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CRM Technology for Travel:  Know Your Customer



by Gregg Hopkins, President and CEO, Libra OnDemand
April 2010

How well do you know your customer?  In a hotel’s attempt to offer a high level of guest service, I’m often asked when checking in, “Have you stayed with us before?”  When I reply “Yes,” it is often followed by “Welcome back” or “It is good to see you again,” together with “As you know then the restaurant opens at 6:00 AM” or some other item they feel is important to tell me.  Shouldn’t they already know I’ve stayed with them before?
 
This tells me that the hotel is not practicing effective customer relationship management.  Wouldn’t a better interaction be once I tell them who I am, “Welcome back, Mr. Hopkins.  Your requests and preferences have been noted. Please let me know if there is anything additional you require during your stay.  And, we’ve recently introduced a new Executive Chef in our restaurant so be sure to check out the new menu.”
 
You probably spend thousands of marketing and email dollars every year trying to earn your customer’s loyalty.  To have that relationship ruined by one simple question is obviously a bad business practice.  Ideally, the only time your guests should be asked, “Have you stayed with us before?” is if there is no indication of any previous history.  An answer of “Yes” should trigger the guest services agent to dig a little deeper in matching the reservation with the CRM profile, while a confirming “No” answer should invoke the standard welcome your guest services agent normally goes through in orienting new guests to the hotel.

Effective CRM allows your organization to develop a one-to-one relationship with each and every customer.  It allows you to “learn” your guest’s preferences, requests, comments, spending habits, booking patterns, etc. from their stays or activities at all of your hotels, restaurants, golf courses, spa and other venues.  From a CRM technology perspective, the key is to have connectivity to all systems that contain the customer’s profile (CRS, PMS, Spa, Golf, Dining Room Reservation, Service Optimization, Concierge, etc.) allowing you to have a 360-degree profile of that customer.  This will provide you with information you need to make specific, targeted email offers and other suggestions to that customer, and anticipate their requests and requirements to insure a positive stay experience.

Knowing your customer may be even more important in the reservations office.  When taking a reservation on the telephone or via your organization’s website, it’s vital that you know WHO is inquiring before knowing WHEN they want to stay.  Wouldn’t you agree that establishing and maintaining repeat business is one of the most important, if not the most, aspects of a successful hospitality organization?  You need to understand the value of your individual customer.  How much business have they given you in the past?  How much can you expect to have them in the future?  Shouldn’t some of your most loyal and valuable guests always have a room, or table, or tee-time, or appointment available to them?  One easy way to lose a customer is to open up the opportunity to let them try out your competition.

This happened to me.  My business takes me to Miami for meetings at least 9 times per year.  I, typically, stay at the same hotel for 2 to 3 nights each time.  In addition, others in my company stay at the same hotel.  I would estimate, that as a result, we give the property 100 room nights per year.  Not a huge amount of business, but significant.  Several months ago, I booked a reservation at the hotel.  The website told me that the first 2 nights were available, but the property was sold out on the third night.  I went ahead and booked my reservation.  When I arrived, I inquired about the third night.  The guest services agent recognized me and told me that he would leave a note for the General Manager, and they would let me know.  I hadn’t heard anything, so on the third morning I inquired about my status.  I was told that I would have to checkout, and that if anything opened up during the day they would call me.  Later that afternoon, they did call me.  But, out of necessity, I had already arranged a room at another hotel and they lost my business.  I was treated as just another customer, without regard to if this was my first visit or my one-hundredth visit.  To my surprise, I was more satisfied with my accommodations and rate at the competitor’s hotel and have therefore stayed at that hotel ever since, together with others from my organization.  What’s amazing is that I’ve not received any communication from the original hotel asking me “Why don’t you stay with us anymore?”

Summary
CRM is the only effective way to know your customer.  Once your guest checks out, it is easy to lose touch with them until they make another reservation.  Central reservation and property management systems do a great job at recording upcoming and past stays, but most are limited.  This information needs to be shared with the customer relationship management system so that you can predict, prepare, communicate, and serve your guest.  It is with CRM that you truly “Know Your Customer.”
 
About Gregg Hopkins
Gregg Hopkins is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Libra OnDemand LLC.  Gregg has over 25 years of experience in hotel management and hospitality technology. He has worked with various enterprise property management and central reservation system providers, online travel agencies, and destination vacation portals.  He has also provided consulting services to hospitality organizations on reservations electronic distribution, technology, e-commerce initiatives, CRM initiatives, marketing, sales strategy, and business development.  Gregg is a subject matter expert on hospitality management systems, electronic distribution, and CRM.  He also participates as a committee or board member of several industry associations.  Gregg can be reached at ghopkins@libraondemand.com.

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Contact:

Gregg Hopkins, CEO
Libra OnDemand
Tel: +1.407.412.9296
ghopkins@libraondemand.com

Andrea Roland, President
Plan A Public Relations & Marketing Inc.
Tel: 407.905.0608
andrea@planapr.com

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Also See: Libra OnDemand Ensures Future Revenues for Hoteliers by Keeping Their Guests on Cloud Nine / March 2010

Libra OnDemand CRM Platform Certifies Compliance with Safe Harbor Privacy Framework; SaaS-based CRM technology solution leverages the online privacy protection and data security certification of Salesforce.com / March 2010

Libra OnDemand Selected as Finalist in Force.com Forty Innovation Showcase; Comprehensive suite of hospitality-specific applications consolidates customer information, develops deep profiles and delivers guest satisfaction / November 2009

Libra OnDemand in Full Social Swing with Presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; Hospitality CRM provider encourages hotels to integrate customers' Tweets and Facebook profiles with CRM profiles to obtain a more complete picture of guests' preferences and better tools to market to those guests / October 2009

Libra OnDemand Partnership Brings 'Sulcus OnDemand' CRM to Spain; Based in Barcelona, Sulcus Hospitality Group becomes Libra OnDemand's newest channel partner; Sulcus calls deal win-win for companies, clients and guests alike / September 2009

McLaren International Distributes Libra OnDemand in Asia Pacific; Best of breed technology provider McLaren International will bring leading Customer Relationship Management tools to hotels across the Asia Pacific region / July 2009

Libra OnDemand adds MSI to its Growing List of CRM Channel Partners; New Software as a Service sits on the salesforce.com platform, offering the finest business-analytics tools for Guest Profiling, Loyalty & Rewards, and Sales & Catering / June 2009

Peabody Praises Libra OnDemand as ‘Best’ System to Manage Guest Data; ‘Software as a Service’ sits on the salesforce.com platform, offers the four-star, five-diamond convention center hotel the finest business-analytics tools / June 2009

Libra OnDemand Intros 'Customer Portal' CRM Tool for Pre-, Post-Stay Interaction; Leader in Customer Relationship Management empowers guests to personally control their hotel experience and update their contact info, preferences, loyalty points / June 2009
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