The Hospitality industry increasingly appreciates the significance of personalisation in improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. As guests today are getting bombarded with information and offers from both hotels and online travel agencies (OTAs), personalised services could well be the ultimate goal that every Hotel aims to achieve. This is a long and challenging journey; but hoteliers can start by understanding the fundamental principles and practices, as well as associated legal and ethical implications of hospitality personalisation.
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What is personalisation in hospitality?
Personalisation mostly is about providing your guests with a more relevant, customised experience across all touch points. This may include the specific advertising your guests see after searching for information while planning for their trips, the offers with special rates they see on your website or the tailored amenities and services they receive while staying at your hotel.
Personalisation starts with collecting data, utilising technology to turn that data into personalised messages or offers, and applies such tailored services into every aspect of the guest experience.
Why personalisation matters
Tech giants like Amazon, Uber, Google, and Netflix have pioneered the era of personalised experience using data and technology, and consequently making personalisation the new normal for consumer service industries. The expectation that services should be tailored to best fit the customers’ preferences is higher than ever. And the hospitality industry must act accordingly to meet such expectations.
Young travellers belonging to the Millennial Generation prefer a seamless experience customised to their preferences when researching and booking across channels. More importantly, OTAs have already invested significantly in technology to improve the guest experience. Hotels cannot afford to get left behind.
How to get started with personalisation
The first step towards personalisation is collecting data, lots and lots of it. There are numerous sources that hotels can rely on, such as:
- Data directly provided by guests via surveys and questionnaires
- Guests’ history of bookings and stays
- Guests’ behaviours on their websites, mobile apps, search patterns, and on-property activities
- Guests’ interactions with your brand across channels: on social media, with your staff, via direct communications (phone calls, emails, etc.)
The second step is to develop a robust plan of using that data to enhance the guest experience. It is always wise to implement some pilot programs first. Test your personalisation efforts in a few marketing or customer service channels, then measure the results, and apply the learnt lessons into operations. In the final stage, the full personalisation is to be incorporated into guest experiences across all touch points.
Mobility technology offers a wonderful opportunity for hotels to truly get personal. Several hotels have used mobile apps for concierge services to accommodate guests’ personal demands and preferences. Such apps can provide relevant offers during the research and booking process, assist guests with finding venues and events when on-property, making restaurant reservations, ordering room service, or even controlling the room’s temperature.
Legal and ethical implications
Collecting personal data from your guests also creates some legal and ethical challenges. Around 40% of travellers are willing to share their data in exchange for tailored and relevant offers, according to research by Amadeus. On the other hand, nearly 90% of customers want to control how companies use their collected data. Privacy and data protection is the centrepiece of many recent prominent debates and legislative actions around the world. Consequently, be sure to provide your guests with a clear policy of what data you are collecting, what you are using it for, as well as an opt-out option for those who do not wish to provide their personal data.
You need to establish and enforce robust data security measurements to protect your guests’ data as if it were your own. Guard against security breaches from people not only outside but also inside your organisation. The last thing you need is your own “Snowden” incident. Choose trusted vendors to protect your data and review the security plans regularly.
In the realm of mass personalisation, there is a fine line between being helpful and being intrusive. Guests would probably not appreciate the fact that you count how many martinis they had last night or comb through their medicine cabinet or dresser drawers. And it is not only the matter of what type of data you are collecting, but also how you provide your messages or offers. For instance, a study from Accenture concludes that most customers find interrupting their buying activity with recommendations undesirable.
In order to avoid crossing such lines, you should ensure that the data being collected is really to help enhance your guests’ experience first and foremost, rather than just improve your own bottom line. A study from Yahoo suggests that three-fourths of customers have no objection when you collect data about:
- What content they have viewed and for how long
- Keywords they have used for searching
- Ads they have clicked
- Products or offers they have browsed
The very nature of the hospitality industry makes personalisation an imperative. Everyone loves to be treated as an individual. Personalisation has been demonstrated to drive increased customer satisfaction and bottom lines. Hoteliers should remain mindful that this strategy is not just about technology, but a complete transformation of how hotels operate.
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