How to enhance the guest experience in times of low budgets and staff shortages?
Today more than ever, many travellers are seeking unique experiences and outstanding service but at the same time, many hoteliers are struggling with staff shortages and budget limitations.
Keeping that in mind, we can understand that the hospitality industry is about to change dramatically and intuition is no longer enough.
Thus, there are crucial aspects hoteliers need to reflect on to know how to act to meet the high demands of the industry with the resources they have at hand.
Are you interested in knowing more about it? Let’s go over some key points for those reflections.
Why is guest data important for the guest experience?
Data is the key to knowing all the information you need about a customer to understand who they are and their needs throughout different moments in the customer journey. The more data you have, the more you know and the more opportunities you can create based on it.
Why is a free exchange of data key to enhancing the guest experience?
Data is the factual information hoteliers need to rely on to base their decisions in this rapidly changing industry. It is necessary to analyse numbers, understand patterns, improve operations and personalise each and every touch point in the guest journey to create long-lasting memories.
Nowadays, PMS systems are the main data holders for hospitality brands, but they are not the only platform needed for operations and for providing the best possible experience to guests.
Different platforms are specialists in different areas hospitality brands need help with (e.g. revenue management, chatbots, upselling, and CRM systems), so the best approach is having all those platforms working together, for which there needs to be open data.
Since the PMS systems don’t offer free data exchange to third-party apps hoteliers want to use, the innovation that can occur by using several platforms for different purposes becomes restricted, representing a major challenge for them.
With an open flow of data, you can combine all you need in a centre point, having full control of the data in your organisation and providing relevant information to guests digitally, which is what they expect nowadays. Once you have this knowledge, you have the power to be where and when your customer needs you, improve your operations
and drive higher guest engagement by being proactive in meeting customer needs and surpassing their expectations.
Thus, moving away from the PMS-centric environment with free data exchange between different systems and having a central point of data is the logical next step for hoteliers to take in the future to be able to achieve the best results and enhance the guest experience.
Are there differences between independent hotels and hotel groups when it comes to creating a superior guest experience?
No matter if it is an independent hotel or a hotel brand, every organisation should try to tailor the experience for their guests the best they can.
Independent hotels may have more opportunities than hotel chains to take a more off-script approach and offer a more tailored service, but the key to being able to do it is to access the right data at the right time, and that goes for both independent hotels and hotel groups.
Why is real-time guest data important for the guest experience?
When talking about guest data, it is not simply any guest data, it must be real-time guest data, which is merged, accessible and updated. For it to be relevant, it needs to be constantly updated and enriched.
One example is that if you want to send the right message to the right guest at the right time, you need to know at all times what that would be, which can be different from one moment to the other.
Another example is that when it comes to revenue management, it is about providing the right price to the right person at the right time.
Providing it at the right time is already easier thanks to the access to real-time data from a variety of sources, but if the guest information in real-time was crossed with the reservation data, it would be possible to understand more about the guest. You could look at how much they spend across the whole stay in different parts of the hotel rather than simply in a specific stage. And then you could create better tailored communications, with the right message, and make the guests feel seen and heard.
What are the main mistakes hoteliers are making that are stopping them from building an excellent experience?
When looking for a system, hoteliers tend to be feature and function-oriented rather than looking at the architecture and infrastructure behind it. They tend to focus on centric environments rather than open platforms, being PMS systems a significant example.
PMS’s have developed their own components and modules (upsell, API’s, CRM’s, revenue) and they are trying to promote those systems and sell them, so as a consequence, they limit the data other platforms in the area and segment can access and use.
By focusing on centric environments, hoteliers don’t have the opportunity to customise their tech stack and choose the best players in the industry for each area they need, so if they move away towards a more open platform environment, they have more opportunities to improve their guests’ experience than they would with an all-in-one platform which limits the data access to others.
It is important to note as well that rather than simply looking for systems to implement in their hotels, hoteliers can achieve much better results if they encourage their tech suppliers to talk to each other and innovate together to help the hotel or hotel group achieve their long-term goals.
Lastly, especially at this time when getting staff is difficult, by creating leaner teams and specifically, cross-functional multidisciplinary hybrid teams, hoteliers make more of the resources they have available.
By creating an ecosystem of easy-to-use tools that support each other, there is the support for a greater collaboration which facilitates this drive to leaner commercial teams.
