Question for Our Hotel Marketing Expert Panel

Personalised guest experiences are becoming increasingly important and maintaining rich guest profiles helps hotels deliver on preferences and anticipate needs. Is a CRM essential for personalisation?

Industry Expert Panel

Our Industry Expert Panel exists out of professionals within the hospitality & travel Industry. They have comprehensive and detailed knowledge, experience in practice or management and are forward-thinking. They are answering questions about the state of the industry. They share their insights on topics like revenue management, marketing, operations, technology and discuss the latest trends.

Adele Gutman
Adele GutmanCulture and Guest Experience Expert, Hospitality Reputation Marketing Podcast

“Personalization creates elevated experiences and excellent experiences create loyalty. Loyal guests not only stay more, but they are willing to pay more for an elevated experience. What’s more, they will say more, giving recommendations and 5-star reviews that attract new future guests.

Loyalty begins with making each guest feel like a very important individual. We all know that the cost of acquiring a new customer is far more than keeping a loyal customer and the cost of acquisition is getting higher all the time. That’s why any communication tool like a CRM is essential to any company committed to appreciating and optimizing the lifetime value of every guest.

However, a CRM can only become a powerful tool in the hands of a team of hoteliers who are truly committed to using it to make their guests feel cared for, appreciated, and respected:

  1. Elevate the guest experience
  2. Showcase differentiation: What makes your hotel and location awesome?
  3. Reduce friction points
  4. Create convenience
  5. Prove the value of a direct relationship with your hotel over an OTA

Start with a pre-stay registration form to all guests regardless of how they booked, asking for contact details, particularly their mobile number and email, so that on the day you can deliver any last-minute messages to help ease their arrival. Now you have that direct contact on which to build a caring relationship.

Ask on the form why they are coming; the names and ages of all the registered guests, their anticipated arrival time, and if there are any questions or special requests before they arrive. For example, if they are visiting a nearby medical center or are on their honeymoon, that information should guide the type of information and support that a caring human would offer, and your digital communications should reflect that distinction. What would a vegetarian or a dog lover want to know in advance to reduce anxiety and friction points and elevate their guest experience?

Prepare communications for them so that your digital communication experience is as thoughtful and human as possible. Don’t just take the arrival time plus additional guests’ names and ignore that data. Do your best to utilize the information to make every guest feel like a VIP and you will find your loyalty and your profitability on the rise.

Finally, ask your team what the most frequent questions are on arrival and what recurring friction points arise where guests were disappointed or unaware of something until they checked in. Support your Guest Service team by helping relieve the situation with your CRM. Use that data to go back to your confirmation and pre-stay emails to better communicate in advance of arrival and manage expectations. A great arrival experience sets the tone for a great stay and a great lifelong relationship with your customer.”

Thomas Dieben
Thomas DiebenFounder, Becurious

“As we focus primarily on the online awareness, evaluation and acquisition phases of the guest journey, I will specify my answer towards these areas.

Personalised website content is possible primarily due to the use of cookies. As the current use of cookies will be terminated soon, digital marketers must investigate other ways to offer the right content, at the right moment to the right guests. Context-based marketing and initiatives like Google FLoC will offer possibilities to target specific audiences and offer tailored content. Allowing potential hotel guests to get specific discounts with promotion codes and/or offer a personalised booking experience are also some examples of personalisation. Also, the use of chatbots (with AI), adding price comparison tools, smart notifications and offering the possibility to receive a ‘saved availability and rate search per email’ can be deployed.

Using a CRM system with seamless connectivity to the hotel’s PMS offers possibilities to reach and attract recurring guests. This kind of system, with the option to offer tailored content, helps in getting the most value out of a guest. Implementing a strategy to save guest information and make campaigns to reach them, should be used by hotels aiming for repeat guests.”

Tamie Matthews
Tamie MatthewsRevenue, Sales & Marketing Consultant, RevenYou

“I believe that with the shift to a digital world and everything being online, we are all craving proper, authentic interactions with others more than ever. As hoteliers, it’s important to remember that we chose this industry because we love people. Yes, the personalised experience is vital whether you are a 3 star or a 5 star.

