct interactions with staff (via email, phone or in person) and manually recorded in guest profiles. If a guest requests extra pillows, note their pillow preference in their profile. When a guest asks for local recommendations, their interests can be recorded. If a guest mentions it’s their anniversary, that should be noted too.
Ancillary services or on-property purchases can provide clues about guests’ interests. When point-of-sale (POS) systems are integrated with the PMS, these purchases are recorded automatically on guest folios, but services can be recorded on a guest’s profile manually too.
Imagine a guest utilizes your spa services during their stay, and their delight upon check-out when they receive a small sample of spa product to enjoy at home. Or perhaps you’ve noticed a guest simply loves your blueberry breakfast muffins, so why not give them one for the road when they leave? If a guest has a morning paper preference, make sure that’s the one delivered before they even have to ask.
Keeping track of the ancillary services customers enjoy helps lodging operators to surprise and delight guests, as well as target offers more effectively.
It’s a pretty safe bet that most travelers use Facebook and/or Twitter and/or Instagram or some other combination of social networks, which makes social media an obvious place to look for information about your guests.
Are we actually talking about stalking your guests online? Not really… Think of it more like eavesdropping — something hotel staff have long been trained to do in order to serve guests intuitively. But to avoid crossing the line from intuitive to creepy, only gather information that can actually be used to improve the guest experience.
There’s nothing creepy about profiling guests based on their likes, shares or comments on your hotel’s own posts and campaigns. Whether a guest likes or shares a post about your special holiday package, leaves a comment drooling over a photo of your delicious waffles, or tweets about why they loved their stay, these interactions help to reveal the identities of your guests.
Some properties also look guests up online manually, checking the guest’s Facebook page, LinkedIn account or Twitter feed to find out what their interests are in order to enhance their stay. For example, if a guest is a coffee connoisseur, the hotel can surprise them with a small bag of locally roasted beans to take home. Imagine a couple’s delight upon discovering a bottle of wine and congratulatory note waiting in their room on their anniversary weekend.
Modern CRM (customer relationship management) tools can track guests online automatically to help build rich customer profiles.
Loyalty programs are evolving — in particular, those of independent properties — moving from strict, points-based systems to more flexible programs that cater to the modern traveler’s desire for instant gratification and relevant rewards. As mentioned above, when a guest joins a hotel’s loyalty program they are usually more willing to share personal information with the understanding that they will receive more personalized service and perks in return.
Modern loyalty programs can help lodging operators learn about customers’ travel habits, spending and preferences, and tailor reward programs, offers and future service to guests more successfully.
Guest Email Communications
From booking confirmations that invite guests to customize their stay with special extras or upgrades, to post-stay surveys and campaigns, strong calls to action compel customers to engage with email communications, and the resulting bookings, click-throughs and comments tell you a lot about your guests.
While guest data is critical in personalizing the guest experience, it’s not very useful without an easy way to access it. The right data management platform is key to sorting, analysing and acting on data for personalizing service and targeting campaigns to the right customer at the right time. This is where modern PMS, CRM and marketing automation systems come in.
PMS support personalized service through detailed guest profiles that include stay history, demographics, preferences and comments about the guest. And guest management features like pop-up reminders and reservation alarms for staff, VIP flagging and automated guest emails help staff cater to individual guests’ needs.
Marketing automation solutions take gathering and acting upon guest data to the next level, automatically aggregating data from other hotel systems (like PMS, POS and CRM systems) as well as from social media and online review sites to create extremely comprehensive guest profiles.
With such rich guest data at their fingertips, hoteliers can surprise and delight each and every guest.