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Dear hoteliers,

Recently, I read a fantastic article written by a hotel consultant who explained that CRM tools are one of the worst things ever to be used in the hotel industry. I found his article relevant, intelligently written and totally appropriate to what he had experienced.

Indeed, what he relates, from his personal experience, represents the worst use of CRM ever imagined in a hotel! Which brings up an important point: often, the problem is not CRM, but the way it is used.

If there is one thing that needs to be understood here, it is that this tool is a support for customer relationship management and that it depends on the data that is integrated into it. If you don’t have customer data, the CRM tool can’t personalize anything. Today, the data is still difficult to collect and is often stored in a Property Management System (PMS) which is unable to send the data back to the CRM tool.

We’re still in the early stages of customer relations, and many things will change in the future. And CRM tools will spearhead these improvements! But it has to be supported by the other partners, such as the PMS and the reception teams, because you need to have interactions before you can personalize the data.

In his article, our hotel consultant friend mentions the saturation of consumers who are tired of receiving too much information.

But let’s not mix everything up: customer experience is now the number one budget line for the world’s largest companies. However, the CRM tool is precisely THE software that allows you to optimize customer experience! CRM software is therefore virtually essential for customer relationship management.

Happy reading!

Preconceived idea no. 1: “CRM tools only work if the hotel has an extraordinary offer”

You don’t have to be a super luxury hotel or an absolutely amazing hotel to use hotel CRM; a small gesture is all you need to offer a great customer experience.

Let me give you an example:

On the occasion of his birthday, Mr X. books a night in a hotel for himself and his wife. A pre-stay email is sent to the customer, asking for his date of birth and culinary preferences. Thanks to the data collected, the hotelier knows, even before Mr. X. checks in, that it’s his birthday and that he doesn’t really like sweet products.

This information may seem trivial… However, upon his arrival, the check-in is very fast, since all the data has been recorded in advance. The receptionist takes the opportunity to wish Mr. X. a happy birthday and to offer him a nice basket filled with savory products.

This attention costs you practically nothing, it takes no time at all and yet guarantees a real “wow effect” for your customer.

Let’s take a closer look at this personalized gesture:

  • Time to prepare the gift: five minutes;
  • Time spent with the customer: 40 seconds;
  • Investment cost: four euros;
  • Customer experience: absolutely perfect!

While CRM software does contribute to a better customer experience, it is essential to add a bit of a “human” touch to optimize the data that CRM provides. Software will never replace human beings, but it can greatly help them to improve.

Preconceived idea no. 2: “Hotel CRM dehumanizes customer relationships”

The customer relationship can only be dehumanized if we let the CRM software do all the work. Let us remember the etymology of the word “hotel,” which means “welcome.” The hotelier’s job is to welcome people. If this relationship no longer exists, it is because the hotelier has given up and is no longer really doing his/her job. Unfortunately, this happens from time to time. But blaming the CRM tool would be like blaming Word because a book lacks depth.

Once again, CRM is just a tool used by a human being. This tool’s purpose is to help and support, but not to replace, a human being.

Preconceived idea no. 3: “Typical CRM emails, ‘standardized emails with generic, boilerplate phrases that no one wants to see anymore’ “

This type of email is almost inevitable when using CRM software. That’s because you can’t ask a robot to write a nice text that is filled with emotion. The only thing it can do is include some variables and personalized data, such as the name of the customer, the date of the reservation and the date of the customer’s last stay. It is therefore up to hoteliers to add a little touch of humanity to these robotic emails, to personalize them according to their own communication style, by writing their own emails based on the CRM information. Hoteliers can think of different texts according to the categories of customers: for first stays in the city, for businessmen, for birthdays, etc.

The CRM software then takes care of sending emails to the right customers, according to the recorded data.

Writing your own emails is the only way to avoid the typical emails that everyone has already read 10,000 times – and this makes all the difference.

And for those who haven’t mastered the art of writing, don’t hesitate to call upon a professional who can do it for you.

Preconceived idea no. 4: “Hotel CRM software, the official supplier of spam”

It’s tempting to believe that customers immediately consider emails sent by CRM tools as spam, and to blame the CRM tool for this. But once again, it’s not the CRM tool that should be blamed, but how the hotelier uses it. CRM is just a communication tool, operated by a person. It’s like saying that cars are responsible for road accidents… A CRM tool is just a robot, it only does what you ask it to do. It is up to the hotelier to write personalized emails and to plan out a thoughtful and efficient mailing process.

How can you avoid information overload in your emails?

In order not to overdo it and thus to reflect a bad image of your hotel, when sending out emails, it is imperative to:

1) Personalize your mailings;

2) Meet a need.