Understanding your guests’ needs and delivering what they want before they ask is the winning recipe. I used to work at a hotel where we asked guests for the dates of their birthdays and anniversaries. 6 weeks prior to those occasions, we would email them to ask whether we could book their favourite room with their favourite spot in the restaurant. We even recorded what wines they had on their previous stay.”

Reshan Jayamanne
Reshan JayamanneDigital Marketing & Sales Strategist, Bnb Optimized

“The most money you will ever spend on a business is in the process of acquiring a new customer. i.e., CPA (cost per acquisition). Therefore, it is vital to make the most of that customer once they are acquired (purchased/booked your stay). This is known as increasing your ALTV (Average Life Time Value – how much, on average, a customer may spend over year/s of return business) of a customer and is vital to be aware of.

The role of a robust CRM is to manage the relationship between your business and your customer in the hope of increasing the likelihood of return business. It’s much easier to persuade an existing customer for return business than it is to persuade a stranger (a new prospect). A CRM is great to understand the type of customers you attract, their seasonality, and where they spend their money. Observing this data, and how it changes over time, can help your business position offers throughout the year that best suit the customers’ needs.

For example: once you have acquired the customer and they have stayed at your hotel, you can automate trigger-fired email sequences, offering the customer a unique stay based on what they did/didn’t do in the hotel. This is putting rich data to work, e.g., a couple could receive an offer that includes spa treatment and a romantic dinner. Similarly, if you are doing this at scale, you can link your CRM with your advertising platform (Google, Facebook, and so on) to extract a “custom audience” and re-target your EXACT customers based on the data gathered in the CRM with detailed, non-intrusive advertisements wherever they go online that give you the best possible chance of return business. This is advertising at scale without wasting any money as you’re only speaking to your existing customer base and building a relationship with them that allows you to gain a far greater number of return bookings.

Provide so much value in a customer’s first visit that they are already thinking about when they can return to your business when they leave. Increasing your ALTV means that you can then afford to spend MORE on advertising and absorb a higher cost per acquisition, knowing that on average, a customer is worth a lot more to you than the cost of acquiring them. As the age-old saying goes, ‘the one who spends the most to acquire a customer, wins.’ Therefore, figure out your ALTV, understand how much you can afford to spend on acquiring a customer, and leverage your CRM to foster trust with your prospects to increase the likelihood of return business.”

Jolien Alferink
Jolien AlferinkHotel Marketing Consultant, Orange Hotel Marketing

“We mostly work with independent lifestyle hotels, where a personalised approach is expected nowadays. However it doesn’t take much effort or expensive technology. It’s all about creating a connection when guests arrive and maintaining that throughout their stay, using their names wherever possible, and fostering good communication throughout the team to share feedback from guests, especially the smaller comments which will impress your guests.

Most properties will work with a PMS which will help with sharing notes internally via the guests profiles. Connecting with guests shortly after their stay is also important, thanking them and expressing hope at welcoming them back again. While technology will play an important role in the latter, the human, personalised touch will still have the biggest impact.”

Luminata Mardale
Luminata MardaleDirector of Marketing and Business Development, Vienna House

“Personalization is one of the most important things for a guest when they choose a hotel. Guests expect to be recognized as individuals, including specific needs. Hoteliers have access to instruments to collect all necessary data to give guests a personalized experience addressing their needs. These days, guests expect to feel at home in a hotel (room).

For example, we have guests who prefer to stay in the same room when they use our hotel, require a specific room temperature at arrival, or have double amenities. It is essential to have a CRM because it helps fully understand our guest’s needs and maintain a relationship with them by building a rich profile that can shape personalized customer interactions.”

Alessandro Inversini
Alessandro InversiniAssociate Professor of Marketing and Director of the Institute of Customer Experience Management, Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne

“At Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne we are finalizing a piece of research that will explain the different values that customization (i.e., ex-ante choice of preferences) and personalization (during-stay experience co-creation) can bring to a hospitality organisation. Customization seems to have an impact on the perception of quality, whereas personalization seems to have an impact on the willingness to pay.

This means that hospitality managers could propose customization offers (e.g., minbar options, pillow options and so on) to drive customers’ quality perception. They could also experiment with experience co-creation to foster a willingness to pay for extra services. CSR, or digital solutions, are essential nowadays to deliver both customization and personalization.”