Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Overcoming the Biggest Competitive Challenges in Hospitality

Nikola Njegovan, Sr. Director, Salesforce

The hospitality industry has long known that customer relationship management is at the center of a successful business model. From guest visit tracking to global room preferences, the strongest organizations create a seamless personal experience for their clients regardless of the hotel challenges. Large entertainment conglomerates (e.g. Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts), and luxury chains (e.g. Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Andaz) have fueled their growth by creating exceptional experiences for their guests. Smaller boutique hotels are learning that by offering unparalleled personal service, they can also face the challenges in the hospitality industry and build brand affinity.

The rise of social media and online customer reviews has driven increased customer competition and high service level expectations. A great customer experience promoted online can bring big profits, while a single negative review can have a lasting impact on your brand. It is important, now more than ever, to architect a vision for your customers’ journey with your brand and make that journey a reality.

Developing a customer experience strategy is easier than you may think. While there are nuances in the final delivery, the approach is driven by two primary components: staff training and data. Training and Human Experience Planning are essential. However, the foundation is based on knowing your customers’ preferences (the data) and leveraging digital tools that scale with your business to identify hotel industry problems and solutions. Hotels can create rapid increases in revenue simply by implementing data capture and analytics tools that are available with popular CRM platforms. This creates a foundation for defining their ideal customer journeys.

These types of insights are not limited to the hospitality industry. Below I've outlined some of the ways in which our clients are increasing customer engagement through Salesforce’s Einstein and Force.com Platform.

Define the Customer Journey

Building your customer relationship is a challenge in the hospitality industry, and it starts long before a guest walks through your door. In fact, our research indicates that nearly two-thirds of brand affinity is created prior to an actual purchase. The pre-service period is where customers are most vulnerable to brand perceptions. Making your organization easy to find and navigate before a reservation is a key part of setting customer expectations and creating the foundation of an exceptional customer journey. The Rightpoint team recently completed a pre-service awareness campaign that used the power of Salesforce’s campaign management tools to increase the client's quality lead generation by 50% over 90 days. This simple effort translated to a 10 percent increase in conversions.

We met with key marketing and leadership teams to define all the available touchpoints and related channels that potential customers experience before making a reservation. We then designed journey maps, taking into consideration these multi-channel and time- based interactions, to deliver a strategic solution. Those strategic and tactical elements were delivered using the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Pardot’s robust B2B marketing automation tools.

This system also provides the marketing team with a foundation for communication delivery and a technology base that can easily be adjusted to deliver customized messages to their market segments.

Record the Right Data / Record the Data Right

At Rightpoint, many times we find that our clients “don’t know what they don’t know.” They have been so reactive and focused on their daily operations, they don’t make time to build plans to address their pre-service or post-service engagement periods. This planning gap is often coupled with little-to-no strategy for tracking key data points, which could provide valuable insights to deliver better customer experiences. It’s easy to understand the root cause of this gap. Tracking customer journey data on a daily basis without overextending internal resources or disrupting daily operations is not easy.

As an example of how my team has overcome this issue lets take a look at another industry: education. For most universities, the customer (or student) journey is paramount. Purchase decision cycles are long, customer investments are high, and expectations for operational service are often unattainable given limited resources. These expectations are even higher for full-time/working professionals who are seeking executive education degrees in their spare time.

The Illinois Institute of Technology’s new executive education program for design professionals team needed to know who was engaging with the university and its programs. They also needed to architect a single “source of truth” for their data collection. The Rightpoint team implemented a Salesforce Sales Cloud instance for tracking data. We then integrated this CRM with their primary website, outbound marketing systems, and the school’s event management platform. Within a matter of weeks, all data tracking and analytics for their primary enrollment channels were automated to flow into a single data and reporting tool. This eliminated the need for manual data entry and duplicative entry/tracking processes. In short, the solution allowed IIT to collect the right data, the right way.

Gain the Insights – Implementing Your Own Solution

It’s important to know that defining the customer journey and recording the right data can feel overwhelming. Planning your data needs and ideal customer journeys can be a challenge for your industry. However, gaining insights is simple once you have the strategy and build your business on a foundation of sound, strategic technology. Rightpoint is a Salesforce partner because the Salesforce ecosystem includes a ton of out-of-the-box functionality for reporting and insights – a huge benefit to anyone who uses the platform. With the addition of Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics, discovering new segments, identifying the likeliest consumers to engage, and adding the power predictive modeling recommendations becomes very easy to implement. While these are not new concepts, the underlying solutions and ease of integration provide an enormous advantage for businesses that want to remain competitive or become industry leaders.

These types of insights are what led Caesars Entertainment to invest in a multi-million dollar Salesforce digital transformation strategy. The platform provides insights into how their customers interact with their brand across their customer journey by leveraging tools like Chatter (to keep internal employees informed), Sales Cloud (to manage their opportunity pipelines), Marketing Cloud (to define all of their customer journeys), and Einstein Analytics (to gain insights, and define experiences on a strategic and global scale). In short, with the foundation of strategic data management through the Salesforce Platform, they are identifying their hotel challenges and fueling their growth for the next decade.

These tools are readily available to players of any size in the hospitality industry who are willing to make small investments. By leveraging data and customer experience, Caesars Entertainment transformed its brand from a small bingo parlor in Reno, NV to an international conglomerate. Rightpoint is ready to help you leverage the power of the data that is available to you today.