by Peter Waters, EVP Hospitality Enterprise Platform, Amadeus
Originally published on PhocusWire
In a time of crisis, your customer relationships are more important than ever. The need to truly understand guests – their desires, wishes, preferences, spending power, etc. – is essential to an effective recovery strategy. The topic of personalization has been top of mind for a while now, but many organizations have been limited in their ability to implement true personalization due to resource or system constraints. Today, it’s no longer a luxury to know your guests to deliver the offers and experiences each one craves. It’s a necessity to differentiate your property from the competition. Hoteliers that can unlock the power of guest data will be ideally positioned to create lasting, meaningful guest relationships and ultimately drive recovery and future growth. Data is the new frontier of hospitality.
It’s important to identify the impact of COVID-19 for hoteliers. First and foremost, guest expectations have changed significantly. While guests still place a high value on personalized, authentic experiences, hoteliers must also address additional guest concerns and expectations regarding sanitation and social distancing, relaxed cancellation policies, and shorter booking windows. Hoteliers must balance these new dynamics with their core objectives of driving profitable demand and streamlining operational processes while still focusing on meeting guest expectations to create loyalty. In today’s market, they must accomplish all of this with reduced or furloughed staff.
The initial reaction to COVID-19 was a frantic (and necessary) rush to implement new sanitization processes and tools. Hoteliers had to find a way to combine personal, human engagement and “no-touch” service elements to support social distancing. But there is a bigger picture that hoteliers should also be considering. Trust and relationships will be a driving factor for guests as we continue to move forward from this crisis. Guests will return to properties they deem safe, priced well, and providing the unique experiences they want. Hospitality will always be a people-first industry. But in current times and looking to the future, hoteliers will need to find the right mix of human and technological interaction while also delivering on the promise of a personalized guest experience. Understanding how different core technology platforms can elevate their personalization and loyalty strategies will be critical.
True guest personalization – beyond just cross-selling
Throughout the crisis, hoteliers have scrutinized traditional or legacy processes to identify how they can more effectively align with guests’ current expectations, desires, and behaviors. This may mean focusing on new market segments or implementing new promotional tactics. The implementation of revised revenue management and distribution strategies likely has been considered. One key area of great opportunity is guest engagement. Hoteliers need the ability to personalize their interactions with prospective guests through all phases of their travel journey. This requires consideration for all channels where guest interactions may take place – on distribution channels, in the booking engine, at the property, or post-stay – to build a deeper connection with the guest.
For many years, “personalized” has been a buzzword in the industry, yet it is still not a reality when engaging with most hotel guests. Much of the challenge originates from the limitations of legacy technology platforms designed to sell rooms, not experiences. No amount of cross-selling, add-ons, services, or plug-ins will solve the fundamental challenges of traditional core systems. Data residing separately within each system cannot be leveraged across all guest interactions to deliver truly personalized experiences that can elevate demand and create loyal fans.
Data is the fuel needed to drive guest relationships
Many core systems are still operating on 1980’s era platforms, with siloed data residing within the property management system (PMS) or the central reservations system (CRS). This limits the ability to utilize guest data across their journey (not to mention the inherent data duplication and fragmentation challenges). At a fundamental level, traditional booking, property management, customer relationship, and even web management systems are not designed to work from centralized and integrated data. Achieving such unification across disparate systems is no small task, and it is unbelievable that we’re still operating within the constraints of these legacy systems.
Amadeus and other technology partners are tackling this challenge head-on to bring about a new personalization and loyalty revolution. With exciting innovations across core platforms, hoteliers will finally be able to unlock a 360° view of the guest and leverage structured data to unleash the true potential of guest-centric hospitality and the greater degree of loyalty it will support. This will solve the fundamental problem that the industry has long struggled to overcome – the application of cross-platform data to increase profitable demand, drive guest loyalty, and increase operational efficiency.
