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June 11, 2008
Hotel | CRM
Jon Inge - jon@joninge.com

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© 2008 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Everyone wants to feel uniquely valued when staying at a hotel, and not just one of the crowd.  Each guest wants the staff to understand his or her preferences, instinctively anticipate needs and unobtrusively make the stay memorable.  How do modern customer relationship management tools help hotels make that happen?  Do they really drive repeat business and increase revenue?

More than any other industry, hospitality is all about customer relationship management (CRM) – making your customers feel as personally welcomed, valued and cared for as possible, by anticipating and taking care of their every need.  And not just because it helps bring them back again, you do it because that’s what hospitable companies do, even for a guest who only stays one night and is unlikely ever to return. 

However, a good experience during a stay doesn’t translate directly to loyalty.  Most people expect good service as a right, and have no qualms about switching to another hotel or resort if it offers what they’re looking for the next time they book.  After all, they expect good service there too.  Frequent-guest recognition and reward programs encourage loyalty, certainly, but that’s a fuzzy concept when so many guests belong to several programs.  For success, therefore, the emphasis must be on providing the best possible service for every guest so you don’t give them a reason not to come back, combined with highly personalized follow-up offers to give them a positive incentive to return.

The most dominant aspect of CRM these days is how the Internet has transformed the whole picture.  E-mail- and Web-based marketing have massively extended hoteliers’ ability to interact with their guests, gather more information about them and tailor visits much more closely to their expectations. 
Web sites have great influence.  Most guests make their first contact with a hotel through one, either the property’s own or one where other travelers have posted comments about it, so a good first impression, ease of finding useful information and maintaining a good reputation are crucial.  E-mail allows much more flexible and powerful interaction with each guest both before and after a visit, and the Internet itself is a huge trove of information about all guests, both current and potential, that can be used to enhance your knowledge of them and how to appeal to them. 

Every aspect of a guest’s experience with a hotel contributes to its relationship with him or her. Therefore, all the traditional hospitality systems (PMS, CRS, etc.) and the newer ones (e-mail marketing, Web-based marketing, etc.) must work together to present a unified, consistent experience and to make that relationship a positive, lasting one.  CRM systems bridge the inevitable gaps and make it happen.

The Two Faces of CRM
There are two main benefits to CRM:
1 Encouraging more repeat business from existing guests through better awareness and satisfaction of their wishes, habits and preferences.  This includes ensuring the stay itself is as closely tailored to the guests’ wishes as possible, and tailoring personalized correspondence pre- and post-stay to maximize the current visit and encourage a return.
2 Using your knowledge to find new guests similar to the most valuable ones who already stay at your property, what Pinehurst’s Michael Schubach once memorably described as "forgoing development of a better mousetrap in favor of generating an ever-increasing supply of mice."  Not that better mousetraps aren’t also a good thing, of course; adding a new facility such as a spa will attract a market segment that hasn’t considered your property before.

This is a crowded field for vendors; there are many alternatives for hoteliers looking for help in expanding or improving their CRM efforts.  Most offer some general combination of services, such as SAS, Acxiom, Cendyn, Clairvoyix, ClickSquared, Infor, Serenata, TravelSciences and many others.  Some (for example, Digital Alchemy and ZDirect) have a particular emphasis on e-mail marketing; others, such as GuestWare, HotelEXPERT and MTech's HotSOS, build off guest-request rapid-response functionality.  But they all have one common core: as complete and accurate a guest profile database as possible.

The Keys to The Castle
The business intelligence article in the spring issue of Hospitality Upgrade described the challenges of collecting, cleaning and consolidating data from all the many separate systems on a typical property and using it to improve operational performance.  That same thoroughly prepared database is also the basis for CRM, and CRM’s success depends just as completely and unequivocally on being able to trust what’s in it, that the data is meaningful and has been collected with specific usage goals in mind.  This is actually even more critical for CRM since it deals with specific guests’ personal information, not the aggregate behavior which forms the basis for BI. 

Information in a guest profile can be classified into four main types: behavioral (guest, room and activities information collected from previous stays), preferences (learned through direct input from the guest, usually from a Web form or loyalty program), inferred (interests deduced by tracking click-throughs on the Web site or from a marketing e-mail) and public data (from census or other third-party demographic sources).  One ongoing challenge is how to track guests’ cash or credit card purchases on property.  This would be a useful addition to their profiles, but it’s too much of a privacy and security hassle to consider linking through the credit card number. 

