Hotels Helping to Reinvent the CRM

By  Lisa Terry, Contributing Editor | December 20, 2016

Hotels no longer sell rooms: They sell experiences. So they need technology that improves the guest experience, inclusive of but going beyond the room. This was the conclusion reached by some of the industry’s brightest minds during HTNG’s Insight Summit in Amsterdam this past April. Hotels need systems that put the guest at the core, from better serving guests’ needs prior to booking a trip on through the post-stay.

“Consumers are accustomed to tailored experiences focused on their interests, such as when they use mobile devices to shop, visit an online travel agency, and so on,” says Bryan Steele, managing director, Jireh-Tek Limited. “The systems built for hotels were never designed for that. What we need in hospitality is a far more comprehensive CRM solution de-coupled from applications.”

Currently, many hotel applications incorporate their own databases containing only the type of guest data needed for that specific application. As a result, hotel brands lack a complete view of a particular guest in one place, an obstacle to providing the meaningful engagement and personalized services guests now expect.

HTNG is now flipping the model
Re-inventing the CRM from the ground up is a big undertaking. A new CRM workgroup, co-chaired by Steele and Pam Vickers, senior business analyst,
Infor CRM - Hospitality, has set the wheels in motion by breaking the job down into smaller parts:
1 Identifying five common use cases
2 Identifying the data needed to support them
3 Defining how other applications can write data to the CRM solution
4 Defining how other applications can retrieve CRM data using Web services
5 Undertaking the same process for additional use cases

The end result will be a model that developers — and hoteliers if they choose — can use to create a CRM that operates independently of their other software, exchanging data in a standard way. The new model brings all guest data into one place for a holistic view that spans the entire brand experience. Instead of each application housing some guest data, an independent CRM solution will serve as a central repository at the center of a hotel’s IT architecture, where all business applications can access it.  

“This represents a shift away from property-centric to guest centric solutions,” Steele says.

The workgroup is going about creating the building blocks for a next-generation CRM with two important caveats. First, the CRM model must be useful to every type of hotel, from limited service brands all the way up to high-touch luxury properties.

“It’s really for everybody,” Vickers says. “It’s not necessarily about providing luxury experiences, it’s about providing appropriate experiences.”

An example she gives of an appropriate experience is making sure a guest with a latex allergy is not provided with latex pillows.

Second, that the work incorporate advice from the PII and PCI workgroups. This is key because many hotels collect data for one purpose and then mistakenly use it for another. Doing so violates some privacy regulations, including strict EU laws that come with high fines. Data collection could also run up against HIPPA rules such as storing data about allergens. Obtaining guest permission is a key part of compliance, as is stripping out PII data if a hotel does not have permission to store it — substituting birth month for birthday, for example, or geographic region in place of address.

The high participation in the HTNG CRM workgroup — more than 70 signed up, with a record number of international participants — reveals how much pressure hotels are feeling to gain more visibility to the end-to-end guest experience. Additional insight is welcome to ensure a widely usable model. Contact Joe.Gallo@htng.org to get involved.

“Because we’re selling experiences and we’re not just selling heads in beds, we need to be able to capture so much more information,” Vickers says.
By leveraging ideas from a cross-section of the industry, the CRM workgroup is working hard to ensure access to next-gen CRMs that work for everyone.  HT

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