The genie is out of the bottle, so now we can make our guest’s wishes come true
Despite the many industry challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis, Amadeus is moving forward with key projects to deliver on the promise of personalized guest engagement. Our significant investment in new technology platforms and product integrations has continued through 2020 unabated, as these dynamics are considered vital to the future of Amadeus and the industry. The importance of these developments is validated by our hotel partners, who have prioritized the development and implementation of new technologies and platforms in partnership with Amadeus, despite everything that 2020 has thrown at them. Together, we’re unlocking the power of guest data to truly “let the genie out of the bottle,” so to speak, which will, in turn, help fulfill the wishes of hoteliers and guests alike.
The first step in this personalization and loyalty revolution is integrating core platforms to unlock data across disparate systems. The ability to utilize guest profile data from the CRM within the CRS, for instance, can bring greater ability to recognize, entice, and reward guests for shopping on your direct channels. Special offers, unique experiences that meet a guest’s specific behavior and desires, and new types of value-based loyalty rewards are just a few of the elements that such integrations can support. In turn, guests will value the properties that truly know what they want and deliver enticing value.
The second step, which will truly bring about industry progress and evolution, is to rethink and rebuild core platforms and underlying tech stacks. This creates one centralized “point of truth” database for the entire hospitality chain. A single core services platform capable of delivering CRS and PMS capabilities from a central point. A state-of-the-art tech stack that can evolve and connect more efficiently than ever before to accommodate changing industry demands. A singular, connected guest journey supported by seamlessly integrated systems. True attribute-based shopping allows guests to build bespoke accommodations and experiences from room and non-room product inventory and third party content on the fly. These exciting developments will chart new territories in guest engagement and loyalty and allow hoteliers to compete on even footing with tech-savvy distribution partners.
The future is here now
The integrated and unified platform is not just a theoretical idea. Amadeus has already built integrated platforms, which are in use globally across independent properties, mid-size chains, and top brands. In 2021 and beyond, new innovations will continue to unlock a host of new capabilities, allowing hoteliers to stand out from the competition as they better personalize the guest experience and build lasting loyalty while solving long-standing challenges.
With today’s current technologies, hoteliers can realize the benefits of centralized distribution management, identify new ways of delivering value with discounted enhancements, and more effectively use guest profile data to personalize promotions to deliver more enticing offers. Hoteliers and guests alike benefit from new types of value-based loyalty capabilities instead of just “earn and burn” programs. Attribute-based shopping allows guests to build the experience they desire — down to the smallest detail (e.g., free parking, high floor, king bed, romance package, city view, yoga mat, whirlpool bath, smart speaker, near elevator). Centralized guest data available at every guest touchpoint, from housekeeping to front-desk staff, food service, and beyond allows hotels to ensure guests receive the personalized experiences they crave. Hotels effectively move forward with no more data duplication and fragmentation issues. At a fundamental level, this next wave of hospitality technology will help hotels of all shapes and sizes transform the way they run — both in corporate offices and at the property level.
From crisis to innovation
While it’s challenging to reexamine core technology systems amid the current crisis, it’s important to consider the benefits and rewards that the current technology revolution can unlock. Many hoteliers are taking the opportunity to reevaluate their processes and systems during COVID-19 as they try to uncover areas for improvement. By leveraging the integrated and unified capabilities of innovative new platforms today, hoteliers can emerge from the crisis well prepared to meet the new expectations of guests tomorrow, enhancing their ability to meet three key objectives:
- Increase profitable demand by delivering more personalized shopping options that enhance the value perception of your property.
- Elevate guest loyalty from program members and non-members alike by enabling personalized and seamless shopping experiences and memorable stays.
- Enhance operational efficiency through streamlined and open solutions that can reduce the management burden across all core systems.
With the technology revolution already well underway, hoteliers that leverage solutions to optimize their personalization and loyalty capabilities will be better positioned to address demand as it returns.
Learn more about the different strategies and tactics hoteliers can employ to manage the current crisis and prepare for successful recovery at the Amadeus Crisis Management & Recovery Hub.