Overcoming the Biggest Competitive Challenges in Hospitality

The hospitality industry has long known that customer relationship management is at the center of a successful business model. From tracking guests visits, to global room preferences, to activity and event recommendations, the strongest organizations create a seamless personal experience for their clients – regardless of location and time of visits. Large entertainment conglomerates (e.g., Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts), as well as luxury chains (e.g., Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Andaz) have fueled their growth by creating exceptional experiences for their guests. Similarly, smaller boutique hotels/groups are learning that by offering unparalleled personal service, they too can grow and build brand affinity to avoid losing market share.

The expectation of high service levels, coupled with increased competition for customers has been driven by the rise of social media and the prevalence of customer reviews online. A great customer experience promoted online can bring big profits, while a single, negative, viral review can have a lasting impact on you brand. It is important, now more than ever, to architect a vision for your customers’ journey with your brand and then to make that journey a reality.

Developing a customer experience strategy is easier than you may think. While there are many nuances in the final delivery, the approach is driven by two primary components: staff training – and data. Training and Human Experience Planning are essential, but the foundation is based on knowing your customers’ preferences (the data), and leveraging easy-to-use software & digital tools that can scale with your business. Hotels can create rapid increases in revenue, by simply implementing data capture and analytics tools that are available with popular CRM platforms, thus creating a foundation for defining their ideal customer journeys.

These types of insights are not limited to the hospitality industry, but here I’ve have outlined some of the ways in which our clients are increasing customer engagement through Salesforce’s Einstein and Force.com Platform.

Define the Customer Journey

Building your customer relationship starts long before a guest walks through your door. In fact, our research indicates that nearly ⅔ of brand affinity is created prior to an actual purchase. The pre-service period is where customers are most vulnerable to brand perceptions, and making your organization not only easy to find, but also navigate prior to a reservation is a key part of setting customer expectations, and creating the foundation of an exceptional customer journey. The Bowfin team recently completed a pre-service awareness campaign with a client that used the power of Salesforce’s campaign management tools to increase quality lead generation by 50% over a 90-day (one quarter) period. This simple effort translated to 10% increase in conversion. How?

We met with key marketing and leadership teams to define all the available touchpoints (and related channels) that potential customers experience prior to making a reservation. Then we designed journey maps, taking into consideration these multi-channel and time- based interactions, in order to deliver a strategic solution. That strategic and tactical elements were delivered using the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Pardot’s robust B2B marketing automation tools.

In addition to the initial results, the system provide the marketing team with a long-overdue foundation for the delivery of communications and technology-base that can be easily adjusted to delivery customized messages to all their market segments.

Record the Right Data / Record the Data Right

At Bowfin, many times we find that our clients “don’t know what they don’t know.” In other words, they have been so reactive and focused on their daily operations, they don’t make time to build plans to address the pre-service or post-service engagement periods. This planning gap is often coupled with little-to-no strategy for tracking key data points, which could provide valuable insights to deliver better customer experiences. It’s easy to understand the root cause of this gap: tracking customer journey data on a daily basis without overextending internal resources or disrupting their daily operations is not easy.

As an example of how my team has overcome this issue I’ll take a look at another industry -education. For most universities the customer (or student) journey is paramount. Purchase decision cycles are long, customer investments are high, and expectations for operational service are often unattainable given limited resources. These expectations are even higher for full-time/working professionals who are seeking executive education degrees in their spare time.

Illinois Institute of Technology’s new executive education program for design professionals team needed to know who was engaging with the university and its programs, as well as architect a single “source of truth” for their data collection. The Bowfin team implemented a Salesforce Sales Cloud instance for tracking data, then integrated the CRM with their primary website, outbound marketing systems, and the school’s event management platform. Within a matter of weeks, all data tracking and analytics for their primary enrollment channels were automated to flow into a single data and reporting tool, eliminating the need for manual data entry and duplicative entry/tracking processes. In short, the solution allowed IIT to collect the right data, the right way.

Gain the Insights – Implementing Your Own Solution

It’s important to know that defining the customer journey and recording the right data can feel overwhelming. But while planning for your data needs and ideal customer journeys can be difficult, gaining the insights is simple once have have the strategy and build your business on a foundation of sound, strategic technology. Bowfin is a Salesforce partner because the Salesforce ecosystem includes a ton of out-of-the-box functionality for reporting and insights – a huge benefit to anyone who uses the platform. Plus with the addition of Salesforce’s Einstein analytics, discovering new segments, identifying the likeliest consumers to engage and adding the power predictive modeling recommendations becomes very easy to implement. And while these concepts are not new, the underlying solutions and ease of implementation/integration provide a enormous advantage for businesses that want to remain competitive or become industry leaders.

It is these types of insights that led Caesars Entertainment to recently invest in a multi-million dollar Salesforce digital transformation strategy. The platform provides insights into how their customers interact with their brand across their customer journey by leveraging tools like Chatter (to keep internal employees informed), Sales Cloud (to manage their opportunity pipelines), Marketing Cloud (to define all of their customer journeys), and Einstein Analytics (to gain insights, and define experiences on a strategic and global scale.” In short, with the foundation of strategic data management through the Salesforce Platform, they are fueling their growth for the next decade – and you can too.

These tools are readily available to players of any size in the hospitality industry who are willing to make small investment. By leveraging data and customer experience, Caesars Entertainment transformed their brand from small bingo parlor in Reno, NV to international conglomerate, and Bowfin is ready to help you leverage the power of the data that is available to you today.

Send me a message if you’d like to discuss how to implement these solutions for your own business. nik@bowfinworks.com

Carpe Diem

2018-10-29T07:09:15+00:00

About the Author:

I am a technical architect and professional services delivery manager with extensive experience in leading the direction, design and implementation of solutions that directly contribute to profits, sustainability and performance. I write about industry trends, technical strategy, and customer success because I think it's important to share our knowledge with each other to benefit the human experience as a whole.