In your opinion, what are the top three trends that hoteliers should be aware of going into 2018?
The evolving nature of the guest experience and keeping up with guests’ needs and expectations is a huge focus for the hospitality industry. For a hotel, managing the customer relationship is one of the most critical elements of gaining and increasing loyalty, and yet can be the most difficult for hotels to master, as customers interact with them via a burgeoning number of contact points: email, mobile, social media, at the front desk and throughout the hotel property. Never before has technology played a more important role in improving what is ultimately the human experience of hospitality, both in terms of curating and providing it, but also in the way that customers express their gratitude for that experience in the form of loyalty.
Secondly, understanding the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) and how that can focus and positively affect the interaction between the guest experience and the hotel. The focus for technology companies serving the hospitality industry is to enable hotels to communicate more effectively with their guests so that they are able to deliver the right message to the right person, at the right time and importantly through the right channel for that guest. With GDPR coming into effect in May 2018, never before has it been so important for hotels to ensure their communication with the guest is relevant and the data they store about a guest is compliant with these new regulations.
Lastly, a key focus is personalization. Technology companies will need to work more closely together for the benefit of mutual customers to enable personalization between the hotel and their guests. Customer relationship management (CRM) is no longer just a tool for the sales and marketing departments, CRM is a tool that benefits the operations, revenue management, and distribution departments as well. Because of this, hotels are looking to integrate CRM with their other technology vendors as well, bringing the various data sources into one central place to create a single version of truth about that guest. This enables greater personalized communication between the hotel and the guest. For example, integrating a CRM to a revenue management system has enabled our customers to now offer personalized pricing based on the guests’ profile including the recency, frequency and monetary value of that guest to the hotel.
What is the biggest challenge the hospitality industry is facing?
One of the biggest challenges, and opportunities, is how small our planet has become and ultimately how that has made travel easier and more accessible than ever before. This challenge opens up a wealth of opportunity but every culture and guests’ needs are different. The industry needs to be mindful of this when managing travel and guest experiences on such a scale. Combine this need with the GDPR regulations coming into effect in 2018, it is imperative that hotels are working with CRM solution providers to ensure the guest profile data is accurate, communication is effective and profile data is managed in compliance with the new regulations.
In the next 5 years, what role do you see Cendyn playing in the hospitality industry?
CRM has become front of mind for hoteliers across the globe. Not just because of its ability to process data and provide a clear, digestible view of that data, but because it is the only way to process data from multiple technology platforms within a hotel and then provide a single version of truth for every guest. This has become imperative for hoteliers who want to provide a truly personalized experience, drive loyalty to their brand and stay competitive.
In the next five years, this will become even more apparent as guests become savvier and demand more from their travel experiences. For hoteliers to stay ahead of the curve, we’ve seen that using data to pave the way in how hoteliers communicate with their guests has revolutionized how they can learn more about guests’ interactions, drive direct bookings, maintain brand presence with their most valuable guests and stay competitive in their market.
Our continued investment enables hoteliers to keep their guests at the forefront of what they do, and concentrate on providing exceptional, personalized customer service at all times. And as AI becomes more of the norm, hoteliers will need to embrace the ability to use machines/technology to aggregate information and learn from data to provide a seamless experience for every guest.