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2020 Enterprise Innovator: RLH Corporation

John Edwards, SVP and Chief Information Officer, RLH Corp.

RLH Corporation (RLHC) found that with its significant growth during the past five years (from 100+ to 1100+ hotels), its needs for guest management had changed considerably. RLHC had used two different “off-the-shelf” CRM solutions but found they were not flexible and extensible enough to meet its business requirements. 

RLHC wanted to find ways to take hotel systems, such as the PMS and CRS, and connect them to modern technology platforms in real time. It also needed the ability to integrate with new payment tools, loyalty partner programs, email marketing solutions, and create flexible reward rules, all while having greater control over and insight into its own data.

To solve these problems, RLHC decided to create a single point of integration based on industry standard protocols to communicate across 13 other hospitality systems, including a customized instance of Dynamics 365 to manage and store guest data. Built from the ground up in Microsoft Azure, the RLHC Integration Layer was designed, developed, and deployed in four months, streamlining 2-way communication to multiple PMS and CRS systems, email marketing, authentication and identity management, loyalty, data warehouse, payment and on-premise hotel systems, all in real time.

According to John Edwards, SVP and Chief Information Officer, this solution had to exceed the traditional success criteria for a hospitality CRM. 

RLHC had to “find ways to take traditional hotel systems — such as PMS and CRS — and integrate them with our loyalty and marketing automation platforms,” he explains. “Many of the requirements were unique based on our mix of properties, guests and strategic initiatives, requiring that we find new ways to interact with guests through an integration rich platform.”

And the team was challenged with coordinating the entire project on a very strict deadline.

 “We were provided with a six-month window to deliver a fully integrated CRM solution from beginning development to launch,” Edwards notes. “The short timeline required us to focus all efforts on this project and make critical decisions quickly to stay on track. Coordinating teams toward project goals is always a tough task, but this project had some special circumstances.  During multiple phases of the project we were coordinating up to 12 different product development and integration teams throughout various global regions. With a longer timeline, pushing a meeting to another day to accommodate time zones and conflicts is common. This project required most members of the team to be available outside normal business hours in order to meet our goals.”

However, the hard work was worth it. In the end, RLHC’s implementation of Dynamics 365 combined with its own custom Integration Layer resulted in numerous key results, all of which have contributed to the overall success of the initiative. 

“The Loyalty CRM solution we developed in-house met the business need to consolidate guest and reservation data into a single solution through real-time integrations across all these new hospitality systems,” he says.  “After bringing all of this data together, one of the standout features we were able to provide our marketing and loyalty teams was the ability to increase customer engagement through automated rules that interact with the guest’s information.”

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Check out our other 2020 Hotel Visionary Award Winners

We also awarded Hyatt, Edwardian Hotels London and Motel 6 with a 2020 Hotel Visionary Award! Check out their stories here.

However, the results of this technology project encompass so much more than that. For example, not only are all of RLHC’s 1,100+ properties connected to its CRM and loyalty platform (previously only 275 were), but also RLHC can match reservations made via OTAs to loyalty data stored in its custom CRM solution. Additionally, RLHC improved the new-member sign-up process and loyalty award credit request process for hotels via an internal hotel owner’s portal they already have access to. The previous platform required a separate portal and log-in process to access these hotel-facing functions. And a new loyalty award rule management system with a business user-facing interface allows the loyalty team the ability to setup ad hoc automated award rules without vendor or internal IT team support. A large part of loyalty is marketing, and with the new system, RLHC found it was able to reduce the time to implement a promotional campaign tied to loyalty awards from between 7 and 14 days to just one hour. In addition to increased performance, the solution is now able to provide reliable tracking of email delivery, opens, and clicks that were previously unavailable.

Reliable data and analytics is also important for hotels to interact with guests effectively, and this new integration layer allows RLHC’s internal teams visibility into reservations for all guests (regardless of loyalty status), allowing for a 360˚ view of the customer for the purposes of segmentation, reporting and analysis, marketing automation, loyalty currency award (ad hoc and automated processes), and more. A combined feed of PMS data via HAPI, and integrations with the SynXis and Windsurfer CRS platforms to the RLHC Integration Layer has resulted in reservation, loyalty and guest data being delivered in real time to both the new CRM and RLHC’s back end Enterprise Data Warehouse, when the company had to previously wait overnight for this data.

In the near future, Edwards believes this technology will improve via an artificial intelligence integration that will interact directly with guests to answer questions specific to their reservations and RLHC hotels.

“Additionally, with the new CRM and Integration Layer connecting multiple systems, we can begin to expand these solutions to allow for improved customer service,” Edwards notes.  “Cutting down the time for guests to get answers to their questions, while giving time back to hotel operations through new technology is an exciting project moving forward.” 

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