This information must be constantly monitored, looking for duplicates that should be merged and watching for outlying data values that need to be verified.  Most vendors regularly run their databases through the National Change of Address (NCOA) registry to keep them up to date.  They also check them against third-party databases such as Acxiom, Equifax, Experian’s INSOURCE, infoUSA’s Donnelly Marketing and Transunion, which can add much useful socio/demographic detail.  Anything that rounds out the picture and improves accuracy is helpful, especially for the more valuable guests it helps you identify.  The more information you keep on a guest the more opportunities you have for tailoring their stay perfectly – but also for getting something wrong.  If you’re going to act on it, it has to be accurate.

It’s also essential to keep on top of privacy regulations that govern what data you can keep, for how long and for what purpose.  European countries have long imposed stricter rules on this than are common in the United States, and are likely to continue to refine them.  A recent European Commission recommendation, for example, is that the personal data of users conducting a search should not be stored or processed "beyond providing search results."  It also recommends that this data should not be used to serve up personalized adverts if the user has not created an account or registered with the search engine, which could limit keyword marketing efforts to first-time searchers.

You Look Familiar…
Obviously, part of the trick is to recognize when someone making a booking is a repeat guest, whether he is doing so by phone to the property, calling the reservations 800 number or booking over the Internet.  This isn’t always easy; most people usually visit a hotel in just one capacity, but some guests may quite easily come in several roles—convention attendee, family vacationer, meeting planner, one of the boys on a golf outing, etc.—with different room and package preferences for each visit.  Name changes from marriages and divorces are also an obvious recognition challenge.

Matching to an existing profile is straightforward if the guest gives you a frequent-guest program ID or personal e-mail address, but you won’t always get those, especially for convention bookings made by the event organizer, or reservations that come in from merchant-model wholesalers such as Hotels.com.  All CRM systems therefore use multiple fields to look for a match with an existing profile, usually some combination of name, phone number, ZIP code and e-mail address.  The better ones have tight interfaces with the hotel’s PMS to track all changes to profiles and stay activity, progressively refining a possible match as more information is received about the guest.  Conventioneers and wholesale bookers, for example, are very likely to make sure you record their frequent-guest number to ensure proper points credit, at checkin if not before.  If the delegate contacts the property before arrival, the opportunity is there to take a personal e-mail address to send confirmation of any changes or special requests. 

It’s important to distinguish between preferences that apply to all stays (e.g., USA Today every morning) and those that apply only to specific locations (e.g., ocean-view room) or types of stay (e.g., a ground floor suite near the pool for a family vacation vs. a high-floor single room for a business visit). Most PMSs keep records of all previous stays so property reservation agents can pick up these details quickly from a past visit similar to the one being booked.  However, it’s much more of a challenge to provide the same flexibility to central reservations agents or in a CRM system.  These can present a great deal of information about the guest, but it can be confusing and contradictory if the different roles aren’t understood.  Few systems yet have a way of tracking roles in this way, and much still depends on the reservations agent asking the right questions.

Of course, it’s very beneficial if you can provide a way for a guest to update his or her own profiles and preferences, usually through the hotel’s Web page.  This is common for frequent-guest programs, but even non-members will appreciate being able to tell you, for example, that they’ve finally quit smoking and no longer want to be automatically preassigned to one of the few remaining smoking rooms.

Personalized E-Mails…
The advent of customized e-mails has had a huge impact on CRM, both in making the guest feel more personally appreciated and in improving the revenue generated from each stay.  Sent with the same look and feel as the property’s Web site and including personalized information and links, well-designed e-mails definitely reinforce your property’s image in guests’ minds and can lead to significant additional revenue. 

Once guests have booked a visit with you they have a certain level of commitment, but there’s always the chance that they’ll cancel and stay somewhere else if they find a better offer.  It’s therefore doubly useful to contact them again before arrival, both to confirm their stay and to offer additional services or activities.  This is especially valuable if it’s their first visit to your property, maintaining your image in their mind and encouraging anticipation of enjoyment.  Such up-selling e-mails should be customized to the particular groups of arriving guests you experience, of course, with different messages for first-timers, first-time returning guests and frequent visitors.

