How to choose the right CRM for YOUR hotel?

Dear Hoteliers,

I am continuing to work on compiling a resource on CRMs for the hospitality industry. I have made a great deal of progress and if you wish, you can read the first two articles by clicking here:

Although many solutions are not yet available on the market, it is important to create a road map to guide you when it’s time to take the next step and select a CRM. You will need to be able to choose the right solution for your needs. The best way to start is by identifying the general requirements of different types of hotels.

That is what I will aim to do in this article.

NOTE: these are general requirements, analyzed over four years of regular contact with hoteliers. You may of course have other needs that are specific to your hotel and your management style. This article will provide you with a basic overview of what you should be looking for.

I hope you will find this information interesting and useful.

 

The foundation: the database

Regardless of your CRM goals, the starting point is, and always will be, a database containing information on your contacts. This database needs to be intelligently segmented and filterable so that you can quickly obtain lists of contacts differentiated on the basis of any given criteria.

Of course, it is also important for your interaction history with these contacts to be recorded in their respective files.

Any CRM worth considering should offer, as a minimum, the options outlined below.

 

Determining the purpose of your CRM tool

As defined in a previous article, the main function of a CRM system is to manage interactions between your establishment and its customers.

The purpose of customer relationship management varies depending on the department or office within the company and can therefore take many different forms.

For example:

  • A sales department uses a CRM system to generate prospects, with the goal of obtaining a signed contract (thus turning the prospect into a client).
  • A quality assurance department uses the CRM to find out if customers are satisfied with the product they have purchased and if their questions/needs were answered quickly and effectively.
  • A marketing department uses the CRM to create email marketing campaigns in order to build customer loyalty.
  • Etc.

As you can see, although all three cases involve a CRM system, there could be three different software systems within the same company. Therefore, before investing in one or more CRM solutions, it is crucial to clearly define the specific goal(s) you hope to achieve by implementing your CRM system.

You may have several different objectives and be focused on various solutions, with each one being highly specialized for its specific purpose. At Expérience Hôtel, we use two main CRM systems: PipeDrive for sales relationship management and FreshDesk for technical customer support. PipeDrive is not suitable for managing customer service, but it is fantastic for tracking sales.

 

Which is the best CRM system for a hotel?

There is no definite answer. The particular features of your hotel will dictate your choice of a CRM software solution.

Hotels with fewer than 20 rooms should be able to at least perform the following functions:

  • Database segmentation;
  • Monitoring interactions with customers;
  • Managing customer satisfaction.

Hotels with 20 to 100 rooms require the following additional features:

  • Identifying customer dissatisfaction during a stay;
  • Simplifying administrative procedures for the customer (check-in / check-out);
  • A reward system for loyal customers;
  • Email marketing campaigns;
  • Monitoring the hotel’s online reputation.

If your hotel has more than 100 rooms, you should consider adding the following features:

  • Identifying your priority customers (impact on sales revenue or reputation) during their stay;
  • Managing reservation confirmations;
  • In-room Chat System/E-concierge service.

For hotels with multiple company contracts or that offer conference rooms:

  • Tracking business proposals made to prospects until they turn into signed agreements.

For hotels whose main focus is delivering a great customer experience, I would also recommend:

  • Connecting your customer ledger with social media profiles in order to improve your understanding of each of your customer’s expectations.

For hotels with a significant upselling strategy:

  • The ability to promote your add-on services at different points or phases of the customer experience;
  • The ability to recommend only the services that fit the customer’s profile;
  • Promoting your restaurant/spa facilities (if your hotel has them).

For groups of hotels:

  • A shared ledger allows you to track your customers’ stays at any of the properties of the group;
  • A multi-hotel loyalty program;
  • Email marketing campaigns to create brand loyalty rather than loyalty to a specific hotel.

For luxury and/or boutique hotels:

  • The ability to add a very personalized graphic identity to all communications from your CRM.

 

Don’t get mixed up

For the most part, PMS and Channel Managers are very powerful tools when used to fulfill their main purposes. However, they are not considered CRMs because they are not customer relations tools. Their goal is to manage your operations and sales. That means that they are specifically designed for these two areas – which are already complicated enough.

However, by recording your reservations, they do allow you to create a database that can then be segmented. This data, which is completely reliable, must be integrated into your CRM in real time. Therefore, your PMS and Channel Manager must be able to connect to your CRM in order to share this information.

The CRM system is, and will virtually remain, your most up-to-date and reliable customer database.

We are not yet in an era where there is a single IT solution that combines PMS / Channel Manager / CRM / Site Web / AdWords / Meta Search / etc. And I am not sure that this sort of comprehensive solution will be developed in the medium- or long-term future.

Here is an analogy that will help to explain this. For example, who wouldn’t dream of finding a single individual who is an expert in every aspect of hotel construction: plumbing, security, electricity, IT, architecture, design, etc.? That would make everything so much easier! But this is totally unrealistic. Although all these jobs have to do with building, they each require very specific expertise. And it is extremely rare, if not impossible, to find an individual or a company who can offer all these skills, and at the desired level of quality.

With that in mind, if you already have a good PMS/Channel Manager in place, all the better! The next step is to find the best CRM solution(s) for your needs and goals. You will then be able to finalize the marketing base for your sales strategy, and watch as your business grow by leaps and bounds.

 

Conclusion

I could have ended this article by advising you to choose your CRM system carefully and ensure that it will truly meet your goals….which should be self-evident. But I also wanted to mention that you must beware of your biggest source of potential problems: your teams!

Your CRM system must be a tool that is easy to use and adapted to the way you operate. Otherwise, your teams will not adhere to it and you will run into problems. Without going into too much detail, the question you need to ask yourself is:

Will implementing this CRM system save time for my teams? 

If the answer is yes, then it is probably the right tool for you. This is because saving time will free up valuable time that can be devoted to each of your customers.

Until next time,

Tony LOEB