This past Spring, I traveled to San Diego and had a surprising hotel experience. Throughout my stay, I received periodic automated text messages from hotel staff checking in on my comfort, asking if I needed anything, and relaying important information like breakfast times, cocktail hours, etc. I’d never experienced this type of interactive experience at a hotel before.

As someone who works for a software consulting company, I realized they must be using an integrated platform like hospitality CRM to trigger these communications and keep track the customer information that aligns with each touchpoint.

To maintain organized records of all the digital interactions, historical customer data, phone calls, and emails associated to each guest, a CRM would be the fitting software choice. A properly used CRM system can streamline guest services and help successfully deliver experiences much like my own. Plus, the plethora of data it provides is prime for creating detailed reports that reveal deeper trends.

Experiences like mine are becoming more common as hospitality companies compete to differentiate themselves and streamline customer service. So, are hospitality companies using CRM? How is CRM creating transformative customer experiences for hospitality? What can we learn from how others are using CRM to use it even better? Let’s take a look…

Is Hospitality CRM a “Thing”?

According to a recent survey by Capterra, retail is leading the way in CRM adoption and use, followed by business services, technology companies, banking and finance, and manufacturing. While hospitality isn’t paving the way as a “top five” CRM adopter, it isn't far behind. Hotels are among the top 7 industries using CRM the most, which puts the industry very close to breaking through to that top five ranking.

That's because future-focused hotels have already realized the bigger trend: CRM is exploding in EVERY market, and businesses that wait too long to get in the game will get left behind.

Is that an over exaggeration? Not really. According to data collected by SuperOffice, CRM is now the largest software market in the United States, projected to reach revenues exceeding $80 billion dollars by 2025.

software revenue forecast

Each year, 70% of businesses say they intend to spend more on technology investments, and 49% of those investments are meant for increased spending on CRM software. Why the push for CRM? What is it bringing to the table that database management systems are lacking? CRM systems create multi-dimensional views of data to power things like social media monitoring, customer loyalty tracking, campaign management, geo-targeting and much more. And because nearly all CRMs are hosted in the Cloud, are GDPR-friendly, and are available on mobile devices, various industries all over the world can make use of them.

How Is Hospitality Using CRM?

Customer service is arguably THE most important factor for the hospitality industry. The better a hotel is at understanding its guests, the more likely the guests will return or offer a good review.  It’s a no brainer that hospitality companies are using their CRMs mainly for improving customer experience. The customer experience starts from the very first touchpoint, but with 88% of hotel guests preferring an online booking experience, the human element is no longer part of that first touch. That’s why it’s so important for subsequent communications to be personalized.

CRM creates those personalized experiences through segmented, targeted campaigns. For example, data from Revinate has shown that a pre-arrival campaign run through a CRM has a 57% open rate (industry average is 20%) and a 15.5% click-through rate. When those emails are segmented (and therefore more personalized and targeted), the open rates rise 20% and the click-through rates rise a staggering 70%.

Aside from targeted campaigns, hotels are also using social media in conjunction with their CRMs to engage, communicate, and gather crucial customer feedback. The great thing about connecting a social media account to a CRM is the engagement data.

The CRM stores which channels a person interacted through, how many times, what they commented on, etc. It’s easy to look back at that historical data and find behavioral trends and “Likes” of that individual.  The whole thing circles back to the idea of personalized customer interactions.

Knowing what engages someone helps tailor communications to them. This is especially critical in a world where 69% of customers will move away from a company due to a lack of a personal bond. Personalized, two-way conversations build the hotel-customer relationships that can mean better customer retention and repeat stays.  

How Could Hospitality be Using CRM Better?

Superb customer service — while important — should not be the sole focus when using a CRM.

Think about this: who is delivering the customer experience the hotel is trying to create? The employees.

Every department, from the concierge to group sales and housekeeping staff, contribute to the customer experience. Keeping the employees happy and engaging their use of the CRM are two factors that shouldn’t be overlooked. CRM data captured across departments can help visualize employee engagement, performance, and job satisfaction. Notice that an employee is consistently showing high performance? Reward that individual. Feeling appreciated increases employee satisfaction with their job and gains their loyalty as well, not just the customers.

Engaging employees with the CRM adds value, too. For example, when Amadeus hospitality did a study of hospitality organizations, they found that group sales leverage guest information the least. With a smorgasbord of customer information available via the CRM, this gap is a huge missed opportunity for monitoring behaviors and finding new sales.

Business growth is another area where Hospitality CRM can be put to better use. The data in the CRM can be reported on to reveal patterns and ROI analysis. Predictive analytics and historical data provide a clear perspective on where the hotel is doing well and where it’s falling short. Using these data points, the hotel can make educated decisions on how to evolve, add value to service offerings, improve customer relationships, and remedy any issues.

Some Final Advice…

Hospitality businesses looking to invest in a CRM should keep these points in mind as they weigh their options:

  1. Find a CRM that integrates with what you already have. – Whether you need it to talk to your PMS, social media, marketing automation system, or all the above, the CRM you select must be compatible with what you’re already using.
  2. Don’t go it alone. – Hospitality is in its CRM infancy. There are many factors to consider and hundreds of new products on the market every day. Instead of trying to do all the research yourself, enlist the help of a CRM consultant to guide you. It’ll make your life easier in the short term, and in the long term, you’ll enjoy continual benefits like direct support, staff training, and educational opportunities.
  3. Make it part of the routine. – Getting a CRM is great, but if no one uses it, you won’t reap the benefits. Talk to your staff about your decision to adopt CRM and ask them for their support and dedication to making its uses part of their day-to-day. This preliminary announcement is also a great time to gain feedback from staff (another moment for employee engagement and satisfaction!) on their suggestions and questions. Change can be scary! If you address the issues upfront, you’ll have an easier time getting your employees on board later.
  4. Think outside the box. – Would texting your guests make sense for what you’re trying to accomplish? What about connecting on social media? Think about how you want to use your CRM beyond automated email campaigns or detailed reporting. There are many add-on functions that can enhance your capabilities within a CRM and make it truly personalized to your business.
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