Upselling often focuses on a possible upgrade to a suite; many guests will respond favorably to learning how little extra it costs once they’ve bought into the concept of the stay in the first place.  It’s also a real service to offer to book airport pick ups and other activities (e.g., spa or dining) ahead of time if these are popular and hard to reserve at short notice after arrival.  This is especially effective if you know your guests’ activity preferences from their profiles, but it’s useful for all arriving guests.  Including hot links in the e-mail to take them directly to the appropriate booking page on your Web site makes it as easy as possible to reserve additional activities—and every booking increases their commitment to coming to your property.  In this multichannel world, good CRM systems will reformat the same personalized creative pieces for e-mail, PDA/phone browsers, privileged-access Web pages and printed direct mail to ensure the guest sees a consistent message however she prefers to be contacted.

Personalization also helps the reservation agents, of course.  Because the CRM system tracks exactly which offers were sent to which guests, when someone calls to take advantage of "the e-mail offer you just sent me," the agent will know at once which one it was.

The key to good personalization is the intelligent use of the profile and activity data you’ve collected.  It’s easy to accumulate a great mass of detailed information, and just as easy to generalize it too much from too fine a level.  Don’t assume that a guest has a passion for cabernet sauvignon because he’s ordered it a couple of times in the restaurant.  Rather assume, or maybe ask if, he has an interest in wine in general, or place more weight on the quality of wine he typically orders than on the specific variety. 

Post-stay thank-you e-mails should be similarly tailored for particular guest segments, worded differently for first-timers and repeat guests and including a satisfaction survey for the guest to complete and return.  These surveys typically generate far more useful information than the printed comment cards used in the past.  The latter were usually completed by only three small, non-representative fractions of visitors: the 2 percent who had a fabulous time, the 3 percent who had problems and are really angry, and the ever-present 1 percent who didn’t actually have any problems but are complaining just to try to get a free room next time.

In contrast, electronic surveys are regularly returned by at least 20 percent to 30 percent of guests, since they usually have a little more time to fill them out at home and have had time to reflect on the overall stay a little longer. Consequently, they provide a much more balanced response from a truly representative sample, along the lines of, "We generally had a really good time, especially thanks to concierge X, but there was a minor problem with the shower that ought to be taken care of." 

Some systems can translate responses from foreign languages; others pick up key words from the free-form text and automatically route the survey form to the appropriate department for action.  This feedback is tremendously useful, both to allow the prompt correction of incipient problems at the hotel and to improve customer loyalty by following up with the guest and thanking him or her personally.  Surveys can also ask for generally useful information such as the guest’s interests, preferences and future travel plans, though this has to be phrased carefully to avoid being seen as an imposition.
Checking the surveys returned by guests who responded to a particular marketing campaign will also add an extra dimension when calculating the campaign’s ROI from the number of bookings and stays resulting from it.  A great campaign may bring in plenty of business, but it’s not worth repeating if the guests didn’t like the experience when they actually arrived.

…But Not Spam
These e-mails are typically generated automatically by the CRM systems, triggered by the stay dates and events in the PMS two weeks before arrival, one week after departure, etc.  It’s essential, therefore, that they be managed with business rules carefully crafted to prevent them becoming an intrusion. 

Clearly an opt-in flag on the guest’s profile is mandatory to ensure that guests agree to being contacted.  Some sites offer the opportunity to sign up on the Web site for news even before a booking has been made, which is a great way to build a profile ahead of time.  Opt-in flags are more useful, though, if they’re multilevel enough to let guests set their own personal boundaries, for example that e-mail is welcome about specified areas of interest at certain properties in certain seasons, but not from others, and that direct mail printed material is not OK at all.

Even then, the rules need to be set up thoughtfully to prevent regular guests from feeling that you’re intruding.  They can ensure, for example, that no e-mail is sent if the guest has been already received an offer in the last 30 days, or that a regular weekly visitor only receives a survey after every fifth visit or three months, and so on.

One refinement that can noticeably improve the success of e-mail communications is timing.  E-mail specialists have analyzed huge quantities of data on this and can advise you when to send your messages to specific target groups for the best impact.  Timing an attractive offer so that it’s delivered to someone’s e-mail inbox at the time of day and day of week when they’re most inclined to notice and open it can significantly reduce the chance that it’ll get lost in the morning pile of spam or just be deleted through lack of time.

Occasional re-opt-in campaigns are worth considering, both to remind guests that you care about their privacy and to remove old or unengaged subscribers from your list.  Oddly enough, surveys show that offering guests a choice to renew or discontinue their e-mail permissions actually produces a significantly greater number of renewals than offering a renew option on its own.