For example: if customers are arriving from far away and staying with you for a long time, there’s a good chance that they’ll be carrying large, heavy suitcases and will arrive by plane. Anticipate their needs, so that they don’t end up carrying four large suitcases in the metro; send them an email presenting the different ways to reach the hotel from the airport.

Another example: customers visiting Paris for the first time will be delighted to receive an email informing them that there are special tickets that can be booked in advance, so they can avoid waiting for three hours in line at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

Obviously, you shouldn’t propose this to tourists who are here for the 3rd time… Personalize your message even more, by proposing a less tourist-oriented Parisian experience, according to the customer preferences collected during their previous stays.

Similarly, engaging your customers will not necessarily bore or annoy them. Once again, it all depends on how you go about it! An analogy with the beginning of a love relationship can be made here:

If your latest conquest sends you 30 silly text messages a day, it can quickly put a damper on your love life.

On the other hand, if he sends you well thought-out text messages, such as a route built around little hints that remind you of what you’ve already experienced together as a couple, which leads to a little personalized surprise…then, that’s another story. The woman will look forward to her text messages and will enjoy reading them.

It’s the same in the hotel business.  You can send four emails a day to your customers if you want: if they each have a real added value, it will never be too much.

If your customer base is well-segmented, you can personalize your emails and anticipate your customers’ needs. This way, you won’t risk drowning them in superfluous information.

Preconceived idea no. 5: “When supply-side marketing exceeds need-side marketing”

I don’t think it’s possible to perfectly anticipate your own needs in a place you’re not familiar with. Indeed, if you take a trip to the other side of the world, in a country you’ve never been to before, it’s quite possible that when you get there, you’ll miss some things and lack certain kinds of information.

For example, an email warning you that public transportation from Orly airport is a nightmare can help you save time and avoid a few setbacks. Having never been to Paris before, you would have no idea that you needed this information. On the other hand, if you’ve already been there 40 times, and you know the city and its transportation system perfectly, when your plane lands at Charles de Gaulle, there’s no problem.

The key is to always target your customers’ profiles perfectly, so you can offer them exactly what they need.

I always come back to the same thing: CRM is only intrusive if the data is not well segmented and if the mailings not personalized.

Preconceived idea no. 6: “CRM oversells the hotel”

A CRM tool that oversells the dream is obviously poorly configured.

And at the same time, it’s also normal to try to make things look good and attractive. In the world of marketing, overselling is a standard practice. The advantage of CRM software is that you can set it up however you want.

The goal is not to promise wonders, but to find that extra something that will improve the customer experience.

Overselling is counterproductive, because it will attract customers, but their experience will be disappointing. This will then be reflected in your establishment’s Google, Booking, TripAdvisor, etc. ratings.

By overselling, you also risk destroying your online reputation.

Preconceived idea no. 7: “CRM is the best tool for managing customer relations”

There are many CRM tools on the market today. CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management” – which basically means everything and nothing…

Any tool that manages an aspect of the customer relationship can be called a “CRM” tool.

The question to ask is: do all these tools manage the entire customer relationship?

Well, no, they don’t! Not all CRM tools are perfect, many of them have been in existence for less than three years and have not yet acquired the necessary maturity to really meet the needs of hoteliers.

As a result, some are very good, while others are really bad. And just as a good CRM tool in the hands of a bad user won’t work, a bad CRM tool in the hands of the best user won’t work either.

So, we can blame the users, but we can also blame the CRM tool.

Conclusion

To conclude, a CRM is only a tool in the hands of a user. To say that the CRM tool distorts the relationship between hotels and their customers would be like blaming your remote control because the evening TV program isn’t good.

And so, if a CRM tool sends out too many standard emails and doesn’t target the customers very well, it is not being used effectively.

A good CRM is a great tool for automating a lot of communication tasks.  In this sense, CRM tools are not incompatible with humans, but rather, they assists humans on a daily basis by performing any task that can be automated. In doing so, the CRM tool frees up the hotel staff’s time to focus on welcoming guests and improving their experience.

When used properly, a CRM tool helps collect data on your customer, in order to segment your database, so you can communicate in a personalized and effective way.

You need good users, good customer data and good CRM software to build a successful marketing communication strategy.

If you put all three together, CRM is an extraordinary software tool that allows you to greatly optimize the customer experience.

Thank you for reading.

Tony LOEB
Author

Tony Loeb started his career in Hotel marketing in 2001 as a webmaster, then quickly became the Technical Director of a web agency specialized in the hotel industry. Passionate about the tourism sector and attracted by the idea of taking on new challenges, Tony took over the management of a team of hotel consultants until 2014, when he decided to make hotel marketing his core business. In 2014, he co-founded the company Experience Hotel and is now responsible for its international development and deployment, improving tools for automating and optimizing customer relations, from booking to customer loyalty.

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