By Tony Evans
I’m not going to dwell on the pandemic. It’s been a very tough year and many businesses have sadly fallen, but now comes the news we’ve all been waiting for. The vaccination program is well underway, and people are starting to book holidays again. Fantastic news most of us would agree, so perhaps now we can start to look forward to some sense of normality.
But what will this normality be like? Of course, we all want people to start populating hotels and searching for new experiences again, but their requirements throughout the enquiry, booking journey and beyond are going to be very different. There will be new preferred destinations, new types of travel coming into play and new booking processes. For hoteliers, now is the time for a critical reset to address their crucial role in the overall customer experience. Central to this will be the development of a “customer for life” strategy and a “whole experience” approach.
There are four important steps that hotels will need to follow to deliver growth, loyalty and continued success:
- A meticulous knowledge and understanding of customers
- Delivery of a genuinely personalized customer experience.
- Establishing a supporting technology platform and data infrastructure
- Exceptional service and communication throughout the whole experience
Travelers will be acutely aware of the experience and service they receive from the businesses they depend upon. The hospitality industry will need to build additional trust by creating a customer experience across each touch point that is prompt, consistent, relevant and delivered with empathy.
Only by meeting these requirements will businesses earn the customer loyalty they need to succeed and begin to create a “customer for life” environment. To achieve such loyalty, hospitality will need to deliver transcendent experiences across all channels: apps, websites, live support, inbound and outbound mails, calls and SMS. Alternative payment such as bank transfers, local card schemes, cryptocurrency and the most common and fastest-growing model e-wallets provide the convenience and security travelers will expect.
This technology is already being introduced by travel businesses, so expect a big shift in processes and procedures when the industry restarts. These tech changes will need to work with other critical agency operations like booking engines, itinerary builders and commission tracking. There are advanced CRM platforms that have been designed to fulfill these experiences and deliver applications that support the administrative and data requirements to do so.
The service must be seamless and positive, with the underlying purpose of keeping customers informed and updated throughout, whilst maintaining a deep understanding of individual preferences.
It is clear that there needs to be change. Customer travel habits and patterns will be different…at least for the foreseeable future. Government regulations, health awareness and the attitude effects of a global pandemic will mean changes to the way your hotel may operate. Hoteliers will need to design itineraries that are sensitive to this changing landscape of safe distancing and other expanded health considerations.
In a recent report from Skyscanner, new consumer trends emerging include one-way travel, WFHotel and alternative accommodation-types (often with a business workspace, combining work and travel) and last-minute bookings, as consumers navigate around cancelled flights and hotel reservations.
Now is the time to adapt and innovate
Hotels that thrive will be those that deliver on the customer experiences emerging as the ones most important. This requires an understanding of the shifts in dynamics, the problems customers may be facing and the ability to move quickly to address them.
Other sectors have been highly successful at delivering profiling, relevant marketing, user-friendly applications and exceptional service. CRM systems provide hotels with the opportunity to deliver the same exceptional customer experience needed to succeed, and deliver a differentiated approach that enhances service, creates loyalty and builds trust.
Tony Evans is the CEO of TProfile, which provides CRM systems for the travel industry.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.