May I Peel Another Grape for You, Sir?
All CRM success depends on the personal service offered by the staff at the hotel, of course.  Good impressions start with proper preparation for the stay, running the PMS arrivals list through the CRM database a few days ahead to pick up guests’ preferences and requests and then making sure they’re actioned before check in. This raises two non-technical CRM issues: making sure the preference or special request options offered actually are available at the property being visited, and making sure it’s adequately staffed to deliver them.  Promising attractive services or amenities can bring in more guests, but there’s nothing worse than failing to meet expectations the minute they walk through the door.

Throughout the stay good CRM is built on greeting all guests with a smile, the use of their names and a genuine willingness to help them in any way possible.  This is obviously much, much easier if the staff has the right tools to find out quickly who’s on property, what packages they’re on, what their preferences are, what requests or complaints they’ve made since arrival and whether they’ve already been resolved.  Some PMSs have good interfaces with CRM systems and sufficient on-screen space to display useful profile information from them, but it’s hard to provide enough room for everything that might help the agent.  Consequently, it’s often more useful for PMSs to display a flag to the user to tell them when more information about this guest is available in the CRM system (Figure 2, previous page). 

One key to maintaining a high level of guest satisfaction on-property is unquestionably the use of a guest-request rapid-response system such as GuestWare, HotSOS or HotelExpert.  With the ability for any staff member to enter any guest request or complaint from any workstation or even by phone, these systems automatically assign the request by pager or other wireless communications to the most appropriate person for action.  If no resolution or follow-up has been entered by a pre-set time appropriate to the issue, the request is automatically escalated to a manager. 

In addition to ensuring guests receive prompt service, rapid-response systems also provide a wealth of management information.  Tracking how long it takes to respond to specific types of requests can lead to work flow realignments for quicker action and better service.  Repeated complaints by different guests from a specific room can highlight an otherwise undetected engineering problem, and so on. 
Fixing a problem quickly has a very significant impact on guest satisfaction.  Surveys report that satisfaction after a good visit tends to be around 70 percent, plummets to 40 percent if something goes wrong and isn’t corrected, but rises to the 80 percent to 90 percent range if the guest had a problem but it was fixed before departure.

Concierge systems such as Gold Key and GoConcierge are another way of providing seamless guest service, using a single database for all staff to ensure that no guest request for outside activity bookings goes ignored or is booked twice.  Adding a link to the PMS to confirm the booking and including it on the guest’s itinerary add another level of reassurance.

Of course, guests are going to have a better relationship with any property that makes their stay easier or more productive.  Some property management systems already offer guests the convenience of sending text messages to their phones or PDAs when their room is ready after an early arrival; reminders of spa, golf or dining reservations are sure to follow.  Even more appealing to those attending conferences or other meetings is the ability to have the systems involved (PMS, sales and catering, CRM) work together to download each guest’s specific itinerary and agenda to her phone or PDA (Figure 3).  A map of the property highlighting the meeting rooms involved is a logical next step, and with more phones having a built-in GPS capability, so is providing maps and directions to nearby restaurants or other attractions in the hotel’s concierge database. 

Anyone for Tennis?
Another CRM approach focused on upselling is to track guests’ activities during their stay and compare this data with prior stay information and preferences.  This allows you to contact them and suggest things they may still like to take advantage of and book while they’re on property. 

Even owner or management companies with multiple properties under different franchise flags are adopting CRM systems, despite the fact that their guests may not know that the various hotels they visit are owned or managed by the same company.   There are still benefits to knowing who the guests are and working to maximize their experiences and repeat business.  This does have challenges, since franchise brands are very reluctant to share data on their guests, and consequently the management company won’t always have as complete a picture of the guest as the guest might expect. 

This can make it a challenge for an independent resort operator, for example, to prepare adequately for a guest’s repeat visit to a neighboring hotel which uses the resort’s spa, tennis or other activities but restricts access to its guest profile data.  A good working relationship between the two properties is essential to build trust, of course, but keeping within the franchise brand’s rules may require a custom interface to define very precisely the allowable stay and profile data that can be passed to the resort.

Attracting New Guests
Catching new guests in the first place is a pure marketing function, using various combinations of advertising, special promotions, generally distributed newsletters and so on.  Web site design has become a critical and highly competitive aspect of this.  Most guests visit a hotel’s Web site—or others commenting on it—before booking, which both provides the opportunity to make a good impression to potential first-time visitors to your own site and requires constant vigilance to respond to negative postings on the public-comment ones.  After all, you need to maintain good relations even with customers you haven’t met yet. 

