Customer Service & The D2C Experience: Why Hotel CRM Still Matters

Team Hoo
22nd May 2020

Discovery of a problem!

As co-founders continuing to build hoo, Adrian and I are slowly picking our way in detail through the hotel booking journey from beginning to end and the customer communications involved for the hotel. 

As a newbie to the hospitality sector, I assumed the end came when the booking was made in terms of a confirmation and, if requested, a final statement/invoice mail once the guest had checked out. This has been the norm for many years and I suspect still a well-worn mistake by a large number of hotels.

In product/service terms, ‘hotel rooms’ are astonishing in that they must be one of the few products when your customer comes and stays at your house for at least 24 hours and comes to speak with you at least twice in person - once on arrival and once when leaving. There is also plenty of opportunity for them to share their best contact details with you. As someone who has spent the last ten years thinking about Direct to Consumer (D2C) communications, i.e. how to reach customers, communicate with them and get them to take action - this level of interaction is what dreams are made of. 

So, why do hotels not capitalise on this crucial advantage when thinking about targeted marketing, increased upsell and building deeper relationships? 

Lost Relationship?

During the last 20 years (post 9/11), as hotels have largely outsourced ‘get customer’ marketing to OTAs and therefore the initial booking relationship, it would seem the ongoing CRM relationship and journey has also been lost. Have hotels got rid of this expertise, forgetting that the guest experience, the real good stuff, starts once the booking has been made?

Whatever has happened in the past, this is an almost green field for hoteliers and the opportunities are limitless. The world outside hospitality has already woken up to CRM importance and nurturing your customer. For example, even as early as 2017, Gartner explained that spending on CRM technology had pushed it to the largest-spending category in enterprise software. With opportunity also comes challenge, but it's one that deserves real investment.

So what is CRM?

In short, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and it’s usually handled by some software. As well as cold hard contact data, CRM systems contain a client history associated with each customer’s profile, often tracking sales, product interest and other relevant characteristics to more effectively close more sales and deliver high quality service to existing clients. 

Picking the right CRM

A lot of the work has already been done for you! Below are some of the more well-known CRM systems which, from initial research, I would recommend to a hotel considering ramping up its D2C comms:

Hotel CRM Ideas

Each hotel will have to think clearly and carefully about when and why to contact, but below are some ideas I have had that, if asked at the right time, in the right way and made easy for me to respond to, could be hotel revenue game changers (while also helping me as a consumer!)…

  • Before I come to stay, at post booking ask me if you can help me with my transfer? Suggest best ways to travel, provide links (with affiliate codes of course!) and ask me if there is anything that may make my journey easier or better. You never know, a simple question may turn into a transfer booking and a ready-made reservation in the restaurant. 
  • Could we go further than the ‘bed size’ and ‘smoking/non-smoking’ room personalisation? I am sure there is much more you can ask in terms of your hotel to make my stay better and for you to make room improvements for the future. 
  • When I arrive - politely ask me why I’m making the trip? Perhaps you can help with something that is on my mind - like that booking I need to make or that place I need to find. I had a brilliant stay in Naples recently where the receptionist and I communicated via WhatsApp - he helped me enormously, was there at the touch of a button even If I was not in the hotel and he politely deleted me after. It felt easy, connected me to local culture, was super-fast and was only there when I asked for it. 
  • After I have checked in and you have given me a few hours to settle and relax, let me know what is on offer in the hotel or surrounding areas via my phone (if possible). I do not read the big black book on the desk you are still intent on leaving! 
  • Staying in contact between stays with email campaigns can spark return visits - key customer information like ‘I am a regular visitor to the COMICON’ could spark an email campaign in the booking range before I look elsewhere on an OTA. 
  • Encouraging positive online user feedback on social media to get free stuff - if increased online reviews mean more guests, then put a value on it and start spending. Giving me a free massage may mean two more direct bookings because I shared the experience on my social network. 
  • Knowing my purchase history and preferred payment methods at the hotel would save me and your staff a lot of time. If I like to bill my room and use a credit card at the end then make sure we do that every time I stay. 
  • Always segment! I have to keep deleting emails that talk to activities, events and seasons that do not interest me. It feels like you do not know me. 

A well-executed CRM strategy for any hotel should gain customer loyalty, create a smoother customer experience, and boost sales as well as overall revenue. Starting hoo as hotel owners and with the hotel owner firmly in mind we have already started to map out how we can provide more data that will help inform better hotel CRM strategy. Communication and data is key - and wrestling this relationship back from the incumbent OTAs is now critical.

Team hoo.

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