Remember Blockbuster? Before Netflix decimated its business model, Blockbuster was THE place for movie rentals and purchases. But, customer demands changed and Blockbuster didn’t have the data or the digital wherewithal to compete.

The hospitality industry is having its own Blockbuster moment right now.

Airbnb is quickly gobbling up market share, with more than 12.7 million listings worldwide in 100,000 cities and counting. The platform is growing rapidly, too - adding 14,000 new hosts every single month. So, it’s time for the hospitality industry to make some big decisions.

How can they compete with the personalization, convenience, and cost-effective options provided by Airbnb? A strategic plan – backed by data, automated processes, and personalized customer experiences – is a solid start.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions provide the foundation hospitality groups need to build better experiences and use data to their advantage. You see, Airbnb is pulling in massive quantities of data through booking, search inquiries, and reviews. To beat them out, hospitality groups will need a fierce data strategy of their own. Here are four ways hospitality can use CRM to beat out Airbnb.

#1 Control the Conversation

Do you buy something online without reading the reviews first? Neither do I, and neither do travelers looking for a hotel. Nearly 81% of people read reviews before making booking decisions, according to Hotel Business. Reviews are found on sites like TripAdvisor, or in the case of Airbnb, right on the host page.

But review sites aren’t the only place people are researching hospitality experiences. Social media also plays a major role. A recent survey looked at global data on hotel bookings and found that 73% of Millennials check a company’s social media page before they book. More than a third of those respondents also indicated that, if the hotel didn’t have a social presence, they would be deterred from booking altogether.

Hospitality groups monitoring reviews and social media interactions should use CRM to centralize insights from those outlets.

Workflows can be created to notify marketing when a new review or comment is made so they can respond quickly. Metrics tied into the CRM data can be analyzed and reported on to uncover trends and build more robust guest profiles.

Staying in tune with the conversations happening on your social platforms helps you control the conversation and shows your commitment to customer satisfaction. Aggregated data from these interactions can reveal patterns that will help teams fine-tune personalization as well, using customer feedback and social commentary to craft new experiences or update an inconvenient process.

#2 Make it Easier to Book Services

One of the advantages that hotels have over Airbnb is their services. While Airbnb’s may highlight privacy and amenities like kitchens and yards, hotels offer services and experiences that Airbnb cannot.

So, emphasize your strengths!

Use all the digital engagement pathways available to you. Create an app where guests can easily book massages at your spa or make dinner reservations at a nearby restaurant. Offer a 24 hour chatbot that can answer customer questions and provide digital concierge services. Use text messaging to check in with your guests and alert them to hotel events like free happy hours.

All of these actions can be facilitated and monitored through the CRM. And, best of all, all the data around these actions is made visible to marketing, sales, front desk, and service staff through their CRM access.

The data can inform marketing strategy -- where are customers engaging most? It also helps teams profile guest habits and preferences. Notice a couple is ordering room service a lot? Upsell them with a romantic gourmet dinner on their balcony.

#3 Automate for Better Customer Experience

One of the most powerful attributes of hospitality CRM is its workflow and automation capabilities. Sales workflows can be automated and timed to trigger actions when they make the most sense. As a result, sales teams adopt a uniform process, so they never miss an opportunity.

Automation also cuts down on manual busy work while maintaining guest communication. Scheduled reminders and automated invoicing/billing are convenient for guests and easily tracked by the hotel through the CRM. Digital room keys that allow the guest to bypass the front desk not only free up hotel staff, but also add a level of privacy that the guest would experience at an Airbnb. A CRM tied to the automated solution could trigger these digital keys to unlock at a specified check-in time.

Integrate an artificial intelligence solution with your CRM to further exceed Airbnb’s customer experience. AI can automate features like room temperature and opening and closing blinds at certain times of day. Voice command can give guests the power to control all the audio and visual aspects of their room. Every guest’s AI data can be integrated with the CRM for more efficient data management and to help predict future customer behaviors.  

#4 Learn from Data to Personalize

 Personalization builds loyalty and differentiates your brand from Airbnb. Hospitality groups can leverage the CRM’s predictive analytics to build guest profiles that supercharge the guest experience.

Customer profiles not only inform the preferences of returning guests, but also draw on historical trends to anticipate the needs of new ones. This allows the hotel to better predict preferences and serve up rates, room types, packages, and amenities that best match the buyer persona.

Other Tips for Competing with Airbnb

How else can hotels compete with Airbnb? Here are a few additional ideas to consider:

  1. Highlight Your Eco-Conscious Policies
    Younger generations are influencing eco-consciousness across all industries. They want to engage with brands that share their values. If your hotel features eco-friendly amenities or practices, make sure your customers know about it. A CRM can facilitate some of those practices with digital invoicing.
  2. Emphasize Your Security
    Airbnb’s don’t have a front desk or 24/7 security monitoring. For some guests, this could be a highly influential safety factor. Knowing the area is monitored and someone is available at any time of day is a comfort.
  3. Create Opportunities to Explore
    Hotels can compete with Airbnb by putting together sponsored trips for travelers to explore the area. From pub crawls to museum adventures, the hotel can use the CRM automation to inform guests of these opportunities and make it convenient for them to participate.

Competing with Airbnb requires personalization, data-backed initiatives, and convenience.  Data is digital gold, and these days, you can’t do business successfully without it. A CRM acts as a single source of truth, aggregating data from across your organization. With accessibility in the Cloud and through mobile apps, employees across locations can all benefit from the information and insights it provides. The right software and the right ideas can help hospitality outshine this digital giant and build a truly delightful guest experience.

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