As today’s travelers become accustomed to fast, seamless and connected communications at home, they’re coming to expect the same type of quality everywhere they go. Smart hoteliers know they need to deliver guest services in new, innovative ways to remain competitive for the next generation of travelers.
Indeed, over a third of travel executives say that between 21 and 40 percent of their visitor traffic comes from mobile platforms, according to a 2017 survey conducted by Skift on mobile usage in the industry. Almost a quarter reported an even higher number—between 40 and 60 percent.
It’s clear that the ability to connect with travelers in a customized, personalized way, regardless of device or channel, will be critical for properties to thrive. Ultimately, the competition for new travelers and return guests comes down to a single strategy: omni-channel communications.
Omni-Channel: Customer First
First, a definition of terms. “Multi-channel” and “omni-channel” are often used interchangeably. However, marketing experts are quick to point out they have important differences.
Companies using a multi-channel approach to connect with their customers via two or more channels, such as web, email or social media. But the experience in each channel may be different and may fail to deliver a consistent message. Often, the management of each channel is handled separately, with separate goals and objectives. While the purpose of this approach is to maximize performance, the result is often a disjointed customer experience.
By contrast, an omni-channel strategy puts the customer at the center. Businesses using this approach ask, “What does the customer want, how do they want it and when do they want it?” The focus is on a consistent customer experience across all devices and every touch point, including call center, mobile, web, SMS, chat or social media. Branding must match in look and feel, and customers must be able to access their information smoothly.
A recent study by Aberdeen demonstrates the value of using an extended omni-channel customer (EOC) strategy. Companies implementing EOC combine data from multiple technologies, like customer communications management (CCM) and digital asset management (DAM), and then integrate it further with enterprise systems, like CRM, ERP and e-commerce. Aberdeen discovered that businesses using EOC showed significantly superior performance:
- An increase of almost 39 percent in annual revenue compared to only 12 percent in other companies
- An average profit margin per customer of 15 percent versus barely 2 percent in other companies
- Twice the annual increase in customer lifetime value (36 percent vs. 16 percent)
- Annual increase in customer retention rates of 23 percent versus 2 percent
- Over 58 percent annual increase in “social buzz” (i.e. number of positive mentions on social media channels) versus only 16 percent increase in other firms
The Key to Personalization: Data
Successfully executing an omni-channel strategy requires culling data from numerous sources to gain useful customer insights. That means analyzing customer data from all company systems (e.g. call data, CRM, sales) as well as information from external sources, like feedback from partners and customers on social media. Aberdeen notes that EOC users are 30 percent more likely to capture and analyze this data than other companies (82 percent vs. 63 percent).
This step is crucial to providing a seamless and personalized customer experience. Having access to a robust customer database gives all hotel staff – from front desk staff and reservations agents to housekeeping and marketing – the information necessary to streamline interactions and increase brand loyalty. For example, guest history can inform a reservation agent of the customer’s preferences—what kind of room they like, how they prefer to be contacted (text or email, for example) and use of amenities. This enables the agent to complete transactions faster and in a more tailored manner.
The Power of the Cloud
Cloud communications makes this kind of customer-focused, omni-channel marketing possible. Data flows easily from multiple sources, accessible via web-based platforms using smartphones, laptops, tablets or desktop computers. Companies reach their customers through any device the customer chooses, at any time or location.
Sitting in bed, the traveler makes her initial plans on her tablet. On the road, she accesses her reservations via her smartphone using SMS or email. At the office, she interacts with the hotel on her laptop. The look, tone and format are consistent and familiar.
The cloud can help travel executives deliver the next-generation hotel guest experience. What would normally be cost-prohibitive to implement on a per-property basis is now possible with cloud communications. Multiple properties can have access via the web specialized programs, third-party applications and workflow software. Costs are shared and based on usage, rather than purchasing software and hardware.
Hoteliers must be ready to meet the demands of today’s mobile travelers. Cloud communications can help organizations provide a seamless, personalized and cost-effective omni-channel experience.