Technology and data hold the key to elusive guest loyalty and fuel competitive edge

Technology and data hold the key to elusive guest loyalty and fuel competitive edge

While most travelers hold no loyalty to a particular hotel brand, hoteliers can change that reality by offering a more personalized guest experience, according to a November 2015 study commissioned by Sabre Hospitality Solutions and conducted by Forrester Consulting.

The study demonstrates that hoteliers who rely on data and technology to power personalization and an outstanding customer experience will hold a competitive edge to differentiate and win travelers’ hearts and business. 

In the age of the customer, the relationships hotels have with guests are the greatest source of competitive differentiation, yet many hoteliers are not maximizing that relationship. Nearly two-thirds of leisure travelers and more than half of business travelers hold no loyalty to a particular hotel brand, and a majority of travelers are willing to share personal data to ensure hoteliers can meet their individual preferences, the study finds. To capture guest loyalty, hoteliers must reimagine their loyalty program and learn how to harness customer data and insights to create a more personalized, seamless guest experience across all channels. 

These are just a few of several insights outlined in a new study, Customer Experience in Hospitality: Embrace Customer Data and Elevate the Guest Experience, released this week by Sabre Hospitality Solutions. Researchers surveyed leisure and business travelers, and conducted one-on-one interviews with global hospitality executives and senior IT professionals to form a comprehensive view of the issues that drive loyalty and offer opportunities for hotels to maximize revenue.

“At Sabre, our role as a technology leader is to help hotels adapt and win in the age of the customer,” said Alex Alt, president of Sabre Hospitality Solutions. “Building and maintaining customer loyalty isn’t simply about letting customers accumulate points. It’s about finding ways to make customers feel special and to recognize and honor their preferences. Hoteliers who use data and technology to elevate the customer experience will ultimately generate loyalty that drives revenue.”

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Consumer attitudes toward sharing their data are evolving. According to the study, more than half of travelers are open to sharing certain types of personal information but in return expect to be offered relevant deals, discounts or loyalty points. Interestingly, travelers who are 55 and older are more willing than younger travelers to share their personal information in exchange for additional benefits.

The study found that collecting and applying customer data and insights to deliver seamless, cross-channel experiences – especially by providing personal touches to travelers in exchange for their data – are key to meeting customers’ expectations, improving their experience and fostering loyalty that leads to future bookings.

When it comes to personal touches during the stay, the most compelling reasons cited by travelers for sharing their personal information include:

Check-in or check out time that fits their schedule

Room selection based on their preferences

Assistance discovering local activities and places of interest

The study concludes with recommendations for hoteliers who want to elevate the customer experience, including approaches to business intelligence for strategic decision-making and ways to unify guest data through better integration of technology platforms in order to enable the digital experiences and personal touches that guests are coming to expect.