Customer profiling: A must in the hotel industry

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The hotel industry is a competitive world in which one needs to differentiate them from the others. One way to do that is customer profiling. This concept gives hotels the opportunity to gain more insight into their guests and to be able to understand their behaviour, characteristics and interests better. It enables them to communicate more effectively. In these first 3 sentences, I have mentioned already two benefits of customer profiling, but there are much more! You can say that customer profiling is very crucial in this industry (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

How does it work? To begin with, it is important to understand who your ideal customer is and what connects them with each other. Look at their demographics (age, gender, income etc.), psychographics (personality, preferences, etc.) and their behaviour. Then find out where they are located. Meaning try to find out what they search for and whether this is online and offline and through which channels. Followed by doing research on what there needs and wants are that drive the guests to book a room.
After finding out all this information about potential clients it is important to reach out to your current clients. Make use of interviews or questionnaires to find out how and why they chose you as the solution to their problem. When all this information is collected it is time to create client profiles or in other words personas. These personas describe your guests and show you what motivates them. This enables hotels to target better and not waste time (Dania Dunlap-Hurden, 2016).

Customer profiling has so many benefits for hotels. As mentioned before customer profiling gives you a better understanding of your guests. With all the information that has been gathered while creating a profile, you discover how, when, where and what to communicate to your guests. You get to understand exactly who they are. This leads to another benefit, which is a better response rate.

Furthermore, you can create better opportunities with the use of this information. As you know all the needs, wants and interests you can adjust your product and or service accordingly to meet them. Or even create something totally new. You can create a better experience and make them feel welcome and valued. Another benefit, also mentioned before, is that you can create a competitive advantage. If you know what makes them happy, satisfied and even loyal you can create long-term relationships and make them less vulnerable to the competition. Finally, customer profiling increases profit. It will cost a less time and money as you will not lose time and money on guests that are not even interested in your product and or service. You will have a higher return on your efforts (Susan Oakes, 2010) (Serendipity 2, 2010).

To finalize this blog, I will give a successful example of where focusing on the client has worked. Accorhotels has created a mobile app and platform, which can be used in 18 different languages. It is created to provide its guests with personalized services before, during and even after their stay. Through this app, the guests can see every detail of the hotel, book rooms, contact the hotel and it offers guides for travel ideas. The benefit of this app for Accor is that they can track their interests and interactions, both offline and online. Based on all the information they get from this, they are able to send out the perfect message and or offers at the right moment. It resulted in 47,000 daily reservations.

Bibliography
Dania Dunlap-Hurden. (April 19, 2016). Five simple steps to creating an ideal customer profile. Retrieved from:
http://blog.thewholebraingroup.com/steps-to-creating-an-ideal-customer-profile

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer relationship management. Harlow: Pearson Education

Serendipity 2, (2010). What is customer profiling? Retrieved from:
http://serendipity2.com/articles/what-is-customer-profiling/

Susan Oakes, (2010). 5 benefits of building simple customer profiles. Retrieved from:
http://www.m4bmarketing.com/5-benefits-of-building-simple-customer-profiles/

Photo is retrieved from:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/148722882@N04/35433663193/in/photolist-92zxYv-XZjGwC-TrJHbq-SN4YiT-7HcgLD-4tneYS-7px9Cg-ckAP4w-VZ9Mzt-jaVGBw-94td1b-U2LngT-bFGYp6-iEsZsq-4LTfan-WWa8Xm-eN1uhq-qqguR6-mQse49-TrJJbb-79njSv-rtUJbn-RjbVHb-kjbUcF-9yeBgM


 

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A distribution strategy leads to succes in the hotel business

Due to all the technological changes going on in the world we have seen the hotel distribution landscape getting bigger than ever. There are so many different channels nowadays from which guests can book a room. The more you distribute as a hotel the more people you will reach and attract and the more the hotel will grow (Jennifer Mays, 2017). As every hotel is unique and has its own needs and wants the distribution strategies are also unique. Choosing the right combination of channels is a key to success!

The main goal for a hotel is a perfect sell, which means all the rooms are sold. To be able to achieve this is to find out which channels are most beneficial and powerful and thus generate the most revenue for your hotel. Before going into the process, it is important to know what kind of channels exist.