Consider including interactive Web 2.0 applications on the Web site, such as a place for guests to share experiences and photos, or customer-generated top 10 lists of the coolest bars, museums and other things to do near the hotel.  These can form another reason for guests to feel attracted to and interested in your property, and encourage more business through the word-of-mouth approval so important to younger generations.

Good design involves an attractive home page, simple access to key information, appropriate search engine optimization (SEO) and many other strategies, all of which really need a Web marketing specialist’s advice.  Don’t forget to include a link for repeat guests to use to update their profile.  The more invested they are in your property, the more often they’re likely to visit.

But your CRM database is a key tool when looking for new guests.  Using it to identify your higher-value current guests from many different viewpoints lets you segment them into clearly identifiable groups with common demographic or socio-graphic characteristics.  Running these parameters through third-party population databases to identify people with similar interests and habits can produce a target audience likely to be highly receptive to carefully phrased marketing campaigns. 

Summary
All CRM must be done with a light touch and a sense of appropriateness.  As with all powerful tools, the benefits can be remarkable, but the potential for abuse can lead to major damage.  It’s easy to offend guests through sending them too much or the wrong type of marketing material, and misusing or losing control over confidential guest information can lead to significant financial and reputation problems from potential identity theft.

Nevertheless, three thoughts will probably always be relevant:
>> Loyalty is a fickle thing, so you need to keep coming up with good reasons for each guest to return to your property.  Past good experiences are essential, but not enough.
>>Don’t overdo the marketing or you’ll turn people off.
>>It still comes down to the property staff’s ability to deliver everything expected.

No one said maintaining a good relationship was easy.


Jon Inge is an independent consultant specializing in technology at the property level. He can be reached by e-mail at jon@joninge.com or by phone at (206) 546-0966.

A Lifeline for Le Pavillon...
New Orleans’ historic Le Pavillon Hotel has weathered many storms in its more than a century of existence, not least Hurricane Katrina.  But when a technical crisis erupted earlier this year, assistance to help the property survive came from an unexpected direction–its CRM system.

"We’ve been using a CRM system for about eight years," said Kristin Durand, the hotel’s corporate sales manager.  "We initially installed it (from Digital Alchemy) to e-mail reservation confirmations, something which at that time our property management system couldn’t handle.  The customized format was a useful bonus. 

"Satisfaction went up immediately, for both guests and staff. The guests received the e-mails they’d been requesting, but in a more personalized form than they’d expected, and the staff no longer had to save confirmations to file and then e-mail each one manually.  Since then we’ve expanded our use of the system to generate pre-arrival messages to confirm the guest’s stay and post-departure thank-you e-mails with a satisfaction survey, all with the same look and feel as our Web site.

"We’re seeing about a 20 percent response rate to the surveys, a much higher and more representative sample of feedback than the old manual forms gave us, and this has given very useful information on how to improve operations.  We get tremendous value out of the marketing reports, too, which let us see which marketing campaigns work best on which days for different sets of guests.  The campaigns themselves can be as broad or narrowly targeted as we want; one we sent recently to only 200 prior guests generated all the business we needed for that period," Durand said.

Apart from the system’s marketing and operations value, it became an unexpected and crucial lifeline in March when the hotel’s PMS server crashed irrecoverably.  "We were completely without a PMS and operating manually for two weeks," said Durand, "and even when it was restarted the most usable back up was 40 days old. Fortunately, the CRM system had been tracking all reservations and guest activity to generate automatic pre- and post-stay e-mails and was able to provide enough detailed reports for us to keep operating. The vendor really came through for us."
 
 

Hyatt...
Service and Revenue Reach New Heights at Hyatt

As you might expect, at a luxury, full-service brand, such as Hyatt, making sure that guests’ wishes are fulfilled is an essential part of the culture.  One key is to make sure that any activities they’d like to take part in are identified and booked before arrival–and if the helpful inquiries suggest new bookings that bring in additional revenue, that’s an added bonus.

To make this process as efficient as possible, Hyatt implemented Cendyn’s eConcierge service in 2006 to contact guests before arrival, suggest various activities they might like to enjoy and pre-arrange whatever they express interest in.  "The pilot tests were so successful that we implemented the program worldwide by the end of 2007," said Tammy Cave, Hyatt’s manager of marketing operations.  "The hotels offer not only activities but also in-room requests such as cribs, rollaway beds or any on-arrival amenities guests ask for to make the occasion special, such as a birthday cake for one of their children.

