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Making Sense of the CX Onslaught

Today, Customer Experience (CX) is all the rage. Forrester reports that 71 percent of business decision-makers are making CX a high priority, and companies are responding to this demand with hundreds of tools to help companies provide better experiences. But what does it all mean? For the hospitality sector, guest experience has always been a major consideration, but technology now allows us to take experience to a new, very personalized level. This article from The Experience Engine will discuss why it is important to understand how these tools work independently and together to deliver guest experience. It may seem mind boggling to decide on the right CX solutions, but it all comes down to the stage in a guest’s journey.
Every guest goes through multiple stages in their journey starting with the decision to book at a particular hotel. Sales and marketing refer to this part of the guest experience as the sales funnel that moves decision-makers through stages including Awareness, Evaluation, Intention and Purchase. For many brands, consumer purchases represent a customer’s entire experience. However, the hotel guest’s journey is longer and more complex; after completing the traditional final sales funnel step of making a purchase, a hotel guest’s real-world journey has not even started. The hotel guest’s journey includes pre-stay, in-stay and post-stay phases, during which they will flow through numerous experience funnels beyond the initial purchase.
Within every phase, marketers have the opportunity to influence the hotel guest’s experience as they move through funnels for room upgrades, activities, excursions, restaurants, spas, and transportation. Collectively, decision data from all phases (sales, pre-, in- and post-stay) provide deep insight for marketers who can use it to improve sales performance and guest satisfaction at the same time.
While we used to think of pre-stay, in-stay and post-stay as the main stages of customer experience, new technology allows us to get much more granular. The pre-stay stage, for instance, now goes back much further than the time just before making a reservation. From the moment a guest begins dreaming about a trip, through research and planning, actually booking a reservation, and ultimately preparing for their trip, marketers must consider the best ways to engage and influence the guest’s experience during the decision-making process.
From survey tools and live chat to web personalization and A/B testing tools, experience management platforms can impact a guest’s journey from beginning to end and beyond. Let’s explore the various stages and hyper stages of the guest experience and match the right experience management tool to each part of a guest’s journey.
When a guest is in the consideration stage, marketers need to move them from inspiration to action since one in three travelers at this stage has not settled on a destination much less a brand. Targeted advertising can provide content that evokes an emotional response from guests. Imagine seeing a beautiful sunny beach in your Facebook feed just as the latest winter storm is hitting. Following that with an action-oriented marketing effort, like pre-season specials, allows you to move the guest to the evaluation phase.
As guests start to explore their options, retargeting becomes important for getting your brand in front of the buyer multiple times. When they visit your site directly, personalized web content and live chat provide instant information and special offers that can lead to reservations.
While each stage is important, the booking stage is particularly important to get right. A clunky interface or limited ability to personalize experience leads to approximately 30 percent of travelers abandoning reservations - undoing all the hard work it took to get them to this stage. If guests use a third-party booking engine, marketers must pay special attention to ensuring that the transition is seamless. A guest who shows up at the front desk only to find their 3rd party reservation is not in your system requires a contingency plan. With this inevitable situation, it is imperative that guests start and end their stay with a positive experience.
As guest prepare for their stay, a pre-stay survey guides the in-stay experience. Consider those items that can be easily customized like room placement, in-room amenities and welcome messages. Leveraging data from loyalty programs and past stays helps anticipate guest needs and preferences. Personalized email content with travel hacks like packing tips can generate excitement for the upcoming journey.
With 85 percent of leisure travelers deciding on activities only after they arrive, experience management tools that bridge the physical and digital worlds help guide guests through an experience. In-stay is the most important stage of a guest journey.
Use guest data and location data to deliver contextual content via mobile devices at the right moment, making it easy for your guest to find events, food specials and onsite amenities. Location-based messaging, personalized greetings and offers make your guest feel special. Real-time alerts ensure guests are aware of events and specials before they miss them.
With 90 percent of purchases happening in this stage, each potential purchase has its own mini-journey. For every dining decision, activity booked, ticket purchased, transportation decision, or reservation made, guests go through the same phases of consideration, evaluation and booking. Use those same tools to guide similar decision making during their in-stay experience.
Concierge text messaging tools allow for 2-way guest messaging – with guests and concierge services being able to text back and forth about dinner suggestions or spa hours. These tools can provide messaging between hotel staff to further increase guest satisfaction.
For less mobile-savvy travelers or international travelers on fixed data limits, in-room tablets provide detailed property information, schedules, and ordering capabilities, allowing the guest to get information they need easily.

Post Stay and Ongoing
After a stay, hotels have a unique opportunity to continue the guest experience. A good post-stay strategy supports social sharing of experience, multiplying the effect of a great visit. CX tools for this stage include post-stay surveys measuring Net Promoter Scores and social listening tools, which measure brand affinity. On an ongoing basis, loyalty programs supported by CRM platforms and analytics tools help to find the right methods to maintain the customer relationship between stays. Tools that test and optimize new campaigns with a friendly audience are valuable during this stage.
Bringing it Together
Every tool has its own unique advantages depending on the stage of the customer journey you are trying to affect. Finding tools and platforms that solve challenges during a guest journey and integrate with existing systems is critical to managing the guest experience seamlessly. With the right pre-stay, in-stay and post-stay strategy and technologies, customers have an improved, memorable and positive guest experience.  
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