What is needed to stay competitive and deliver an unforgettable guest experience?
In several industries, customers often have a great digital experience, and this is an expectation that they also have when travelling. So, hospitality brands need to provide that experience to their guests.
First of all, decreasing the customer effort to engage with the brand is key, because if it becomes complicated to do so, people just tune out and go to the next brand until they find an option that takes less effort.
You need to make it as easy as possible to interact with your brand throughout the whole customer journey.
Secondly, when looking for a brand, customers want to feel like they belong to it and have the same values, so expressing your brand identity is crucial to resonate with your target group. For example, sustainability is a value many customers look for today, and there is a brand on the Swedish island of Gotland which has an app to let customers see how much energy they spent and how much they are spending on it so that they can be aware of their consumption.
Lastly, according to a study done by TripAdvisor, 94% of customers will recommend the hotel if they had a delightful surprise in the Customer Journey. They are looking for something they do not expect which creates a memory that contributes to a unique experience. Once that is provided to the guest, they will bring that memory home with them and want to come back so they can experience it once again.
These are three ways to help you stay competitive and deliver an unforgettable guest experience.
Why is it important to use relevant guest data when your organisation is low-staffed? How can guest data help to optimise budgets?
Ever since Covid, the amount of available staff in hotels has decreased and providing a contactless experience was mandatory. Right now, the effects of this are still felt by hoteliers, who face the pressure to bring results with less staff and less budget while costs go up.
Thus, they need to look at innovative ways to spend less money and bring results with low staff.
Hoteliers should take a step back and look at their guest’s journey and the manual processes which are being done repetitively and do not bring that much value, such as administrative tasks that ideally could be done without staff’s input.
This is where guest data comes into play. If you have relevant guest data at the core, you can automate those tasks and use your resources for activities that are truly unique and bring a lot of value.
There is the concern that if you automate these processes, it is impossible to provide a good guest journey, but in fact, there are a lot of hotels which have fully automated them and have a great customer journey.
Technology is the enabler and if you do it right, your guest’s experience throughout their journey will be great and so will your reputation. Relevant guest data is key to doing it right, as it will enable automation to take place the right way.
Additionally, if you have free data, you have a lot of opportunities to optimise your budget, being the first step to set objectives - is it to decrease cancellations, an overbooking strategy, increase RevPar, or boost your loyalty program? These are just a few examples of goals you could achieve with data as the enabler.
Which stage of the guest journey is more important to upsell and cross-sell?
It depends on your goal, but overall there are three main stages in which it can be crucial.
In the pre-arrival stage, upselling is critical because you are enabling to reach out to your guests, showcase your brand and drive revenue which is largely split 50/50 between room revenue and ancillary revenue.
At the front desk, there is the advantage that you have access to many more guests, so the top-of-funnel is far greater, and there is a lot more selling of room revenue, which is great if the goal is profitability.
Since you can reach a lot more guests, if you can utilise data to optimise front-desk upselling, you are largely standing to benefit from more revenue overall.
As for in-stay upselling, there is probably less conversion and less revenue to be made overall, but it’s a great experience for guests who are digitally savvy to engage with the hotel from the convenience of their own devices.
There may be a type of customer who hoteliers identify as their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and for whom they build their offer, but there are still different products and different types of guests, which creates a nuanced set of needs.
For different types of guests, different stages might be more relevant and upselling has to be tailor-made for each property and guest’s needs so that optimal benefits can be provided.
To sum up, all stages are important, but if the goal is to generate the most revenue, front-desk selling is the most critical.
How has the role of the revenue manager changed in the past few years and how has guest Tech impacted it?
Usually, the revenue manager spends a lot of time in tactical activities, such as deciding whether they increase the price of one type of room or the other in the next 365 days. This is a job that can be done by Artificial Intelligence which can remove those tasks from the role through automation.
With this, the revenue management role becomes more cross-functional, looking at how to drive more business to the hotel collaboratively with other departments.
From a guest engagement perspective, while those tactical tasks are done in the background, the revenue manager can more accurately target what the soft periods are and where they need to drive additional revenue.
Revenue management has been moving towards being a more strategic function than in the past thanks to the use of AI technology to automate tactical tasks.
This post is shared based on the information shared in the webinar “How to use your guest data to enhance the guest experience?”. Click here if you would like to see the recording.