For many hoteliers personalization is what they do already - welcoming guests and trying to anticipate their needs, however, in the hotel industry these days, you not only need to know your customer but also have enough usable data on their preferences.
And, from there, have the capability to apply it in a meaningful and relevant way.
Easier said than done for large chains
While personalizing a guest’s stay might sound easy for a boutique-style property of 50 rooms, or a small independent chain with a loyal following, it becomes harder for large chains. These hotels might be able to invest more in CRM systems, but their guests may not even want to provide insights into themselves or their preferences. The result is often targeting guests by cluster. This brings its own set of challenges as consumers own themselves and want to be recognized as individuals. Are they business travelers, are they leisure travelers, or are they both?
Reinventing the hotel guest experience to offer more choice
It is now up to hotels to rethink how they interact with guests before, during and after a stay. Hoteliers already say they are seeing the demand for more choice from travelers and for their experiences to mirror the sorts of experiences they have as a consumer. With customers having incredibly tailored content at their fingertips, making sure your home away from home is as comfortable as can be is a top priority for hotels. One of the areas this can be seen in is loyalty schemes. In early 2016, large chains invested in campaigns to boost their loyalty following and attract business away from intermediaries to book via their own direct channels.
Small changes can make a big difference to the individual guest
However, there is some debate in the industry over whether that investment might be more wisely put towards engaging technology that can advance a superior customer service. Some hotels are waking up to the potential of what newer technologies can bring and how to use them to engage with their customers in the channels they choose - whether it be voice-powered in-room technologies, WhatsApp, Facebook or the more traditional brand dotcoms and intermediaries’ websites.
Whoever the traveler, digital channels are of great benefit to hotels because they mean a trail of digital crumbs for hotels to gather and act upon. As the hotel industry grapples with the pace of change and moves forward with new technologies and ways to engage guests, there is one final challenge it will have to contend with: the need to be mindful of personal data and privacy issues. The future is about more than just knowing your customers. It is also about showing you understand and care about their needs. Be clear about what customers are willing to share and what they are getting in return.
For more about this topic, download a copy of our report, Open the door to opportunity: collaborating to win in the hotel distribution playing field.
Thamia Nieto is the Director of Hotels, Mobility & Insurance, Amadeus