8 min read
Hospitality brands can build better customer relationships using the data they already have
By Rebecca Scully
As per Wikipedia, “hospitality refers to the relationship between a guest and a host, wherein the host receives the guest with goodwill.”
Note the use of the word relationship. Most hospitality brands today have so much distance between themselves and their guests, that “relationships” are no more than a series of transactions. It doesn’t matter how many times I stay with my favorite hotel brand when I travel to San Francisco, Portland, and New York. They still never seem to recognize me as an individual, their marketing is never personalized, and I always have to hunt to find my loyalty number in order to log in for free WIFI.
With so many other hotels to choose from, shouldn’t this brand be trying harder? I would certainly be more loyal if they offered me more seamless, personalized experiences. For example, why don’t they offer me discounts for my favorite destinations through email, push, or social ads? Or slip the WIFI password in with my room key, because they already know I’m a loyalty member? Or offer to send up my favorite room service when I check in?
In short, why aren’t they trying to build a relationship with me? I’m already exploring other hotels to see if I will receive more personalized experiences, and I’m not alone. A new Accenture study shows that 41% of consumers switched brands last year due to lack of personalization and trust, costing businesses $756 billion in lost revenue. New, internet-first brands like Airbnb are investing heavily in personalization, with off-the-charts growth.
So what’s a hospitality brand to do?
Customer Data to the Rescue
Hotels used to cultivate intimate relationships with guests, using no more than the memory of their talented and dedicated staff. Unfortunately, memory doesn’t scale. As hospitality brands have grown, globalized, and gone digital, they’ve all but lost the personal touch.
This is where customer data comes in to save the day. Through an explosion of channels, customer touchpoints, and marketing technologies, brands are capturing more data about customers than ever before. This data adds up to a rich picture of each guest, including their preferences, ever changing contexts, and when, how, and where to reach them.
So if hospitality brands have all that data, why aren’t they using it to give consumers like me the types of personalized experiences we want?
The Surprising Challenge
It comes down to one, simple, surprising problem. Hospitality brands can’t actually use their data. It’s trapped in silos throughout the organization. It’s not connected to customer touchpoints. It’s not directly accessible to marketing and operations teams. Customer identities have not been resolved to form usable customer profiles.
While many of the best hospitality brands are focused on lighting, linens, and other luxuries, they’ve failed to build state-of-the-art data infrastructure investments. While this is a problem, it also makes sense. Data infrastructure isn’t what hotels do best, and it shouldn’t be.
The Simple Solution
Hospitality brands today have a tremendous opportunity to reinvent the personal touch in the digital age. The brands that do this well will gain market share, build long-term customer loyalty, and grow revenue, according to pretty much everyone smart on the internet. Boston Consulting Group, for example, predicts an $800B revenue shift to the 15% of brands that get personalization right over the next 5 years. Harvard Business Review shows that by increasing customer retention just 5%, profits soar 25% to 95%.
But first, brands need a timely, simple, and easy way to use all their customer data. This is where the customer data experts come in. Remember how hospitality brands aren’t and shouldn’t turn themselves inside out to manage their customer data? Instead, they should leverage the expertise of customer data unification specialists. That leaves the brands themselves able to focus their talent on core differentiators: customer experiences.
Enter the Intelligent Customer Data Platform. This software platform was designed to bring data together from siloed sources, clean and prep data automatically, and build usable, unified customer profiles. An Intelligent CDP also provides direct, role-based access, so marketers and operational staff can to explore, segment, and use data however they want.
With data at their fingertips, hospitality brands can rediscover their roots and transform the customer experience.