How to best utilize data to improve guest experience
 
How to best utilize data to improve guest experience
08 FEBRUARY 2017 1:23 PM

Guests want a personalized stay, especially when they belong to rewards programs. Hoteliers should home in on loyalty data from their guests whether they are first timers or repeat customers.

Hundreds of millions of travelers belong to hotel rewards programs, and with that comes specific data that can be tracked and collected for hotel companies to further offer its guests the most welcoming stay possible. By doing so, this can enhance revenue and boost occupancy rate, particularly during the slower months.

In fact, hotel chains receive an average of 50% more revenue from those guests who belong to loyalty programs, compared to those who do not, according to information from the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

So, hoteliers, why not follow these few tips to set your guests’ stay apart from others in the best way possible? They’ll thank you later.

Market and provide extras to different categories of guests
By understanding different kinds of high-value customers and paying attention to guest data, hoteliers can make offers that make the most sense to these guests, said Dorothy Dowling, chief marketing officer at Best Western Hotels & Resorts. In a recent conversation, she said that part of this understanding includes giving guests the option of how they want to redeem points. Two-thirds of Best Western's repeat guests are looking to build up points to pay for that next big vacation. But others would prefer gifts, such as bottles of water and snacks, when they arrive.

The importance of this information is that hotel owners can use it to better serve their guests at the local level. For instance, if you know that a certain guest wants to use points for an evening snack upon their arrival, that item can be waiting at check-in, or even better, beautifully arranged on a tray in the guest room with a personalized welcome note.

InterContinental Hotels Group even has a new customer relationship management system, which puts guest information right in the hands of hotels, according to Heather Balsley, SVP of Americas brands at IHG. Hotel owners can have access to guests' preferences through IHG Rewards Club— ranging from the type of pillow they like to restaurant recommendations based on their taste in food to whether they want their room away from an elevator—to better serve these customers.

Travelers also run the gambit—from seniors on longer vacations to families doing shorter "staycations" to business travelers in town for a meeting. The family enjoying a holiday weekend with the kids would be more likely to appreciate using rewards for a free day at the local aquarium or merchandise at Toys “R” Us. Again, at the local level, you can have everything waiting for that family upon arrival—such as coupons and gift cards.

Guest data can also help hotel companies determine which new features they want to add to enhance their loyalty programs, said Marina MacDonald, chief marketing officer at Red Roof Inn. The brand's RediCard loyalty program uses guest data to send targeted messages. For instance, Red Roof Inn will inform guests who are 59 and older about senior discounts. You can make sure these guests are aware of these discounts when they are at your property. Don't wait for them to have to ask; be ready with all the information upon check-in.

Use technology to market to frequent guests
Having loyalty data on guests also allows hotels to track these travelers' online shopping and browsing patterns to target specifically to their needs. For instance, if a member of a loyalty program was on TripAdvisor looking for a hotel in a certain price point in a particular city, a hotel chain can send information to that guest about its properties in that market, Dowling said.

One of the newest trends in rewards programs is to market directly to Android and iPhone users. Busy travelers want offers and e-gift cards sent directly to their mobile devices. You can market directly to them at the property level and even send them helpful information.

Be one step ahead of your guests
Pay close attention to the travel patterns and special requests of your repeat guests and reward them. Even if this information is not included in travelers’ profiles, pay close attention to what they like—and don't like—from past trips. And, this doesn't have to be costly. If a frequent business traveler to your property always asks for extra towels, have those towels already in that individual's room upon check-in. If your property is in a destination area and you see the same family coming back every year, have brochures from the newest local restaurants for them ready at hand.

At the end of the day, effectively using guest histories and data allows you to better know your customers, provide them with what they really want and need, give them incentives to come back and create a loyalty that will benefit your bottom line for years to come.

Chip Rogers is president and CEO of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA). He is also a member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council, the California State University Hospitality & Tourism Management Education Alliance Advisory Panel, member of the American Legislative Exchange Council Private Enterprise Advisory Board, and the Board of Directors for Community Leaders of America.

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