CRM software boasts so much potential, but is that potential being maximized?
By Terri Miller, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Concilio Labs
Hotels worldwide are looking for technological advances to thrive in this competitive environment. As a result, many are turning to CRM systems to gain an advantage. Hotels are pouring millions of dollars into driving loyalty through guest engagement, but without reliable data and technology, many initiatives fail to deliver. While CRM can, at its core, represent so many things, CRM technology is the system hotels have in place to manage interactions with current and potential guests. The prioritization of building relationships is nothing new to the hospitality landscape. Hotel CRM technologies have taken many forms over the years as they evolved to meet modern demands of businesses and consumers alike.
In industries where the customer is king (which is every industry), CRM acts as the integral connective tissue between brands and their consumers. Within the hospitality industry specifically, it seems we have been talking about and investing in creating a 360-degree view of the guest for decades. However, the unpleasant truth is that most of the legacy systems achieve the opposite impact. They create independent silos of data that hinder growth, rather than creating a cohesive and whole picture of the guest profile in an actionable way. Although CRM technology has the potential to positively transform your offering, it also has the capacity to harm your operational model if the tool fails to meet rising industry standards. Are current hotel CRMs doing more harm than good? The short answer is quite possibly, yes.
While customer relationship management seems to be a simple concept, it’s a complex process, particularly given the ever-evolving number of channels and systems that contribute to guest experience and data today. Relying on basic demographic data or guest history is no longer enough to connect to the modern traveler. With credit to social media, hoteliers have a new array of sources to obtain guest data from, and forge unique guest relationships. Social media platforms also act as preferred channels of expression, meaning they offer valuable insight into personal preferences and more (who each guest is, why they stay at a hotel, booking behaviors, social influence, reviews, etc.). This means a truly effective CRM technology must offer the capacity to access data from disparate and growing sources and make the insights available in a user-friendly way. When hoteliers learn about their guests, they should anticipate their guests’ needs and fulfill them. Otherwise, hoteliers fall victim to incomplete/improper segmentation and lose the ability to properly understand guests that offer the most value to their hotel or provide relevant and personalized marketing and context. Effectively, by using most antiquated CRMs, hoteliers miss out on vital aspects of the guest experience and conversation.
It is also important for CRM systems to consistently and automatically update information, to ensure hoteliers aren’t relying on outdated data to inform their marketing efforts and reach guests. With accurate information at their disposal, hoteliers can then begin the process of attaching meaning to that information — developing insight-driven strategies to effectively reach guests at the right time, through the right channel and with the right messaging. With the recent implementation of GDPR, privacy concerns are top of mind for hoteliers eager to stay within the industry’s new, prescribed limitations. CRM databases cannot provide valuable data if that data is collected without explicit permissions – it’s important for CRM technology to employ effective communication prompts for privacy requirements.
In today’s customer-centric world, one of the most essential aspects of your CRM should be its ability to integrate seamlessly with other systems, both existing and those yet to be developed. A hotel’s operational model is much like an ecosystem and requires various moving parts (and technologies) to work together in alignment. If a hotelier is using their CRM platform as a standalone system, they’re not only creating more work for themselves, but they aren’t tapping into the potential of CRM. Data is useless without context, and the integration of other integral systems with a CRM platform provides that context and a complete picture of each guest. It’s critical your CRM system can connect with your existing technology, whilst also offering a user-friendly process to ensure there is no barrier to adoption for new staff.
The bottom line – CRM is a powerful piece of software for any hotel. You can use it to correctly segment your guests in order to market your property, upsell products and services, and engage with new and existing guests. Just make sure you choose to move past traditional CRM systems to a product that allows your property to holistically view the true portrait of a guest – across all channels – and to engage with them in the right place, at the right moment, to drive both connection and conversion.