First of all, we have direct business, which can be divided into online reservations through the website, phone reservations and guests who simply walk into the hotel. As these reservations are directly made at the hotel there is no commission that needs to be paid. Therefore, one can say the more direct business the better. The only cost that a hotel has is the development of the website ( Joan Evelynn Lee, 2016).

Then we continue with the OTA’s. They are very important for most hotels, especially nowadays when most bookings are done online. For consumers, it is an easy, quick and efficient way of booking a room. OTA’s can reach a wide range of customers in once. Furthermore, there is the Global Distribution System (GDS). This system provides an insight into pricing, inventory, availability, and reservation functionality (Juan Duran, 2015). Lastly, as seen in the picture above social media and metasearch also play a big role.

Where do you start then? You have to ask yourself three simple questions.
1. Which channels do my guests use and when?
2. Where do guests choose to book?
3. How much profit do you make from each of those? (Tim Peter, 2016)

A hotel needs to define which channels are going to be used. It is important to choose the channels that reach the biggest audience and therefore the ones most powerful, It can be a combination of both offline and online channels. After the channels are determined one needs to decide at which touch point they need to be used and in which stage of the customer journey. To make such a decision you need to have a more insight into the preferences and behaviours of the guest, This requires research. After the hotel has passed step one it needs to find out where the guests choose to book and where the most profit comes from.

As you were able to read there as so many different channels. The right combination will vary per hotel and will constantly be changing throughout the years. As you do not want to lose guests it is very important to keep on researching what channels are most powerful and what they generate and adjust your contribution strategy accordingly.

Bibliography
Jennifer Mays, (2017). Choosing the best distribution strategy: Should it be as unique as your hotel? Retrieved from:
http://www.sabrehospitality.com/resources/hotel-marketing-blogs/choosing-best-distribution-strategy-should-it-be-unique-your-hotel

Joan Evelyn Lee, (August 23, 2016). Achieving the ideal hotel distribution mix. Retrieved from:
http://www.traveltripper.com/blog/achieving-the-ideal-hotel-distribution-mix/

Juan Duran, (June 16, 2015). Website, GDS and OTA: the right mix in distribution channel investments. Retrieved from:
https://ehotelier.com/insights/2015/06/16/website-gds-and-ota-the-right-mix-in-distribution-channel-investments/

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer relationship management. Harlow: Pearson Education

Tim Peter, (November 9, 2016). Focus on channels that drive strong business results. Retrieved from:
http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Articles/83352/Focus-on-channels-that-drive-strong-business-results

The photo is retrieved from:
https://www.mycloudhospitality.com/blog/channel-manager-and-metasearch

 

 

 

Making guests happy by managing customer engagement

There is still some confusion about the meaning of customer engagement management and its implications. According to Agrawal in “Customer relationship management and corporate renaissance (Peelen & Beltman, 2013), an organization can engage their customers by adapting its strategy, marketing approach and IT in order to have a meaningful relationship with its customers. As of recently, the usage of IT makes contacting customers via internet, telephone, and “face-to-face” channel more efficient. Good customer engagement management between hostels and their customers is recognised during contact via different mediums (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). One example of this is when a customer makes a booking online via the website of a hostel with questions about their booking. Customer could also make use of the telephone as the alternative means of communication in order to gain additional information. An employee of a hostel can further assist the customer by adjusting their booking in their system’s database (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

Due to the emergence of global economy and the transformation of businesses it was important that information becomes accessible, making information technology indispensable. Using this opportunity would be sentencing your business to fail in a world that was growing quicker that consumers could keep up with. IT play a vital role in the expansion of businesses and hostels in particular: going from a manually tedious process to a hostel management system, which reduces workload, improves workflow, and ultimately allows better service to the customers. Such systems allow hostel’s staff to easily provide information to customers with the touch of a mouse instead of paperwork. IT is also responsible for automated phone systems, information on room availability, room allocation, online payment structures as well as automated check in and check out. (Essays, UK, 2013)

Managing customer engagement for hostels could go deeper than just seeing the customer as a user of the service. Paying close attention to the customer’s needs and values instead of seeing them as a means to an end or even a monthly quota that needs to be met. Hostels could identify all aspects that addresses the needs and wishes of their customers to better cater to them. By paying close attention to the customer and not just seeing it as closing a deal. The strategy is in creating customer knowledge and building customer relationships, while shaping their perception the hostel and their services (Payne & Frow, 2005).

