MINNEAPOLIS—In the world of customer relationship management, hotel organizations should determine what customer data best fits their needs and then adapt the strategies to collect it, panelists said during the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference in Minneapolis last week.
“Identifying the best guests is critical. Use the information to fuel sophisticated marketing opportunities,” said Mark Haley, managing partner with The Prism Partnership.
Generic traveler data can be purchased or acquired through third parties. However, panelists suggested the best data comes from interacting with the customers and collecting it at the property level.
Jeff Linden, CIO for Red Roof Inns, said his company has been “burned” by trying to use a third party to fill guest data holes. Companies offer to “wash” certain databases by stripping them of non-essential values and filling in gaps, such as contact information. In Red Roof’s case, the third party made assumptions that were inaccurate and caused problems when the data was used for marketing purposes.
At the 428-room Seaport Boston Hotel, an independent hotel in Boston, line-level employees are trained on the right data to look for and collect from guests.
“We have a unique perspective to CRM because we’re independent; we don’t have the parent company driving business,” said Michael Duffy, director of technology and sustainability for Seaport. “Also, we have a unique group mix, so a lot of our guests will never come back.”
“Our plea to our (guest service representatives) is, ‘Please get their email address,’” Linden added. “It’s really the only piece of information we really need.”
CRM and loyalty
Customer relationship management and points-based loyalty programs go hand in hand.
At Red Roof, the program is called RediCard and it boasts 912,000 members with a 20% annual growth rate.
Because Red Roof is an economy brand, the CRM and loyalty staff is thin; in fact, it’s run by just two people—the loyalty program manager and an analyst.
Guests receive 10 points for every $1 they spend at a Red Roof Inn property. When members reach 6,000 points, they receive a free roomnight. That equates to a free night for every eight or 10 stays, depending on the market-dictated rates paid.
Having guest history is critical, Linden said.
“We know where they’ve stayed, when they’ve stayed and where they might stay again,” he said. “All that goes into email marketing.”
Because Red Roof does little TV advertising, the brand uses digital channels—Twitter, Facebook, TripAdvisor and email—to do most of its marketing. CRM tools allow the team to slice and dice the data to target the right customer, Linden said.
“We’re at the beginning phase of testing out some things to encourage people to come back and stay with us. Maybe you get a free higher speed Internet access if you’re a loyalty member,” he said.
Linden said Red Roof recently partnered with a third-party, cloud-based CRM provider to help store and manage guest data. One challenge the brand recently overcame was allowing that cloud to communicate with a separate cloud that housed the property-management software.
Now, “as a reservation is booked, that reservation is available to the help desk. When the guest checks in, that event is sent up to the CRM,” he said. “We have some thoughts around how to capitalize on that—‘Hey, welcome to Dallas’—and we’re starting to do a bit more touching our guests.”
Following the guest all the way through the checkout process allows Red Roof to credit guests with their points in nearly real time.
At the Seaport, CRM is kept in the back of house. Guests often don’t even know they’re part of a loyalty program, Duffy said.
“For us, CRM is more about recognition,” he said. “We have a multi-tiered VIP level and, although you don’t know, we track how many times you’ve been there. We have a customer relations coordinator dedicated to managing that.”