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Why Being “Customer Obsessed” Is Already the New Normal in Hospitality

If you're in tune with emerging concepts in the business world, you've already heard the term "customer obsessed." But if you're not familiar with the term, you might almost skim over it without thinking, filing it away with other buzzwords like "synergy" as something you can safely overlook.

Spoiler alert: You can't afford to ignore this.

But suppose you don't like to use a term without knowing what it means – and after all, isn't being "obsessed" a bad thing?

When it comes to understanding hospitality customers, meeting their needs and winning their loyalty, we no longer have a choice. Customer obsession means not only focusing on customers, but providing what they demand.

The new reality is that customers expect us to be watching them, gathering data on their preferences and earning their business – and they expect personalized service right here, right now. It's naïve to think a hotelier today would rely on 20th-century advertising and the same old loyalty programs and expect travelers to just keep coming back.

That's why Sabre commissioned Forrester Consulting to research customers' expectations and learn ways hoteliers can deliver what customers expect in a data-driven, high-customization world. The results of this research are out now in our new report, Customer Experience in Hospitality: Embrace Data and Elevate the Guest Experience.

To bring hoteliers the most accurate and insightful view of the customer, we relied on Forrester's Customer Experience Index. Created based on quantitative research and analysis on customer experience quality and loyalty, the Index leverages insights from over 46,000 people in the U.S. ages 18 and up. This research helps quantify the impact of positive customer experiences: For example, for upscale hotels, Forrester found a 1-point increase in the CX Index score equates to a $6.52 increase in annual incremental revenue per customer. For a hotel brand with 10 million customers, that would mean a $65 million impact every year, just from increasing customer satisfaction.

But to deliver on the promise of increased guest satisfaction, you need specialized insight. So Sabre also commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a custom survey of hundreds of leisure and business travelers – all of whom had traveled within the last 12 months and who were users of hotels, resorts, vacation rentals or alternative rentals. In addition to consumers, Forrester also interviewed hotel senior executives and CIOs.

How is customer obsession creating more loyal customers and building revenue for brands that buy into this new paradigm? Consider these insights from the new report:

  • The survey found that 69 percent of customers surveyed said they often tell their friends about travel products, services or destinations that interest them. Also, 61 percent said they trust content from other travelers more than a travel company's marketing or advertising - and 79 percent of Millennials agreed that what other travelers say about a hotel strongly impacts their perceptions.
  • Consumers expect seamless experiences across digital and offline channels. This is especially true for Millennials: the survey found that 54 percent of customers ages 19 to 34 expect hotels to save their information so that it’s easier to research and book on different devices.
  • Customers of all segments will come to expect responsive experiences online and a seamless experience across channels. Hotels need integrated data systems in order to capture data, analyze it, and make actionable decisions – helping them meet guests’ needs throughout the travel experience by providing customized, responsive experiences.

But just collecting and analyzing customer data is not enough. Hoteliers must act on the data they’re collecting. Brand stories may be written at the management level, but they’re acted out by everyone from the front desk to housekeeping, and everywhere in between. Creating customer-centric experiences means having buy-in at all levels.

One of the executives interviewed for this report said his hotel is responding by adding personal data “pop ups” in its computer systems, giving employees a real-time look at customer preferences. Other hotels have begun integrating customer profile data from their loyalty systems into the property management system, allowing them to provide personalized service. Remembering a guest’s preferred room type, food and beverage preferences and previous use of amenities allows hotels to create the sorts of truly personal experiences that promote lifelong loyalty.

It’s not enough to realize that "the customer is king." Sabre recognizes that in today's customer-led market, hoteliers can’t afford to respond too late. Customer obsession means never losing focus on this fact, while taking advantage of policies and tools to achieve success in this new era of guest service.

Download your copy of Customer Experience in Hospitality: Embrace Data and Elevate the Guest Experience and see how your hotel’s systems and strategies can adapt to deliver the best possible guest experience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hugh_Fisher_SHS_-_thumb_180px.jpg
Hugh V. Fisher
Marketing Intern, Sabre Hospitality Solutions

Hugh Fisher is a marketing data analyst for Sabre, exploring emerging trends in the hospitality industry and delivering insights that help hoteliers maximize revenue and improve guest experience.

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