"An added bonus is that we’ve seen a real decline in the number of no-shows and day-of-arrival cancellations; the guests are much more involved in their visit once we’ve made specific arrangements for them.  And if they do cancel before arrival, because the activity and request bookings are tied to the room reservation we can free up their activity time slots immediately for other guests.  The results have been very impressive, bringing in an additional $12.5 million in revenue in 2007 and a further $3.6 million in the first quarter this year."

Where do you go from here?  "Now that we have eConcierge at all Hyatt hotels and resorts worldwide, we‘re looking at refining the personalization of the e-mail messages," said Cave.  "Currently e-mail confirmations are customized for the specific stay and property for the current visit, but in the future we’d like to recognize guests that have stayed at multiple properties and add suggestions based on their activities and preferences collected across the whole chain."

What advice would you give to someone wanting to implement a similar program?  "Make sure you select a company that really understands the hospitality industry," said Cave.  "It is important to train the key staff at the hotels to understand and use the product successfully, and make sure you keep it easy to use, both for the staff and for the guest.  Good service is always unobtrusive."
 
 

Kimpton...
Keeping It Personal

Kimpton Hotels is known for being a little different, a collection of one-of-a-kind properties with the common theme of providing excellent guest service with a different twist.  "We recognized the need to track our guests’ profiles and preferences many years ago," says Shirley King, Kimpton’s loyalty program manager, "starting when we implemented GuestWare at the Palomar Hotel in San Francisco.  We rolled out the same program to all the 15-20 properties we had then, and followed it up with a centralized enterprise version to consolidate profiles across the group."

"This centralized database allowed us to introduce our frequent-guest program, Kimpton InTouch.  Members can tell us their preferences in many areas, and when they pass the threshold number of stays or nights to move into the elite Inner Circle level, the system automatically expands their preference options, allowing us to offer even more personalized service.  Tracking this amount of guest stay information has given us a very valuable data resource, which has been the key to the great success of our marketing efforts."

"One of our challenges has always been that Kimpton is a dynamic company, and needs a dynamic loyalty program.  Consequently we’re constantly tweaking the CRM system with new features and interfaces to other systems.  For instance, it works with the CRS system to give agents access to repeat-guest profiles, with e-mail marketing companies and with guest survey managers.  It also has an interface to our property management system, to pick up folio data and to flag the PMS guest screens with pointers to more detailed repeat-visitor profile information in GuestWare.  These interfaces are key to using the stay data to its full potential and to providing essential guest information to the hotels. " 

What factors make a CRM program a success?  "Our vendor’s willingness to work with other vendors and develop interfaces to their systems has been key," says King, "and the recent addition of Web services interfaces to many systems will raise the capabilities of all of them.  But the main factor has been that we have a dedicated team of operations and technical people focused on how to make it serve Kimpton’s marketing needs."
 
 
 

La Quinta...
Building Loyalty

There’s a general expectation that CRM is a natural fit for the higher-end, service-oriented hotel chains, but is it also appropriate for a limited-service brand such as La Quinta?

"Absolutely," responded Ted Schweitzer, vice president of e-commerce.  "In common with most chains today we run a points-based frequent-guest recognition and rewards program, La Quinta Returns.  But for many years we’ve also been working to increase  the level of repeat business from guests who aren’t members of that program," Schweitzer said.

"The key for us has been to improve the quality and accuracy of our guest profile database, and use that as the basis for targeted e-mail marketing.  About a year ago we started using the same database service (Clairvoyix) that our parent company, Blackstone, was using for its LXR luxury brand, combined with e-mail marketing services from Digital River’s BlueHornet division.

"As a result we’ve doubled the size of our usable e-mail database, and have had incredibly strong results. One of the benefits of e-mail campaigns is that they can be very focused; the feedback is almost instant and they’re very measurable.  This approach has proven its value to us without question; now we’re working on refining our market segmentation and the cadence of the messages."
What advice would he have for someone wanting to start a similar program?  "There are so many ways in which you can use this data, and so many ways it can add value. You need to decide what you want to do first–increase the number of repeat guests, increase revenue from specific segments, etc.,–and then make sure your database is configured to support that.  It’s important to stay focused and try not to do everything at once, though the range of possibilities certainly makes it tempting."

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