Many of you manage “a little” more than a hotel. You manage spas, restaurants, vineyards, thermal baths, just to name a few. However, after more than 2,000 meetings with hoteliers, the findings are clear: NONE of them have a centralized customer database.
This is rather surprising to me! A hotelier “sells” hotel services and rooms. But when asked what’s the most important thing for improving performance, everyone has their own answer:
● Revenue Management
● Online distribution
● Customer service, etc.
All these answers are perfectly correct and absolutely represent key elements for improving a hotel’s performance. And yet, you’ll hear none of these answers from a salesperson or a digital marketer. When you ask them the same question, most of the time, the answer is:
“MY CUSTOMER DATABASE”
I was recently contacted regarding this topic by Maxime Mathon of the MDCV (Mark Dixon Châteaux & Vignobles en Provence) Group. Indeed, for Maxime, the centralization of his customer database is his top priority and the most important lever for growing future revenues. So I decided to ask him a few questions, and I’ll share our conversation with you here.
Maxime is the Marketing and Communication Director of a group of four luxury establishments in Provence: Le Château de Berne, Ultimate Provence, Le Château Saint-Roux and Le Château des Bertrands.
Each of these properties is centered around a different theme: wine, hotels, restaurants, oenology and well-being.
Each establishment includes several operations: hotel, restaurant, spa, tasting cellar, wine shop, online wine store, oenological activities, cheese shop, etc.
Maxime told us about his needs and, in particular, about the difficulty of collecting and cross-referencing data on his consumers through multiple and varied acquisition channels.
The detrimental effects of a lack of data for a multi-operational facility
It’s a well-known fact that customer data equals money. However, after 20 years in business and nearly 300,000 visitors each year, the MDCV Group has not yet succeeded in automating the retrieval of contacts in its database. Maxime sees this as a reflection of several problems but, above all, as a loss of revenue. “Out of every x number of visitors who have had a good experience at one of our locations, we are unable to collect any usable data. So we let a customer go without any way to retain him/her.”
He explains that for the moment, customer data is not collected in a strategic way. However, doing so would allow them to get to know their customers, to precisely target their expectations and, as such, build their loyalty.
Despite the fact that Maxime is well aware of the data’s potential, optimizing its collection and managing it from his various locations and business operations is not as simple.
To begin with, there’s a “maturity” gap between each department regarding the subject, and many are not yet aware of the importance of customer data. Moreover, there’s currently no sophisticated approach to data collection, regardless of the department. Nothing is automated, and the little bit of data that’s collected is extracted and processed manually in different formats and at more or less regular intervals depending on the various business areas.
Without detailed information on customers, the messages sent are the same for everyone. Each time an email or newsletter is sent, the customer receives a standard communication that doesn’t take into account his or her past experiences with the group. Whether a guest has stayed in the hotel, eaten in the restaurant or purchased wine, they receive the same information in the email.
The collection of data is nevertheless essential for setting up an effective, personalized and targeted communication strategy in order to build customer loyalty according to their needs and habits of consumption. Retaining your customers will always cost less than acquiring new ones.
Centralizing and consolidating customer data
Currently at MDCV, each area manages its own database which is more or less updated, and each business unit proceeds in a different way. Today, even if exporting this data has its merit, it’s not well standardized and includes little information on customers. The segmentation of centralized data, as such, is practically impossible.
In other words, there’s no connection between restaurant customers, hotel customers, SPA customers or even e-commerce customers. It’s therefore impossible to expand the offerings for everyone and implement a centralized marketing strategy.
Collecting and centralizing data efficiently from all departments would allow us to test customers’ reactions to various products, promotions, etc. The goal would be to segment the database in order to better target the expectations and tastes of each person, thus building loyalty or offering them new experiences.
- Offer a discount on a product valued by a customer on his or her birthday
- Offer a winter edition of a rosé to encourage rosé consumers to purchase it outside of summer
- Offering a meal in a starred restaurant to a consumer of fine wine
- Offer a SPA service to a client who has stayed in a 5-star hotel
Here we create associations of ideas by offering services and products that may interest a customer based on his or her past experience. To make this possible, it’s important to know your customers well. We must be able to analyze their reactions in order to perform precise targeting and send personalized messages that meet their expectations and arouse their curiosity.
