Customer Relationship Management (CRM) often brings to mind processes and software. And though that’s a large part of it, today CRM is focused on how your suite of tools works to wow the guest at every opportunity.

Brendan Gibney, senior director of Franchise Services at Choice Hotels Canada, explains,
“Personalization is all about delivering a tailored experience to the guest. Why someone stays in a hotel on a Wednesday night compared to a Saturday night can be two very different reasons and what their needs are for each stay can be different, so how you personalize their engagement should also be different.” From having directions to the conference centre easily accessible for guests, to knowing the hottest spots for weekend dining, being prepared and anticipating needs is paramount.

In addition to foreseeing guest requests, the next level of engagement is exceptional experiences. For example, Hilton’s loyalty program, Hilton Honors, offers customer-centric, money-can’t-buy experiences such as concerts and one-on-one interactions. “Our members often have time and financial resources and what they lack is access. If we think about the millennial generation, more and more, experiences are their currency of choice,” explains Mark Weinstein, SVP and global head of Customer Engagement, Loyalty and Partnerships for Hilton.

Weinstein points to offerings such as private dancing lessons with cast members of Dancing With the Stars, drum lessons on the O2 Arena stage in London with Mick Fleetwood, mixing lessons with DJs, a home-cooking lesson with Sarah Evans and a private event where Steve Aoki took members to his house and they jumped off the roof into the pool.

“These technologically enabled and partnership-enabled experiences allow us to innovate in ways our customers maybe haven’t thought about yet and allow us to stay relevant and build up stronger affinity, so when we do put hotels in markets, we drive exceptional returns for our investors, franchisees and owners,” Weinstein says.

What’s Tech Got to Do with It?
The more seamless, exciting and engaging the guest experience, the more technology is necessary behind the scenes. These days, companies are using a number of cloud-based tools and platforms designed to work together to cover every part of the guest experience — from desk check-in, to apps, to loyalty and beyond.

“The technology is improving every year,” says Gibney. “We moved our platforms to the cloud a couple of years ago. It’s more cost-effective for our franchisees, as they no longer have to invest in backend hardware with a cloud-based solution.”

The key is that the tools and platforms are able to work together so that as needs change and expectations evolve, new systems can be implemented without disrupting what’s already in use.

“We had an unfair choice years ago,” says Weinstein, “And that was you either had to have simplicity and leave off choice and options or have complexity and get the customer all kinds of confused.” He continues, “What technology is enabling is that you can have a very complicated set of options behind the scenes; you can be doing customer-level segmentation, personalization and recommendations, but make it really simple on the customer-experience side.”

No matter what experiences are on the table in terms of members and rewards, Gibney stresses it’s crucial for staff to understand the motive behind CRM in the first place. “A focus on why we use personalization, why we’re using a CRM, why loyalty matters, is important. Staff should understand why they’re doing something in addition to how to do it.”

Written by Andrea Victory


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