Today, computer technology has become a key part of our daily lives: iPhone, laptops, sync-ed calendars, Internet, Netflix, etc. This powerful tool has revolutionized the way we live and continues to do so day after day.
But what does that mean for the world of hotels?
A great number of tools have also been created. Some have been so revolutionary that your hotel can no longer do without them. Others were great ideas but soon fell by the wayside.
What does the future hold for us? What path forward emerges, announcing the next set of “must-have” tools for the hospitality business?
To answer this question, let’s take a look at the past!
1980 – 2000: first revolution, the creation of PMS
The first step for hotels: Property Management Systems. The big notebook at reception and post-its on desks became a thing of the past! This system took over hotels’ operational management entirely. We saved time and effort, and therefore money.
The impact of this first step went beyond hotel management. It was the basis on which all the rest was to be built. For the first time in history, scheduling, rooms, and availabilities could be accessed and managed digitally. Without this foundation, no other developments could have followed.
2000 – 2010: second revolution, the arrival of the Web, OTAs, and Channel Managers
The Web explodes and society changes. We move from consuming real, tangible products to dematerialized consumption. People make more and more purchases through the Internet.
With demand increasing, many companies decided to surf that wave and began offering lists of hotels accepting online reservations. The first attempts bore little success, but soon the business found its footing and became the norm, giving rise to a surge of Online Travel Agencies.
But with OTAs came scheduling needs. Remember back in the day, when we needed to spend several hours a day to manage schedules one by one…? It was tedious, unpleasant work. The situation needed a solution… Which came in the form of Channel Managers with the interesting ability of being able to pull data from the PMS.
The days of organizing schedules or having to solicit travel agencies were over! You can now fully manage the marketing for your hotel online, from your own desk.
2010 – 2015: third revolution, the E-reputation boom
Now that hotels can so easily manage their own marketing activities, more and more of them sign up with OTAs. This is the golden age of online distribution; and the OTAs reap the benefits with skyrocketing commissions. But… – and there is a but – a new way to choose a hotel is blossoming: online comments.
In order to provide excellent service to their online visitors, many websites offer a comments function. The goal is very simple: to offer a platform where all information is made available, including prices, photos, availability, directions AND even… comments from customers. This is paradise for travelers; and booking a hotel has never been easier.
After seeing these developments, hoteliers understand that they have a new card to play. By obtaining positive comments, they’ll rise in their distributors’ listings and increase their online visibility. This means they will have to encourage their customers to share their opinions online.
Since this is a difficult feat to achieve manually, technology comes into play. The concept of E-reputation is born. And powerful tools come onto the market to increase the amount of feedback received and track everything that’s being said on the Web.
Your clients become ambassadors for your hotel, by rating and discussing you online. The quality of your work has now become a real lever for your online visibility.
Most hotels have met the challenge using various digital tools. But like anything that becomes democratized, these tools are no longer regarded as value added, but as an imperative of the hotel business.
So what will comprise the future of technology for the hotel business? What will be the next generation of tools that will allow you to digitally revolutionize your hotel?
Google offers us an excellent informational and analytical tool to evaluate the hotel scene:
In 2015, interest in “customer experience” doubles among internet users. Then this interest doubles once again in 2017, and continues to rise in 2018. Internet users now consider this topic to be very important.
In fact, its significance is such that some of the biggest companies even hire “Customer Experience Directors” whose job is solely to improve it. Here is how their marketing budget is currently allocated:
According to Gartner’s analysis of new markets (2.4 billion turnover and 13,000 employees):
- In 2018, more than 50% of companies refocused their investments towards innovations in client experience;
- Since 2017, companies mainly compete on the basis of client experience.
It seems clear that the fourth big digital revolution in the hotel business will concern the digitalization of client experience.
But what is client experience?
It’s not that complicated… It means making the client happy! That is what client experience is about. “Ok but… I’m not sure that this obvious phenomenon truly represents the underlying complexity of this concept.”
According to Toma Kulbytė, a specialist on this topic since 2014:
“Client experience is how your clients perceive the way they have been treated by your company.
These perceptions affect their behaviors and create memories and feelings that impact their attachment to your brand. In other words: if they like you and keep liking you, they’ll do business with you and recommend you to others.
And for your clients to like you, you need to understand them perfectly in order to be able to provide them with personalized experiences. But obtaining this deep knowledge of your clients is easier said than done. It involves collecting a lot of data and pulling valuable information from this data quickly and accurately.
But without a doubt, it’s worth it!
No matter what type of business you run, improving your clients’ experience is key to increasing sales as well as their loyalty.”
This very clear explanation shows that in order to provide an excellent client experience, you need to know your clients better than ever and let them feel that you care a great deal about them. Of course, this “close relationship” lasts from the day they make their reservation at your hotel until the day they become regulars – you can’t neglect any moment.
If you make sure that their interactions with your hotel are smooth, pleasant, and constantly improving, you’ll win their loyalty. Otherwise you’re giving your competitors the greatest gift of all: your clients.
To answer these requirements, say hello to the fourth digital revolution in the hotel business: the CRM
The fourth revolution: CRM
A Customer Relationship Management tool digitalizes every aspect of your client relation management, from the day of the booking until their loyalty is obtained.
It allows you to create advanced client profiles and to manage every interaction/communication with your customers.
Thanks to this tool, you can better understand your clients; and you can no longer ignore their problems. This means they feel even closer to your hotel, and their stays are so personalized that they truly feel attended to. Your hotel becomes fixed in their minds as the one to keep re-booking and to share with their friends.
CRM concepts are already very common across the Atlantic. There are excellent systems on the market by generalist companies like SalesForce, HubSpot. or PipeDrive . (I use PipeDrive myself). You can also find CRM tools that are specialized for the hotel business, like Revinate, Cendyn, and of course Expérience Hôtel.
Just like a good PMS or Channel Manager, a quality CRM tool helps you save time and money, and gain customer satisfaction
It is no longer an optional, “extra tool”. These days, along with PMS and Channel Manager tools, it has become indispensable to the hotel business.
All of these changes follow a logical timeline: the digitalization of hotel management, the opening up the business via the web, client focus on quality of service, and finally the emphasis on client experience. This process is well-known and already more or less advanced in other industries.
Now, hoteliers must take the next step and realize that today’s clients create tomorrow’s revenue. By investing as much as possible in an exceptional client experience, they can ensure an exciting future for their hotel.
In my next article, I will get into the details and explain how CRM tools work. So don’t hesitate to subscribe to my Newsletter if you would like to receive it.