There is no doubt that the COVID pandemic and the subsequent travel lockdown wreaked havoc on hotels. But now that the worst appears to be behind us, we can look back and identify some small opportunities that the pandemic created. It gave us a time to pause, reflect and – in many cases – reset.
COVID certainly accelerated the industry’s digital transformation. Owners and operators now fully realize the importance of relying on technology to better serve our guests’ needs in a more modern manner, and to help operators manage their business more efficiently, relying on automation to reduce overhead and operating costs.
The reset also presented an opportunity to think about how travel – and the guest experience in particular – will look in the future. Raul Leal, former CEO of Virgin Hotels, spoke about this recently on a podcast. He questioned whether the way loyalty programs are constructed today – around accumulating enough points to earn a free stay – is going to be sufficient in the future. Raul asked: If all the points programs were to disappear overnight, which hotel brand would have the most loyalty?
His premise was that loyalty and personalization is less about points and more about giving guests on-the-spot gratification while they're in your hotel. At Virgin, for example, not only are repeat guests recognized as soon as they walk through the door, but they’re given VIP perks as well. Things like complimentary happy hour and food-and-beverage discounts. At one Virgin hotel, the chef was rolling out a new menu and loyalty members were invited to sit around the chef’s table. Another time, they were invited to a special meet and greet with that night’s entertainment.
As much damage as COVID has dealt, it also presented an opportunity not only to reconnect with past guests but to seek new relationships. The hospitality leaders who are prepared to rekindle business with past guests and go above and beyond in building business with new guests will find themselves in a great position to capitalize on recovery.
Personalization Provides the Building Blocks
As we begin on this new journey, the more data you have about past and potential guests, the better. Today, there is information available to help you better understand your guest before they arrive on property, data to help you enhance their stay while on property, and data to help you continue your relationship with guests even after they’ve checked out. At a high level, to provide an exceptional experience that emulates the treatment a guest would receive at a Virgin hotel, you need information on a guest’s past stay history, spend history, and preferences. But you can also glean a great deal of information from deeper analytics, such as review content, communication preferences and personal interests, for example.
Traditionally, much if not all of this information is stored in the Property Management System. But having this data stored in a single system doesn’t allow hoteliers to do much with it. Instead, the information needs to be accessible from a Customer Relationship Management tool, which allows you to access the data in real time and action it. As CRM tools have evolved at a rapid pace over the past decade, they’re now able to automate many of the actions that previously required human decision-making.
Hoteliers have many options when it comes to implementing CRM technology. One is to build the software and data storage themselves and then integrate it with the rest of their tech stack, which requires an incredible amount of time and resources. Another is to partner with a third-partner CRM provider that has been built specifically for hospitality. A third option is to turn to a world-class leader in CRM that serves hundreds of verticals incredibly well: Salesforce.
Salesforce is the most broadly used CRM in the world, helping businesses across hundreds of verticals throughout the entire world collect, store and action data on their customers. Salesforce provides a way for businesses to lean on a single source of truth – that is, one all-encompassing, central location of data that has been cleaned and deduped. All the necessary data you need to improve customer satisfaction can be stored and accessed in Salesforce, and the integration, data mapping, de-duping can all be done in a matter of days.
Connecting Salesforce to Your Current Tech Stack
To help hotels transfer their data from the PMS into Salesforce, analyze it, and then push the appropriate actions back out from Salesforce into their other systems, Hapi has built a Salesforce connector called Hapi Connect, available today on Salesforce’s AppExchange. Hapi provides an inexpensive and easy way to securely transfer your data – rates, inventory, guest profiles, company profiles, reservation and revenue information, folio details, etc. – from the PMS to Salesforce and back. And, should the hotels in your portfolio operate on several different PMSs, Hapi has the ability to consolidate the data into a single platform and then serve it up to Salesforce.
Hapi Connect helps hoteliers see a true 360-degree view of their guest by merging CRM data with critical hotel data sources like reservation and folio data. It allows hoteliers to understand guest booking behavior, on-property spend patterns and total lifetime value to drive marketing campaigns. Beyond the features, Hapi also provides security by consolidating service: Should you have questions with your Salesforce connection, ping Hapi for answers rather than waiting on your PMS provider or Salesforce rep to log a ticket and get back to you.
One hotel group that chose Hapi to integrate their PMS data to Salesforce was Langham Hotel Group, an operator of 22 luxury hotels under two flagship brands: Langham Hotels and Cordis Hotels. In late 2019, Langham turned to Hapi to synchronize profiles across dozens of disparate property systems, importing more than 5 million guest profiles, 770,000 guest preferences and 59,000 special requests. Today, the data-driven solution is being used by both corporate and property-level teams to guide guests on a more personal journey.
By merging data from your PMS and Salesforce CRM, hotels can once again put the guest at the center of everything they do. As more people get back on the road, providing exceptional experiences and creating deeper connections will prepare you to hit the ground running.
Hapi is a disruptive Cloud Data Hub that exposes event streams and transactional APIs from hotel systems at scale designed to solve the hotel industry's rapidly expanding data management challenges, while also addressing the traditionally high integration costs and lack of vendor alignment that inhibits innovation and efficiency. Developed by hotel technology innovators, the secure, scalable, cloud-based data streaming platform is based on an open model, using the same proven technology that runs some of the world's largest social media and business services, to which multiple layers of encryption, authentication and governance are added.