Fixing the information divide between guests and hotels

Eric Oppegaard

Personalization is the biggest hospitality trend of the moment – and arguably, not even a trend, but the evolution of something that lies at the very heart of the industry: the art of making people feel at home. But the problem with personalization is that it’s not enough to know who your guest is. You also need to know the context of their travel. The same person will want very different things from their business and leisure trips. And on top of that, what about group versus individual travel? I could be travelling by myself to a business conference, or going with family to a wedding – both trips involving the same hotel chain, but booked through different channels. The hotel chain will very likely receive very different amounts of information about me and my preferences.

Like IconThe result is a disconnect between the amount of personal information the customer feels they have provided (to the distributor); and what the hotel actually receives and can use. This raises expectations in the customer that the hotel can’t always meet. How do you fix this information divide?

Let’s begin by imagining that you’re booking a hotel room. Think about three things as steps across the divide: the booking channel you use, the type of information you’re asked to input, and the type of price and package you’ll be offered.

Let’s start with the channel. Perhaps you book directly with the hotel itself, or maybe you use a leisure OTA. You might even have someone else – an event organizer or your organization’s TMC – making the booking on your behalf. The chances are that your choice of channel is dictated by the context of your trip. So, from a hotel’s perspective, one immediate issue is that guest information is coming in from disparate sources and collated in all sorts of different ways.

Now the second step: the data entered when you book a room. It’s not just names and numbers, it’s information such as payment details and dietary requirements. If you’re booking a meeting venue, plus some rooms for out-of-town guests, you want to be sure that the two sets of information are linked. For example, if one guest is allergic to gluten, they need gluten-free catering options for the meeting, but they should also be offered gluten-free options in the room’s minibar. Data needs to circulate freely between the booking systems for meetings and for rooms.

And finally, you’re about to select the package you want and the price you think is best. Again, depending on how many channels you’re checking, you’ll see a wide – almost bewildering – number of offers and price points on offer. It can be frustrating for a guest to pay one price, and then realize that colleagues or fellow partygoers found a cheaper rate or a better package. For example, if I travel on business, I really don’t expect to be paying extra to use the hotel’s Wi-Fi – but I’d happily pay a little bit extra if the hotel could arrange a car to pick me up from the airport. Payment options are also divisive, especially among leisure group bookings. Reconciling the bill and dividing fairly between a group of friends can turn ugly if someone feels they have paid more than their fair share!

Breaking data down in more meaningful ways and sharing it effectively across systems, properties and channels is imperative to reinforce these links in the personalization chain.

Being able to push out more granular pricing options across all reservation systems and channels and  understanding how customers choose their channel and product based on the context of their travel, helps eliminate the frustration guests feel when the package they are offered doesn’t match their needs. Centrally storing and managing guest profiles rather than keeping data in silos ensures that any hotel in a group can access customer data and use it to create a more personal experience. And finally, delivering single view of the guest whether travelling as an individual or as part of a group allows a continuity of service – personalization that doesn’t judder to a halt halfway through a guest’s stay. Ultimately, the more you know about your guests, the easier it is to deliver a personal service.