In many ways, the hospitality industry has lost control.
- Rooms and rates are more commoditized.
- Online reviews are more influential.
- Powerful online brokers are usurping portions of the guest experience—and the profits.
“It wasn’t long ago that people would call a hotel directly to inquire about rates, check availability, and make a reservation,” says Natalie Osborn, hospitality lead for SAS, a leading provider of analytics and business intelligence software. “But that one-to-one relationship is gone.”
With intermediaries like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, and Kayak providing comparison pricing, showcasing deals, and facilitating reservations, hotels have lost a significant measure of engagement and influence. And many are looking to build and reinforce their relationships with guests in other ways.
“Casinos have always done a great job with consumer analytics, leading to marketing investments and personalized services that keep guests coming back,” says Osborn. “Hotels are trying to do more of that.”
Their efforts go well beyond loyalty programs, she explains, which have become as ubiquitous and expected as airline miles. More than ever, hotels have an opportunity to monitor and learn from multiple touchpoints—even those that are no longer under their control.
- Before guests arrive, hotels can track how and when they booked a room, and whether it was at a discounted rate or part of a promotion.
- During their stay, hotels can analyze when they check in and out, how often they visit the gym, and whether they remain onsite for meals.
- After their stay, hotels can monitor the feedback and reviews posted to social media.
“Hotels have a wealth of data at their disposal,” says Osborn. “They just need to tune in, listen, and learn.”
The importance of Wi-Fi
In addition to reservations, point of sale, and social media, Wi-Fi-based location tracking has become an increasingly valuable data source for the hospitality industry. It reveals the movement, patterns, and preferences of consumers when they are on the property—which remains firmly within a hotel’s sphere of control and presents the best opportunities to improve the guest experience.
- SAS has been integrating its customer intelligence product suite with Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences to deliver advanced location tracking and analytics.
- In stark contrast to other hospitality solutions, it doesn’t require the use of a mobile app.
“It’s tough to get people to download and use an app,” says Osborn. “Our solution is passive and tracks location based purely on Wi-Fi connectivity.”
This provides a wealth of opportunity to learn more about guests and respond in real time. But Osborn is quick to note that push notifications and unsolicited promotions can be a turnoff.
“You can’t be creepy or intrusive,” she insists. “Hotels need to stop thinking of marketing as sending an offer or a coupon to someone. Sometimes it’s a friendly message or an in-person greeting. Sometimes it’s nothing at all.”
- With real-time location tracking, hotels can be alerted when a guest enters the building and prompt their staff to welcome them—by name—before they reach the check-in counter.
- They can see when guests have been standing in line or waiting for a table, and quickly remediate such annoyances.
- They can personally extend gym hours for guests who like to exercise in the evenings.
- They can give unexpected upgrades and special amenities to loyal guests—even if they aren’t a loyalty program member.
“Some hotels don’t know a VIP was there until they leave. With better tracking and analytics, they can truly understand behaviors and preferences, they can anticipate needs, and they can proactively deliver personalized services,” says Osborn. “And that goes for every guest, not just VIPs.”