Resolutions for Brand Success in 2016: Four Simple Actions to Take the Hotel Guest Experience to the Next Level
So, in the hospitality industry, was 2015 the year of Millennials? The year of mobile? The year of mergers? What about high ADR? Global expansion? Or all of the above?
As we start 2016 all refreshed, setting our resolutions with big ambitions, hospitality-industry leaders have to set clear and achievable goals. Nobody wants to set resolutions that fail just three weeks in to the New Year. Setting goals means reflecting on the past year and what made it great. For hoteliers, now is the time to look at your hotel's past - data - and reflect on what worked and what did not.
A key mission of hospitality is to provide unique, distinct, unforgettable experiences. Sounds easy enough, right? But while we know there is a lot that hoteliers have to do in order to provide the best experience to guests, how can hoteliers know what guests want and expect? What factors will make them feel they've had the best experience starting with booking our hotel all the way to their stay?
To answer those questions, resolve in 2016 to start with what you have – guest data. Now more than ever before, consumers say they are willing to provide more personal information – especially if they're getting special offers in return. According to a recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting¹, 51% of travelers are willing to provide personal information in exchange for relevant offers. And they are also more open to telling you what they expect from your hotel in advance: the same study found that 79% and 75% of travelers, respectively, stated they would be willing to provide their room location preferences and room type preferences in return for a more personalized hotel experience.
Again, it's one thing to know these facts, and another to be able to embrace that influx of data and insights and to elevate the guest experience. Here are four New Year's resolutions that will guide your hotels in delivering the best possible guest experience, so that the guests you attract in 2016 will keep coming back year after year.
- Establish a clear data architecture - To have a chance of sorting, analyzing and taking action on guest data, hoteliers must have the right infrastructure and data warehouse platform that allows them to make proactive decisions. Your hotels may already be generating accurate and insightful information about your guests, but ensuring access to this data for analysis and goal-setting, is also critical.
- Better insights, not more data - In this case, more is not always better. If your properties aren't currently utilizing guest data, it's best to start small and focus on understanding your data – and, of course, you must know how to act on it. Once you have a solid data reporting platform, analyze your customer base in order to understand who they are and how they shop. For instance, what age groups are visiting your website most often? Are these visitors the ones booking the most room nights? Which segments are booking through which channels? Are Millennials booking on your mobile site? What are the most popular rooms being purchased by specific segments? Also, use data-driven insights to understand who is booking your most expensive rooms, and who is spending the most on property. Clear, focused questions will guide your data analysis and, in turn, will give you better insights, allowing you to prioritize your marketing spend and target the right customers with the right message.
- The emotional side of data - Emotion plays a big role in how hotel guests form loyalty: according to a Forrester Consulting study², how an experience makes a customer feel trumps both utility and ease, and has the greatest influence on loyalty for a hotel guest. To get the full picture, hoteliers must leverage data beyond the traditional sources. Gather insights from as many channels as possible to get a complete view of your guests and see how you can better connect with customer's emotions. One single channel cannot provide the whole picture. Look not only at your website's analytics, but at booking trends, call center production, and social media channels and conversations – and don't forget to obtain insights from your staff on-property, too.
- Embrace the openness of data sharing – As consumers' attitudes toward data sharing evolve, every hotelier needs to have a plan in place for managing that influx of data. How will you create engaging experiences for customers based on the data they are providing you? If they trust you with their data, make sure you are able to deliver value in exchange.
Imagine having the ability to deliver a seamless experience to your guests at every step of their journey. Today's data platforms allow hoteliers to embrace and analyze data better than ever before, which means we can thank established customers for their trust and loyalty, and build better relationships with new customers by continuing to surprise and delight them.
For additional recommendations on how your hotels can embrace data and elevate the guest experience, review this recent Forrester study with key insights on travelers' trends. Cheers to a successful 2016!
(1) Source: "Customer Experience in Hospitality: Embrace Customer Data to Elevate the Guest Experience," Forrester Consulting, November, 2015
(2) Source: "Understanding The Impact of Emotion On Customer Experience," Forrester Research, Inc., July 13, 2015