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Lessons from the Field
A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE, May 5,2009

Customer Relationship Management Requires a Blending
of High Tech and High Touch for Optimal Results


By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS 
May 5, 2009 

A lesson I have learned in my career is that blending high tech with high touch is required today for optimal results.

Using guest history is not high tech – it is the fundamentals of many successful hoteliers today, ranging from Bed & Breakfast operators to gaming to resorts to business oriented properties.

"Quick reactions to the changes in the business cycle and preferences
of our guests are essential to maintaining high occupancies.

Innovations, particularly those which improve occupancies over traditionally slack periods……have also contributed to our continuing high occupancy rates." 

James Durbin (retired) President, Marriott Hotels

The Durbin reference came at a time when technology was basic, but the focus was on using information available.  With all the sophisticated software available today in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and other property management systems, it is a shame that the only thing too many hotel owners and sales managers know or act on about their repeat regular guests is their preferred method of payment or perhaps the type of accommodation the guest favors. 

Resort and casino operators for years tracked regular customers and knew not only their preferred accommodations, but also their client’s personal taste in décor, food and beverage favorites and support services.  The first hotels I worked in were independent resorts in a small Vermont town, yet the owners and managers maintained solid records and a strong system of regular communication with their regulars.

Another prime example I have first hand knowledge of was one of the nation’s first all-suite hotels, built in Nashville, Tennessee.   When it was in its prime, the five-star Spence Manor Hotel was rated as one of the more desirable hotels to stay at in the Nashville area, due to location, personalized service and privacy.  (This property converted to into condominiums a number of years ago)

The hotel’s success was not based totally on luxurious accommodations, its unique guitar shaped swimming pool (built by country music legend Webb Pierce), or location alone. Much of its long-term success was due to the special attention given to all guests by Manager and Host Edna Bloodworth.  In the days before sophisticated technology, Edna would track every guest’s preferences in a manual system. 
Regular and personalized direct marketing was their main means of promotion and their clientele appreciated the attention.  One never knew whom you might rub elbows with in the single, tiny elevator…Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Elvis and even The Beatles frequently called it home when they would come to Music City USA in the 1960s.   Located on world famous Music Row (home to many recording studios and publishing offices), close to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the University area, medical centers and downtown Nashville, this hotel attracted people from all around the world. 

Now this was a small hotel and would be called today a boutique-type hotel. The competitive set was dramatically different at that time and yet, I recall this independent hotel holding its own in the 1980s, even with significant newer competition and a recession.  I noted at the time the success was substantially due to Edna and her master list of customer preferences in her regularly maintained files.

We are well beyond that approach, but the intent remains the same – how to recognize regular clients and demonstrate your hotel’s appreciation of them. 

Building a customer list or database is crucial in all economies, but especially in periods of limited demand when many competitors primarily compete on the basis of price or room rate alone.  A useful customer list or database allows you to make contact more often and become the automatic choice on return visits, as well as to encourage their recommendations to others. Using this list or database and reaching out is not high pressure, but hospitality at its heart - staying in touch. 

If your hotel has ignored its list or database because you were running high occupancies and growing ReVPAR over the past several years, it is not too late to establish or update one now.

The more information you have about a guest, the more you can target their particular interests.  You want to focus on their reason for being at your hotel, whether it is visiting the nearby university, or a medical center or the courthouse.  If you have F&B facilities, one might promote meeting or banquet space, but targeting usually pays off. 

Reservations and registration cards already provide a basis of information , such as name, address and can be expanded to include email address and a cell phone number (especially if targeting a younger demographic). 

Using our PMS systems effectively means understanding and using Guest History.

  • Do we follow up on the guests we have?
  • Do we follow the trends that exist in our hotel?
  • Is Saturday really the highest demand day or is Friday?
  • Which weekday has the best RevPAR and why?
Using the information from our reservation sources and more importantly our own PMS system, we can find the repeaters, the guests who are from a certain zip code, or who stay on certain days of week, etc.

