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?
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.
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:
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!)…
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.