Delivering exceptional customer experiences starts with understanding customers

David Scamehorn

David Scamehorn, Global Data Analytics & Customer Insight, Radisson Hotel Group

Delivering exceptional customer experiences starts with understanding customers

The hospitality industry is undergoing massive change, influenced by shifting consumer expectations and digital disruption. Growing segments of influential consumers demand a new level of service and offerings that align with their lifestyle and values. Newer entrants, such as Airbnb, are drastically shaking up traditional business models and forcing the industry to rethink guest interactions and marketing.

As a result, hospitality customer experience, satisfaction, and loyalty are more important than ever. A recent study from Accenture supports this, highlighting that 61% of customers stopped doing business with at least one company because of a poor customer experience and 48% expect specialized treatment for being a loyal customer. The key to exceeding customer expectations lies in delivering personalized, rewarding experiences—which can only be informed by unlocking the power of data. A key to unlocking the power is understanding who your customers are. This requires being able to connect the right data with the right customer.

The volume of customer data that hotels have access to has exploded to include traditional data sources like reservations, loyalty, CRM, and property systems and new sources like web and mobile interactions, satisfaction survey results, third party demographics, and consumer lifestyle attributes. This makes linking customer data to the right customer increasingly difficult. In fact, recent studies by Dun & Bradstreet and Ascend 2 found that improving data integrity and integrating data are the two biggest barriers to data-driven success.

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At Radisson, we began our customer data journey in 2016 and our experience reflected these challenges. We quickly realized that the state of our customer data prevented us from being able to achieve our customer engagement vision. Customer data is error-prone and constantly changing ­– people moved, changed names, etc. The impact: we had multiple customer profiles associated with the same guest; as an example, we found 22% of guests had duplicate profiles and, in one case, a guest had 44 different profiles. This became even more problematic when we attempted to link customers across applications and points of service.

Our goal is to better identify and track guest behavior over time, we want to develop segmented profiles by extending behavioral insights that tell us more about these customers–their interests, spending habits, digital behavior, and social activity. This data will serve as the foundation for meaningful customer segmentation models that will ultimately inform customer insights. Our analytics team has to provide answers to questions like: Who are our “best customers” as measured by total revenue and/or total number of stays? At which properties do they stay? Through which channels do they book? What are their demographic or lifestyle attributes? Who within my customer base have similar attributes but are not among my “best customers”? The answers to these questions will inform and drive tactics throughout the organization and allow us to more effectively attract, retain and grow relationships with customers.

Our approach is to develop a solution that allows our team to work within the backdrop of a multi-year legacy system replacement strategy, including MDM. Our Customer Insights team needs to be responsive to the business and cannot wait years for implementation. To meet these immediate requirements, we designed a customer data platform inclusive of a customer matching technology—in a matter of weeks. This solution sees through our data quality issues to accurately link customer data across systems. This allows us to support the business with compelling customer insights while also helping us clean-up customer data so that we are prepared for the migration to new CRM and MDM platforms.

In the hospitality industry, a competitive stay option is only a click away. Innovative hotel groups who succeed in harnessing the power of customer data to deliver personalized experiences will win the customer loyalty game. Companies who get their customer data house in order will differentiate themselves in the minds of their guests and set themselves up to deliver timely, rewarding, and unique experiences that make a lasting impression.

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