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Staying in touch with new technologies

After guests leave a hotel, they have not parted ways forever. The hotelier cannot afford to lose a former guest, who, if the service he received during his stay met his needs, could become a repeat guest in the future. One of the things the hotelier needs to do is provide the guest with useful tools to develop loyalty. And for that, new technology once again offers solutions to be sure not to miss the boat and be available for this clientele. Saving guest data and putting it to good use are now the primary challenges faced by hoteliers in their quest to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, which generally go hand in hand. To do that the guest’s loyalty must be nurtured by studying his stay’s strengths and weaknesses, in order to create a trusting relationship with him. Today’s new technologies are a tool that is nearly indispensable to the analysis of customer satisfaction, and the programs for contacting them after they leave prove to be necessary.

Collecting data, first stage of the relationship

The new media make it possible to update loyalty programs, which are now an integral part of hotel strategies, especially when it comes to maintaining direct contact with guests as online reservation centers grow more powerful. Moreover, it costs 5 to 6 times less to develop customer loyalty than to gain a new customer. Applications for hotels are now present on tablets, Smartphones and other mobile devices and may be downloaded on the Appstore for iPhone or Playstore for Androids.  In addition to the information tabs and photos, some include a personal space where the client provides information about himself such as age, sex, address, profession and impressions about previous stays at the group’s hotels. In order to inspire clients to use this service, loyalty points systems (accumulated after a stay to benefit from promotions or perks during future travel), now widespread on the sector, are being developed for these new media. This software has become the necessary ally for feeding hoteliers’ CRM (Customer Management Relationship) databases. Presented in the form of dynamic databases, they make it possible to manage data recorded during registration on a mobile site, website, or simply received from clients (information, consumer habits) during their stay. The data collected thus enable groups to make offers that fit clients, but above all to personalize the experience as much as possible to create a privileged relationship and facilitate loyalty. They are also a means of recuperating customer data and thus stimulating reservations directly, rather than through some other online reservation center, by optimizing contact between the hotelier and client. Maintaining customer contact also means implicating them in the hotel and being interested in their experience. It thus includes reminding the client about his pleasant stay by wishing him a safe trip home and showing special attention to help maintain proximity. Smartphone applications developed for the hotels, especially those operating with personal accounts, allow hoteliers to wish their clients a good trip. In addition to these considerations, the hotelier must create a connection between the client and the property, which may be done by offering the possibility of leaving comments about his experience in the form of an online guestbook. This is a way for hoteliers to establish a general idea of the satisfaction of their clients, and while a positive opinion is a promotional asset a negative remark can open the way to improvement. While the social media provide sites dedicated to this activity, such as TripAdvisor, their reliability falls short because of the difficulty verifying comments published on their platform. Some hotel groups thus preferred to develop their own tools for more security and to verify information provided by clients. This is the case for B&B Hôtels, whose website allows its users to comment directly on the hotel’s mage.  The chain is thus able to collect positive and negative commentaries rapidly, without necessarily having to survey the web. Moreover, these practices directly implicate the client with the hotelier and encourage privileged relations. By using social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare (more advanced in the United States) as well, the hotel can develop awareness among its clients’ groups of friends/ followers, through global positioning via statuses and photographs posted. Then it is up to the client to play in favor of the hotelier, although use of the data collected will be the main communications tool with the client after he has left the hotel.

Optimizing use of data

Clearly it is necessary to adapt one’s strategy through good analysis of categories of clientele residing at the hotels. It is thus possible to distinguish several types of individuals:
-Repeaters - often have loyalty cards or loyalty accounts. In order to keep them, promotions and also proximity brands can be good solutions. Through text messaging, email, or account connected to an application, these elements will benefit the hotelier.
-Primo visitors. With these guests, it is necessary to meet their expectations during the stay, and invite them to participate in a loyalty program. Once again response time and simplicity of use allowed by these applications on iPhone, tablets and Smartphones,  along with direct contact to the client upon departure, offer the hotelier welcome assistance.

Business clientele, who often travel a great deal, represent an important target for hoteliers. Without falling into clichés, this clientele is often “connected” via the latest technological innovations. Also, without being too invasive, it is possible to contact with promotions, to make last minute offers or simply remind them of their previous stay, via more recent media, using the hotel brand’s applications and websites.
Finally, leisure clientele. These guests come for vacations with family, friends, as couples, and often travel to any given destination only once, especially when it is far away from home. In this case, it is not necessarily the property that needs to be promoted after departure, but the brand in general. By communicating about a product at another destination, and offering promotions directly via applications that may be offered via post-departure newsletters, hoteliers can try to redirect their clientele towards other hotels in the group worldwide.

In order to understand the customer’s needs and give the right answers and propositions, a good customer satisfaction management tool is necessary. Olakala is an example of software that makes it possible to establish a schema for staying in touch with a hotel’s previous guests. The tool follows several steps and makes analyses that help conclude what approach should be adopted in light of customer reactions after a stay. Thus, keeping watch over customer opinions on the net, alerts for dissatisfaction, and also web reporting with the evolutions and comparisons of opinions will be useful. After this information has been collected, it is necessary to exercise caution in managing it in order to adapt the questionnaires sent to each client in order to personalize them. The chain or group is able to receive real feedback on the quality perceived by the client. Messages of thanks sent to customers fit the answers they provide, thereby reflecting the will to truly involve the client in a personal relationship with the brand and the hotel. Once again, using applications and websites will make it possible to rapidly share these messages with former guests. The advantages of this type of tool affect three of the aspects of the hotel circle: the client, who sees his relationship personalized, and his impressions taken into consideration; hotel teams, who can, thanks to these diagnostics, adapt their strategy, define common goals and communicate using a single tool. All the hotel teams in contact with this client must be able to access this software in order to make it efficient. This new technology makes it possible to appreciate the brand’s visibility and its e-reputation and its products on the Internet. The correlated data will help understand what type of stay (leisure, business, long stay, weekend, family…) is right for a client, and benefit sales networks to make offers to former guests that fit their interests.

Complicity, simplicity, loyalty

This software is useful for collecting the information necessary to begin and maintain contact with the guest after leaving the property. However, they must be efficient thanks to the simplicity of their use by customers and hoteliers alike. Jean Lavergne, chairman of the board of directors at SEH (Société Européenne d'Hôtellerie) explained during Global Lodging 2014 that “customer relations is very important for quality and loyalty. I think that to be efficient a customer loyalty program must be first and foremost simple and easy to understand and use.” The mutual understanding between customer and hotelier results from notions of simplicity, but above all from a good loyalty program based on the collection of client data, and especially the analysis of the property’s image as it appears on Internet thanks to an efficient watch using specialized software. The customer loyalty program resulting from these conclusions will be quickly and simply adapted and shared with the client through new technological supports and mobile applications.  A real relationship will be established with the client, with a goal to making him return to the same property, and to redirecting him to the brand’s other hotels. Hoteliers are finding their place in people’s smartphones thanks to applications, and, like smartphones, they need to manage to slip into their customers’ pockets and make them their allies for expanding and establishing their network.

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