ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Blending High Tech With High Touch Has Become Essential Today For Optimal Results.
By Dr. John Hogan, CHE CHA MHS
Wednesday, 6th May 2009
A lesson I have learned in my career is that blending high tech with high touch is required today for optimal resultas -

Using guest history is not high tech – it is the fundamentals of many successful hoteliers today, ranging from Bed & Breakfast operators to gaming to resorts to business oriented properties.

"Quick reactions to the changes in the business cycle and preferences of our guests are essential to maintaining high occupancies.

Innovations, particularly those which improve occupancies over traditionally slack periods……have also contributed to our continuing high occupancy rates."
James Durbin (retired) President, Marriott Hotels

The Durbin reference came at a time when technology was basic, but the focus was on using information available.  With all the sophisticated software available today in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and other property management systems, it is a shame that the only thing too many hotel owners and sales managers know or act on about their repeat regular guests is their preferred method of payment or perhaps the type of accommodation the guest favors.

Resort and casino operators for years tracked regular customers and knew not only their preferred accommodations, but also their client's personal taste in décor, food and beverage favorites and support services.  The first hotels I worked in were independent resorts in a small Vermont town, yet the owners and managers maintained solid records and a strong system of regular communication with their regulars.

Another prime example I have first hand knowledge of was one of the nation's first all-suite hotels, built in Nashville, Tennessee.   When it was in its prime, the five-star Spence Manor Hotel was rated as one of the more desirable hotels to stay at in the Nashville area, due to location, personalized service and privacy.  (This property converted to into condominiums a number of years ago)

The hotel's success was not based totally on luxurious accommodations, its unique guitar shaped swimming pool (built by country music legend Webb Pierce), or location alone. Much of its long-term success was due to the special attention given to all guests by Manager and Host Edna Bloodworth.  In the days before sophisticated technology, Edna would track every guest's preferences in a manual system.

Regular and personalized direct marketing was their main means of promotion and their clientele appreciated the attention.  One never knew whom you might rub elbows with in the single, tiny elevator…Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Elvis and even The Beatles frequently called it home when they would come to Music City USA in the 1960s.   Located on world famous Music Row (home to many recording studios and publishing offices), close to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the University area, medical centers and downtown Nashville, this hotel attracted people from all around the world.

Now this was a small hotel and would be called today a boutique-type hotel. The competitive set was dramatically different at that time and yet, I recall this independent hotel holding its own in the 1980s, even with significant newer competition and a recession.  I noted at the time the success was substantially due to Edna and her master list of customer preferences in her regularly maintained files.

We are well beyond that approach, but the intent remains the same – how to recognize regular clients and demonstrate your hotel's appreciation of them.

Building a customer list or database is crucial in all economies, but especially in periods of limited demand when many competitors primarily compete on the basis of price or room rate alone.  A useful customer list or database allows you to make contact more often and become the automatic choice on return visits, as well as to encourage their recommendations to others. Using this list or database and reaching out is not high pressure, but hospitality at its heart - staying in touch.

If your hotel has ignored its list or database because you were running high occupancies and growing ReVPAR over the past several years, it is not too late to establish or update one now

The more information you have about a guest, the more you can target their particular interests.  You want to focus on their reason for being at your hotel, whether it is visiting the nearby university, or a medical center or the courthouse.  If you have F&B facilities, one might promote meeting or banquet space, but targeting usually pays off.

Reservations and registration cards already provide a basis of information , such as name, address and can be expanded to include email address and a cell phone number (especially if targeting a younger demographic). 
Using our PMS systems effectively means understanding and using Guest History.

  • Do we follow up on the guests we have?
  • Do we follow the trends that exist in our hotel?
  • Is Saturday really the highest demand day or is Friday?
  • Which weekday has the best RevPAR and why?
Using the information from our reservation sources and more importantly our own PMS system, we can find the repeaters, the guests who are from a certain zip code, or who stay on certain days of week, etc.

I have personally heard a number of major hotel brand CEOs in the last six months express their sentiment that the successes in this period of economic uncertainty will come at the local level – from individual hoteliers giving that extra step of attentiveness in as many ways as possible.

I believe the brands have the resources to help with marketing, advertising and reservation sourcing, but the winners will be those who combine high tech entrepreneurial savvy with the high touch sense of "hosting".

Who are your regular customers? 
When was the last time you reached out?

Feel free to share an idea for a column at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact me regarding consulting customized workshops, speaking engagements …  and remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources.

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

John Hogan, a career hotelier and educator, is a frequent speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is a successful senior executive with a record of accomplishment leading organizations at multiple levels.  His professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development, consulting, management, including service as Senior VP of Operations. 

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