So how do we do this?
Does the appropriate technology exist?
Above all, it’s important to understand that there’s no simple solution, no magic bullet for simultaneously managing all the activities of an establishment. Each software has its own features; and a CRM tool can never replace them.
For example, if a customer visits the spa one time and another time stays at the hotel and then places an order for wine, they receive three different bills for three completely different services. In this case, consolidating the billing would make no sense, nor would it be of any interest to the customer.
Remember that a CRM is a communication tool that allows you to consolidate customer data, such as their name, contact information and any other useful information to communicate with them; but that’s where it ends.
What’s the procedure to follow in order to collect, centralize and use the data efficiently? First of all, you’ll need to identify and sort out the technologies used by each type of the establishment’s activity and then connect them together via a CRM.
Identify the various technologies used in each department
There are two types of data management tools:
- Old, dusty technologies, which could be described today as “totally backward” and should be swapped out for more modern and powerful tools
- More modern, classic tools such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Prestashop, ZenChef, La Fourchette, etc.
These tools are generally “API first”, i.e. they’re equipped with an application which makes the collected data available so other applications can use it.
Once your establishment is equipped with “API first” tools, you can set up a CRM tool.
Choosing a solution that connects the tools
As you can see, in order to connect your various departments, you need to set up a CRM tool that can connect to all your specialized tools via their APIs. I recommend reading our article on PMS Connectivity which presents a similar context.
Once your tools are set up, the CRM must retrieve your customer data on each tool. There are then three critical steps performed automatically by the CRM:
- First step: Creation of mapping
It’s a matter of matching fields between the various tools. For example, if “NAME” is specified on your PMS and “LAST NAME” is what’s specified in La Fourchette, the CRM must make the link and understand that the “NAME” field and the “LAST NAME” field contain the same data.
- Second step: Determining the “cleanest” data
If a Shopify client is named “Bodivit”, but then there was a typo and it’s “Bodi vit” on your PMS, the CRM must be able to automatically identify the most coherent and cleanest data.
- Applying UDR technology
UDR technology allows you to merge all of your customer files, and thus determine their history. I invite you to read our article on the subject if you’d like to learn more.
Once you’ve completed these three steps, congratulations! You have a useable database.
The value of cross-referencing data
As you probably know, Experience Hotel is a CRM tool for hotels. However, over time, we see that many hotels are no longer just hotels. Restaurants, spas, vineyards and seminar spaces represent an important part of an establishment’s revenue. It’s therefore necessary to have the ability to track a customer’s overall experience, preferences and consumption potential.
Certain customers bring in money, that’s a fact. However, there are others that could potentially earn you more; you just don’t know it yet.
They interact with your content, they visit your website and read your blog posts, they’re familiar with your products and services, and so on. And if you don’t track all of this, you can’t guess.
For a hotel, a client who visits the spa three times could become a great ambassador of the establishment. Similarly, a customer who dines in the restaurant and stays at the hotel could become a client of the spa. It’s what we call cross selling: one product is used to sell other products.
And now that you have the technology to meet your challenges, you’ll be able to create a centralized database in order to communicate more, build customer loyalty and develop cross selling within your establishment’s various areas of activity, just like Maxime.
For a company that offers various activities and services, the need is simple:
Despite the numerous acquisition channels, it’s about creating a simple and unified database that meets all the needs of the various operational areas and their activities by sub-segmenting the customer base.
Maxime’s story is actually quite common. As soon as a hotel begins offering the services of a restaurant, spa, seminar space, etc., it faces the same problems as MDCV. However, there are solutions to easily and intelligently collect data and use it to communicate and develop its various activities.
Implementing a hotel CRM tool like Experience allows you to retrieve data from various tools according to your needs and to process and classify them in order to communicate and establish a targeted and relevant customer relationship.
Thank you for reading!