I have personally heard a number of major hotel brand CEOs in the last six months express their sentiment that the successes in this period of economic uncertainty will come at the local level – from individual hoteliers giving that extra step of attentiveness in as many ways as possible. 

I believe the brands have the resources to help with marketing, advertising and reservation sourcing, but the winners will be those who combine high tech entrepreneurial savvy with the high touch sense of “hosting”.

Who are your regular customers? 
When was the last time you reached out?


Please share an idea for a column or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements at anytime. 

Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

John Hogan, a career hotelier and educator, is frequently invited to participate at franchise meetings, management company and hospitality association industry events.  He is a successful senior executive with a record of accomplishment in leading hospitality industry organizations at multiple levels, with demonstrated competencies as a strong leader, relationship builder, problem solver and mentor. He conducts mystery-shopping reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including repositioning of hotels.

He writes weekly columns for a number of global online services (hotel, eHotelier, 4 Hotels, Hotel Resource, etc) and has published more than 400 articles & columns on the hotel industry.  He co-authored (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from, ROOMS CHRONICLE  and other industry sources.  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and expects to publish in 2009 his 2nd book based on his dissertation – The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

Hogan’s professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis, including service as Senior Vice President of Operations in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He holds a number of industry certifications (CHA, CHE, MHS, ACI) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20-year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world’s largest hotel chain. 

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and as brand liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his long-term involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,200 workshops and classes in his career. 

Expertise and Research Interest
• Sales Management and training
• Turn-around and revenue management
• Professional Development & Customer Service 
• Hospitality Leadership and Executive Education
• Making Cultural Diversity Real
• Accreditation & Developing Academic Hospitality programs

Service to the Industry and Hospitality Education includes working with the Educational Institute Certification Commission of the AH&LA, the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration, the Commission for Accreditation on Hospitality Management Programs, the AH&LA and AAHOA Education and Training Committees, the Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Educators (CHRIE), the International Hotel Show and the Certified Hotel Owner program for the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association.


Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE

Also See: Do You Know Where Your Customer Is? Or Knowing Where Your Business Originates / Dr John Hogan / April 2009
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“A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel Controllers / Dr John Hogan / April 2009
A Different Appraisal of Our Biggest Challenges in 2009 / Dr John Hogan / April 2009
Reflections: Mentors and Friends - Vermont Hoteliers Borden and Louise Avery and their Son Allen / Dr John Hogan / March 2009
Remember to Embrace the Essentials in Sales; Revenue and net profits can often depend on how one of the most fundamental practices in sales- how incoming phone calls are handled / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment; Working With Your Hotel Franchisor for Everyone’s Success / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment; Evaluating the franchise business model as a potential franchisee / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
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Planning in a Challenging Economy - Probing Hotel Expenses / Dr. John Hogan / December 2008
Planning in a Challenging Economy - Fundamentals of Hotel Sales Planning / Dr. John Hogan / December 2008
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My Definition of Hospitality. What’s Yours? / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
Principles for Success as a Hotel Manager: 6 Observations on Finding and Employing Problem Solvers / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Action Steps to Succeed in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Mistakes to Avoid in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / August 2008
Ways to Identify and Build Repeat Guests / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Maintaining Relationships Throughout the Organization / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part four: Communicating with Clarity and Candor / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part three: Using your management style effectively / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part Two: Motivating the Team / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager Part One: Understanding the Organization / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008 
Updating Hotel Marketing and Sales Strategies Mid Year NOW Is Essential / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Don’t Underestimate the Impact of the Hotel Sales Office / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Factors for Successful Interviewing Potential Hotel Sales Candidates / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
The Importance of Meaningful Sales Team Job Descriptions / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
For Hotels with Limited Service, Fewer than 100 Rooms - How Do You Determine if You Need a Person Dedicated to Selling / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Extending Your Sales Team or Make Travel Agents A Regular Part of Your Sales Programs / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Finding Business Leads Can Be Easier Than You Think / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Understanding the Differences Between Marketing and Sales / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
Identifying Your Customers / Lessons from the Field A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008

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