Intelligent insight: Using data to improve the hotel guest experience

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Hotel operators are recognizing the importance of data to analyze customer feedback and increase ROI.

by Jeff Morris

The need for analytics and effective data products, or a product that facilitates an end goal through the use of data, is not a new trend for the hospitality industry. While hotel operators have been collecting guest data for several years, they finally have the opportunity to create actionable insights with the rise of analytic tools that are meant for business units outside of IT.

For example, brands and large hotel operators are seeking ways to provide the analytics their individual operators require in an automated, secure, scalable and yet personalized way as hotel operators are increasingly asking their brand for real-time, readily available and easy-to-consume insights to help them achieve the mutual goals of sales and profitability. Access to such tools, and the integration of analytics into the daily operations of a single location or across the corporate brand, will enhance guest experience, and by extension, increase revenue and customer loyalty.

The practice of data aggregation originated from the operator-guest experience in the day of paper-only transactions, registration books and “please take one” guest feedback forms. Now, more than ever, hotel owners can take such control back while having access to much more than an overall satisfaction score that ranges from one to 10. For years, operators and owners have monitored booking details, taking note of busy seasons and other times when business is slow. They gathered information that looked something like this:

  1.    How did the guest enjoy their stay?
  2.    Would they visit us again?
  3.    Was the guest in town for a specific event, holiday or season?

Operators had access to this information along with the data gathered from partnerships with travel agents, group reservations and tour companies, but were lacking the ability to analyze the data and make impactful business decisions.

Today’s digital world has brought about a new generation of owners looking to monetize their data by obtaining actionable insights. With guests booking reservations online and via mobile devices, brands and operators have an abundance of new data that aggregates at a faster pace than previously seen with paper transactions and manual processes. Hotel professionals can now gather valuable information through purchased or leased resources such as websites, online reservation agent software and automated phone-bank systems. These resources give visibility into which guests are interested in the hotel or a specific reservation at a specific time. Additional guest data can be pulled from the hotel’s guest list, its point of sales system or its property management system, to name just a few.

The right analytics tools are necessary to make the most use of this vast amount of hotel data, as they give hotel brands the ability to deliver the right insights to the right stakeholders at the right time. Data analytics are now so manageable that even the overnight front-desk manager can have a hand in evaluating data for the next day’s forecast. Distributed analytics can be implemented to increase individual operator performance and customer loyalty; maximize ROI from corporate (or brand) programs and reduce waste while improving sustainability.

Some of today’s cloud-based tools allow franchise owners and location managers to access company-wide data, which could help them benchmark their performance against that of the broader brand portfolio, as well as their competitive peer set. Sharing data packages with partners, such as vendors and suppliers, can not only help strengthen the relationship, but also maximizes revenue by properly identifying issues, trends and PO forecasted adjustments.

Disney’s magic data
An example of one brand’s collection and analysis of guest data can be found with The Walt Disney World Resort®. Disney guests now wear MagicBands instead of carrying room keys and entrance tickets. When guests book their trips, initial data is collected and stored in an encrypted database, and then the MagicBands use radio-frequency technology to connect guests with their trip necessities. Among the perks, this data allows Disney cast members at the resorts to greet guests personally at different touch points throughout the park.

Today’s data management platforms allow brands to become more sophisticated in how they collect, store and analyze data in order to improve their customer experience. In Disney’s case, their effective use of data analytics allowed business decision makers at the property’s multiple resorts, restaurants and vendors to get detailed insights regarding their customer’s actions, patterns, location and schedule. Walt Disney’s many segments could then use the packaged data to efficiently impact operations at each resort before, during and long past when the guest waives the MagicBand at the various points throughout the property. Disney now has access to their own world of actionable information while guests are experiencing enhanced and personalized moments like never before.

Hotels can and should be inspired by Disney’s example to take advantage of guest and operational data in the following ways.

The ability to recognize a loyal customer. Imagine a property receives a booking from a gold-tier member. Though the hotel will make sure it serves the guest well, what if an online dashboard can tell the front desk that the guest is visiting the property for the third time, prefers rooms on the first floor, buys specific items from the suite shop and always passes on high-speed internet? The front desk can easily accommodate the guest with intuitive suggestions and offers.

Customized stay. Suppose an unknown guest visits the hotel, but from the profile information that is known, an analytics platform can suggest to the front desk executive that similar guests in the past have paid for a spa visit or a game of golf. Trying to cross-sell those activities may have a higher chance of the guest buying the offered service.

Leveraging guest feedback to enhance the next stay. Today, a property receives feedback from a guest via a survey completed after the guest has left. However, what if previous feedback and specific pain points from their recent stay at other properties (within the same sub-brand or other brands in the umbrella) are already highlighted and presented to the property where he is about to stay? The property can assess which factors affect the guest the most, or the guest is sensitive to, and then take steps to ensure that those issues are taken care of (e.g., the guest may have complained about the noise levels at the last property he stayed in, so this time the front desk can ensure that he is assigned a quieter room).

Hotels need to be able to change their accommodations and customer service methods at the same pace that guest preferences are changing. Hotels should provide versatile and customized service to guests whether that guest be the overnight business traveler or the couple staying for a honeymoon vacation.

Customizing the future
The key to effectively enhancing a guest’s experience through analytics is to collect the data in a creative and noninvasive way. Using the information obtained from past bookings, travel agents, third parties and various forms of feedback enable the operator to customize a guest’s future stay. This process keeps both the customer and the owner happy. Analytics contributes to building stronger relationships with customers, ultimately driving better customer loyalty, revenue and profitability.    ■

Jeff Morris is the vice president of Data Monetization Strategy & Success for GoodData. Morris is a veteran in the BI and marketing analytics space with more than 11 years of technical product marketing and product management experience at Actuate, one of the leading open source BI vendors. He holds a degree from Syracuse University.

Honeymoon season at Westin Hotels & Resorts
According to a survey completed by Westin Hotels & Resorts, “In the last five years, rising wealth, digital connectivity and an increasing global demand for wellness have changed the way couples book, plan and experience their honeymoon. The survey, conducted in North America in partnership with StudyLogic, found surprising results centered on the fact that couples are packing more into their honeymoon travels, which means seeking more active experiences and visiting more destinations in less time.”

Additional survey findings show that four out of five couples increased their approach to active well-being and healthy food choices while on their honeymoon. Putting this information into the hands of a GM through on-site software can alert them to provide health-centric food and beverage options during the property’s honeymoon season.

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