Like it or not, data is the new key to competitive advantage. Almost every aspect of business can be improved by leveraging relevant information, but in the increasingly competitive hotel business – with the constant influx of additional rooms and boom of Airbnb, VRBO and others – gathering and using guest data has become crucial.
Every guest visit, every call to the front desk and every reservation represents an opportunity to better understand your guests and the services your hotels provide.
And each of these opportunities is capable of being evaluated through a data/analytics lens to fuel your cycle of information, understanding and improvement.
Keep this in mind, though: collecting data has its risks. As with any database of personal and credit card information, there’s the concern of cybersecurity threats, and hotels are in the top five of industries breached every year.
You should only be collecting data if: 1) you have cybersecurity measures in place, and 2) if you’re actually going to use it to improve marketing and/or personalize the guest experience.
The Guest Data That’s the Best Data
Guest data can lead to insights that help improve the care of your guests during their next stay. It can also help you better personalize marketing messages to drive repeat visits. Here is some of the guest data every hotel should consider collecting:
- Contact Information – With basic contact information – phone number and email address – hotels can share information like check-in/check-out details, amenities and dining options pre-stay. Hotels can also send marketing or promotional messages during or after the stay. It’s another way to help create long-term relationships.
- Demographics – Data such as age, location and number of children can help your marketing and front desk make more relevant recommendations. A guest in their 20s is likely to want to know about the nightlife. Guests traveling with children will likely appreciate hearing about nearby family attractions. Demographic data also helps you understand who your core customers really are, which may (should) influence your overall branding and messaging.
- Reason for the Stay – Knowing if your guests are there for business, pleasure or a celebration can help you customize service and improve the guest experience. Flowers and champagne in the room is a great surprise for an anniversary stay. An anniversary room offer sent a couple of months before their next anniversary will deliver an exceptionally high conversion rate. Personalized service is a proven way to build long-term loyalty.
- Social Profiles – Do your guests “like” your hotel’s Facebook page? Did they leave a negative comment on Yelp? Monitoring social media – yours and the industry’s – can reveal invaluable demographic and preference information about your guests. This knowledge will also help you market to past and future guests via these same social networks.
- Booking Channel Source/Preferences – Knowing exactly how and where your guests booked their stay – travel agent, direct booking or an OTA (Online Travel Agency) – will directly affect your marketing strategy. For example, if a particular OTA is the source of guests who stay longer at a higher ADR, you might want to invest in improving your ranking on that site.
- Past Booking History – Since repeat guests are so valuable, it’s important to understand their booking frequency and/or patterns. For example, if a guest stays for a three-day business trip every other month, you probably don’t need to send him or her any discounted offers. But it would be a good idea to make sure your staff provides excellent service to this VIP (car service, personal note in-room, free drinks, etc.) to ensure they keep coming back.
- Ancillary/Auxiliary Services – Understanding which of your services or amenities your guests use during their stay will help you market to them more effectively. If a guest used the spa during a stay, for example, you can use a spa offer to incentivize another stay in the future.
- Guests Requests/Service Preferences – Does a guest ask for extra towels or pillows? Noting these special requests and preferences allows you to impress them during their next stay. The smallest things – stocking the mini fridge with the same brand of cola they ordered during their last stay, for example – can go a long way in driving guest satisfaction, recommendations and return visits.
- Loyalty Program Status – Loyalty programs provide a vast amount of ongoing data to help hotel groups understand exactly where individual guest dollars are spent. But know your members. If a guest is already part of your program, you don’t want your staff bothering them with an invitation to join.
Data Do’s and Don’ts
When it comes to gathering guest data, here’s the biggest “do” – Make sure all that data is regularly entered and organized in a robust CRM system (Customer Relationship Management). And the biggest “don’t?” Don’t collect data you have no intention to use. Remember, for all the benefit it offers your organization, guest data also represents a liability for security.
Data artist Jer Thorp
has some additional suggestions:
- Be completely transparent with guests about how you’ll use the data.
- Make sure your guests know how to opt out. You need to provide clear instructions on how they can control their information and/or remove themselves from your database.
- Treat data with humanity. Don’t think of your guests as your customers; think of them as family members. This is the best way to ensure all your gathering efforts will pay off.