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Improving Guest Experience with Analytics

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April 04, 2016
Big Data
Samuel Ayisi - sayisi@leumassolutions.com

"...people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
- Maya Angelou

Analytics can help you provide your guests with the pleasant, personalized and responsive experience they want.

Continuously improving the guest experience is critical for the retention of loyal guests and attracting new ones. However, delivering a high level of guest satisfaction consistently can be quite challenging. The shifting of guest preferences and higher expectations, partially due to their positive experiences from other sectors, remain significant pain points. Guests expect the same level of innovation and personalization they receive from other businesses outside of the hospitality vertical. Failure to make the guest experience pleasant might result in a rapid tarnishing of your brand through social media.
Address this challenge by incorporating analytics into the plans and decisions you make related to the guest experience. When done effectively, the integration of analytics will provide better understanding of the factors that influence profitability, guest satisfaction, brand loyalty and churning, while at the same time provide the insights to help develop new and innovative ways of improving the guest experience. Remember that analytics alone does not necessarily solve your problems. Rather, it provides the guidance you need when making the critical decisions.
The use of analytics to improve guest experience should not be isolated to a few privileged executives and managers, rather it should permeate all levels within the organization – from guest-facing operations all the way to the back office. This ensures that the same analytics and information is used to affect all aspects of the guest experience, thus maintaining a consistent message. An analytics-driven guest profile used by the front desk should be consistent with the one used by the marketing department.

Guests become frustrated when their interactions with us seem impersonal and they feel as if they are just another statistic. Using analytics, we can develop a deeper understanding of our guests including who they are, what they want, the types of interaction they prefer, and so much more. No matter the size of your hospitality business, you probably have more data than you know what to do with. Analyzing all your available data from sources such loyalty programs, PMS, POS, reservations, social media, Internet activity, distribution channels and guest interactions, you can create unique profiles for all your high-value guests (perhaps all your guests). These profiles provide you with a 360-degree view of your guests, enabling you to personalize the guest experience by providing services that are most relevant to each guest based on his profile. Targeted campaigns and offers based on these unique profiles, delivered via his preferred means of interaction, will most likely be more appealing and effective.

Guests expect hospitality businesses to be more responsive to their inquiries. They simply do not understand why you can't readily provide information that is relevant to their inquiry and why you seem to know nothing about them even though they have been loyal guests for years. Analytics can provide service and call representatives with faster access to relevant content and guest profiles along with a set of recommendations tailored toward that guest to enable the delivery of a more responsive and personalized guest interaction. Guest-facing operations such as the front desk should always have access to real-time analytics and personalized recommended actions to enable them interact confidently with guests. Such interaction also assures the guests that you care and are keeping abreast of their needs.
Analytics, especially predictive analytics, gives you the ability to be more proactive of guest behavior and intervene before being prompted. Anticipate a guest’s next action and drive better targeted engagements with that guest even before the guest contemplates the intended action. You can also use analytics to identify dissatisfied guests by uncovering patterns of behavior associated with such guests, and then promptly taking action to address their concerns.

Guest experience analytics should not be limited to guest-generated data. There are so many other pieces of data which touch the entire guest experience spectrum that can be analyzed. Such additional analytics will enable you to better understand guest preferences for the various services and amenities you provide, and also provide valuable input for strategic budgeting and planning. Examples of these data sources include:

  • In-room entertainment and interactive systems. Which interactive technology/service is most used? Popular TV shows and movie rentals?
  • Room temperature sensors. Average temperature settings by room location, time of day, and type of guest? Optimal cost-saving settings?
  • Video feeds from various in-house amenities locations. Popular in-house locations/amenities? High traffic locations?

Since your analytics will be mostly based on guest data, either voluntarily provided or otherwise, do not ignore the privacy, ethical and legal issues associated with the use of such data. When is it appropriate to collect and use someone’s personal or public data? What are the ethical ways to seek the person’s consent, or make them aware of how their data is being used? What data can you collect and how will that data be stored and secured? These are some of the questions that you should keep in mind as you incorporate guest data into your analytics. Even though your intentions may be sincere, it would be advisable to tread carefully and do not push the boundaries.
Most guests would be willing to give you as much information as needed to enable the provision of personalized services as long as your hospitality organization remains transparent about the use of their data. Simply put, use the data in the manner that your guests expect it to be used. Last but not the least, make it a strategic priority to establish and frequently revise guidelines for the collection and use of guest data.
In the hospitality industry, we can consider ourselves fortunate because our guests willingly give us a huge amount of data via reservations, purchases, onsite activities and interactions with our staff. This data contains a wealth of information that can be analyzed and used to improve the guest experience. Don’t let this valuable collection of insights lay fallow. However, when it comes to the use of guest data, remember that there is a fine line between being cool and being creepy!

Samuel Ayisi is the head of analytics with Leumas Solutions. He can be reached at sayisi@leumassolutions.com.

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