Hoteliers and restaurateurs have long used customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to grow customer loyalty, as well as to improve customer satisfaction. With the availability of increasingly powerful and predictive technologies and as operators expand the way they leverage the CRM tools they implement, the stakes are higher and the bar for personalized service has been raised.
“CRM now — and going forward — is not what it was even a relatively short time ago,” says Timm Ryan-Young, president, Synergy CRM Consultants (www.synergycrmconsultants.com). Ryan-Young contends that CRM solutions are “smarter and far more feature-rich,” with solutions leveraged not just to collect contact information for marketing purposes, but to gather a wealth of guest data and use it to predict behaviors and personalize experiences.
Integration Essential for 360-Degree View of Customers
CRM tools that integrate with or are integrated into other systems and applications, such as POS, PMS and customer loyalty, to name a few, are gaining ground. Such integration is essential because the more data from other systems that “flows” into the CRM database, the more comprehensive CRM data will be and the more actionable it will become. Integration also makes sense because in addition to giving hotel or restaurant team members a 360-degree view of each guest, it sheds light on which segments the customer fits, making it easier to utilize the CRM system to cultivate and engage individual guests without struggling with disparate and siloed applications, according to Airtable (https://airtable.com).
Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee (www.jacksstirbrew.com), billed as “New York City’s First 100% organic coffee shop and vegan bakery,” currently has nine locations in New York City and its environs and plans to open an additional 26 stores, including stores on the West Coast, by early next year. The chain uses Como Sense from Como (www.como.com), which integrates with its POS system, a feature that Rob Friedlander, Jack’s chief marketing officer, says was most important when evaluating potential CRM systems for the chain.
“Without POS data, it would be impossible to have the deep visibility into each transaction that’s necessary to really take advantage of a CRM,” Friedlander asserts. “We wanted to be able to tag each transaction — to understand at which location a purchase is made, what the guest bought — whether it was just a beverage or a certain beverage and certain bakery items, and whether there were additional items from our marketplace in the transaction.”
Friedlander adds that “full-stack” integration of Como Sense, including integration with Jack’s customer loyalty solution and mobile ordering app, is in the works.
“With an integration of the CRM and our loyalty program, we will incentivize and reward customers with what they want. For example, 20% off a drink the data indicates they like, versus an offer for 20% off a drink they don’t care about,” Friedlander states. “We’ll also program the system to come up with customized incentives that could change people’s behavior.”
With these sorts of personalized communications, Friedlander and his team might be able to convince a customer who orders a stir-brew coffee and a baked good every morning to stop by in the afternoon.
Integration of CRM capability with other systems and the more actionable data it brings to the table is top of mind for Barnsley Resort (www.barnsleyresort.com) in Adairsville, Ga. The property’s Maestro (www.maestropms.com) PMS has a built-in CRM tool, and the latter interfaces with every system at the property. A wide swath of staff members, from those who work at the reception and reservations desks, to activities coordinators, to the host in the restaurant, have access to the data.
“We can now do a lot of analytics and predictive analytics with CRM to personalize the experience for our guests,” explains Jennifer Ball, director of operations. “We can see that a particular guest stayed in a certain cottage, and asked for an ashtray, and hunted in our hunting preserve, and dined in the restaurant at a certain time, and set all of that up before he or she arrives.”
In addition, Ball notes that her team can see that a guest stayed at a particular time of year and can go back and promote to him or her accordingly. Ball credits having access to all of this data, from so many systems, with helping the property staff know everything guests want and need, before they arrive and ask for it.
“It does a lot to build guest loyalty and satisfaction,” she says, which is reflected in the fact that repeat clientele generate 70% of the property’s business.
Some operators are calling on next-generation CRM solutions to help identify individuals that stay in their hotels or dine in their restaurants, but have yet to register for the loyalty program, states Ryan-Young. Bridg (https://bridg.com) estimates that about 85% of hospitality players’ customers fall into this category. Bridg CRM allows restaurant operators to mine their data, including POS data, to identify customers in multiple pre-configured segmentations, including, but not limited to, non-loyalty customers.
Tapping Social Profiles for a More Robust Picture of Guests
The emergence of CRM solutions that allow hoteliers and restaurateurs to incorporate social data is also changing the CRM game, in large part by adding yet another dimension to the data and rendering it more potent. At Barnsley Resort, guests’ social media information is imported into their profiles and harnessed to personalize marketing campaigns. It is also used to help anticipate their wants and needs and plan accordingly. For instance, recommending one of the resort’s onsite cooking classes to an individual who clearly likes to cook.
Tech provider sources note that social media data should be regarded as a viable source of customer feedback and marketing opportunities that are authentic and unsolicited. It can, they say, help management understand a customer’s true feelings about the company, while also allowing marketing and sales to engage customers and leads. Another consideration, according to Amadeus (https://amadeus.com), is that a CRM tool should have the capability to not only collect guest input from online reviews, but also alert operators to its existence so they can respond to it in a timely manner.
“Social CRM is definitely taking hold considering the depth of understanding of the customer that can be achieved with it,” Ryan-Young asserts.
Ryan-Young adds that the next wave of the future in CRM is artificial intelligence (AI). Companies like Zoho CRM (https://www.zoho.com) are integrating AI into CRM for such functions as analyzing databases; Zoho’s solution offers an AI-powered assistant that accesses customer information from the CRM in keeping with user-defined parameters.
CRM solutions that harness natural language understanding are expected to move to the forefront as well. According to PureStrategy (https://purestrategy.ai), which creates artificial intelligence applications, advances in natural language understanding are simplifying the process of parsing unstructured text comments, including social media mentions and online reviews, that can play a critical role in understanding what appeals to guests and what does not. This makes the data more accessible all around.
1. Robust Dashboard. “A mobile-friendly solution whose robustness extends to the dashboard is and will continue to be a carrot for consistent use [among staff and managers], especially considering the upcoming generation of users,” Ryan-Young says. “[Managers] aren’t going to go looking for data that’s not readily available via a dashboard. They also won’t necessarily look for data on a computer, because they expect their phone to be a computer.”
2, Customization Capabilities. David Huck, owner, Woodbelly Pizza & Catering (https://woodbellypizza.com), Montpelier, Vt., replaced Woodbelly’s previous CRM platforms with Airtable because he wanted to be able to see all relevant information about its catering clients. “In a couple of clicks,” he notes, he can now determine which dishes a particular client ordered for catering and see if they might appeal to a prospective catering client. He can also see who worked on an event and can simultaneously track labor and food costs.
3. Future-Ready Features & Functionality. Oracle Hospitality (www.oracle.com) advises that CRM solutions should not only meet current needs, such as integration with other systems, but also future ones as well. This could include the ability to ensure a consistent experience whether guests are being engaged by humans utilizing a CRM tool, or via means powered by artificial intelligence, like chatbots.