As a frequent traveler, I am ever so grateful when the entire travel process runs smoothly. Granted, just during a typical business trip, there are endless possible bumps along the road: airport security, flight delay, weather, baggage claim, traffic, missing reservation, unprepared guest room, incorrect folio billing…and the list could go on. In fact, when my wife asks “How was your trip?” my standard response is “Uneventful.” And, that’s a good thing.
Thankfully, today’s ever expanding technology options allow travelers more and more ways to manage their own travel experience to meet their specific expectations. Not only can you book your entire reservation online from flights to car rentals to hotel accommodations, but you can customize your experience with onsite activities, dining reservations, local events, etc. - all from the convenience of your personal computer or mobile device. And now, through the beauty of social media, you can easily track your reservation, complete your check-in process or share comments about your stay.
Heck, my nine-year old son is proof. For our family vacation last summer, he completed his own online registration for the resort’s onsite children’s program, indicating such items as food allergies and favorite activities. Then, hand him my iPhone and he can do just about anything. Directions and traffic conditions to the hotel – no problem. Reservations to the local restaurant – easy. Schedule a golf tee time for his dad – yes, he’s even done that too. As I see it, with the increasing number of user friendly, travel technology options, we are easily becoming a generation of “Do-It-Yourself travelers.”
It’s all about streamlining your experience. I recently read an article by Rob Lovitt on msnbc.com about how “some hotel chains are ditching the front desk” altogether. He asserts that “thanks to improvements in technology and the realization among hoteliers that, for some travelers at least, the traditional front desk process is actually a hindrance to good hospitality.” According to Daniel Mount, as associate professor at the School of Hotel Management at Penn State, it’s all about consistency. “Self-service is consistent – it’s not always outstanding, but it’s consistent.” So as more and more tech-savvy travelers embrace this self-service model, hoteliers need to respond.
How is your hotel organization keeping up with this demand? Do you have a system in place that allows your customers to streamline and automate their stay? Do you know, for example, that Mr. Smith, your frequent business guest, prefers extra pillows and would like them automatically delivered to his room prior to his arrival? Or, better yet, do you have an online customer portal that offers stay-aware content and self-service options for your in-house and frequent guests to have direct access and control over their account information?
But, it’s not just that simple. As Lovitt points out, “The thought process is evolving. Excellence in customer service revolves around letting (your) guest choose the way they want to interact with the hotel.” Remember Mr. Smith with the extra pillows? Yes, he may want to follow a self-service model while traveling on business, but then prefer more personalized interaction while on a family vacation. There is the human factor. “Whatever the system, proponents of self-service travel insist it’s not about eliminating human contact, but rather changing the nature of it and, potentially, enhancing it. Those who prefer to interact with a human being (should) always have the option of doing so.”
And, here’s another consideration: self-service technology may not be right for some market segments. Mount’s studies indicate that “It probably won’t work in resorts where guests have a lot of questions – Where is this? Where is that? – or at high-end properties. The higher the average rate, the more people want human beings to wait on them.” So, when Mr. Smith takes Mrs. Smith on a once-in-a-lifetime, romantic, second honeymoon to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, he expects the ultimate in personalized, guest service. He wants champagne delivered to their suite. He wants a couples massage at the spa. He wants dining reservations at the finest restaurant.
The question is – does your hotel deliver? Granted, every traveler is not headed to a high-end property; every hotel doesn’t offer chocolate dipped strawberries. But, does your organization meet the ever changing needs of today’s traveler? Do you offer self-service options for the tech-savvy customer to manage their own experience? Can you also provide customized, personal service for the guest who prefers more human contact? And, most importantly, do you currently have a technology system in place that enables you to manage both of these different guest expectations?
A comprehensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system provides a complete 360-degree view of your customer, so you can build and maintain strong, lasting customer relationships, no matter what type of traveler they may be. It facilitates collaboration and communication across your organization so guest expectations are easily met. It integrates with your other hospitality management systems and synchronizes with current social media networks. It even offers customer portal technologies that enable your guest to have direct access to their account, offering ease and convenience before, during and after their stay. Ultimately, a CRM system provides you with the tools to meet the needs of every type of traveler and deliver guest satisfaction.
Are you keeping up with today’s traveler? CRM may be your answer.