Hosteling International demonstrates this strategy on their website by letting past and future guests know how much they are valued. In each host destination for Hosteling International it is important for them as a company to communicate their actions to their guests. This is their way of encouraging customers to contribute to the sustainability of progress of the hostel. In their lobby’s guests can find their sustainability policy, an event wall, and a traveller’s information board. Hosteling International prides themselves in customer engagement by also creating events and workshops that brings guests of the hostel and locals together. At check-in guests are immediately informed about the mission-based events that are happening at the hostel and are encouraged to join. (Hosteling International, 2017)


Work cited

Coleman, A. (2017, March 29). Business: Customer experience and loyalty. Opgehaald van Raconteur.net: https://www.raconteur.net/business/how-brands-can-engage-with-all-generations

Essays, UK. (2013, Novemember). Looking at a hostels managment system information technology. . Opgehaald van Essays UK : https://www.ukessays.com/essays/information-technology/looking-at-a-hostel-management-system-information-technology-essay.php

Hosteling International. (2017, August 1). Opgehaald van Hosteling International Official Blog: http://blog.hihostels.com/2017/08/engaging-you-our-guests/

Pansari, A., & Kumar, V. (2016, June 16). Customer engagement: the construct, antecedents, and consequences. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, pp. 294-311.

Payne, A., & Frow, P. (2005, October). Astrategic framework for customer relationship management , . Journal of Marketing , p. 167.

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited.

A multichannel strategy is the key of success for every tour operator

With today’s technology, customers are able to ask for up-to-date information anytime, anyplace and anywhere from the tour operators (McKean, 2013). Since the customers are everywhere, this interaction can take place through a variety of direct and indirect communication channels and it is the job of today’s marketers to enable customers to take action in response using the channel of their choice (Dean, 2016). Simply put, multichannel marketing is all about choice (SAS, 2017).

The multichannel strategy is a marketing strategy on how to combine the different channels (Peelen & Beltman, 2013) and, very importantly, how to provide the same level of customer service on each channel (Kelly, 2015). In order to know which channels to be included in the strategy, Peelen and Beltman state three depending aspects; the costs, the accessibility of the organisation and the customer experience that is offered (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). The costs that come along with a certain channel mix are most of the time the primary reason to choose or not to choose for certain channels. Nowadays, more and more online channels are used, because they are more effective and have significant lower costs (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Furthermore, improving the way customers experience their contact with the organisation is a crucial point. A good combination of channels will often achieve the goal to raise customer satisfaction and lowering the costs by offering experience-oriented service (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

So, what is needed to create a good multichannel marketing strategy for tour operators? Start with creating and maintaining a single view of the customer (SAS, 2017). It is vital to understand how your customers behave across all channels, at each and every touch point with your company and keeping this view up to date. The next step is to create a multichannel marketing platform, which integrates your traditional and emerging channels (SAS, 2017). This will simplify the creation of cross-channel campaigns, which is a single campaign replicated across various channels and spreads the same message the organisation wants to deliver on all the channels. Finally, tour operators should create consistent customer experiences across all channels; it is your differentiator from the competition and it is all about the quality and consistency of it.

A company that implemented the multichannel strategy very well, is TUI. It is the world largest travel brand and provides all kinds of different holiday (packages) to their customers (TUI, 2017). They are present both online and offline and are a pro in combining these different channels. In 2013, their profits grow by 21% due to this multichannel strategy. They saw the swift from offline to online and invested in a mobile website; as their customers increasingly use their tablets and mobile phones to dream, plan , search and book with them (Rigby, 2013). Furthermore, they took digital into next-generation stores. They developed a holiday planner tool that allows the customers to take their ideas, which they created with the employee’s personal advice and service, home and book using whatever channel they choose (Rigby, 2013). They adapted to the customer preferences and deliver the same customer experience through the different channels.

So, all in all a multichannel strategy is vital for the tour operators. Giving your customers the best experience possible, needs to happen through all types of different channels that the company uses. This will ensure that the customers stay loyal to your brand and start to spread the word.

Sources

Dean, N. (2016, March 1). Successful Multi-Channel Marketing In The Modern World. Retrieved from Trellis: https://trellis.co/blog/successful-multi-channel-marketing-in-the-modern-world/

Kelly, L. (2015, June). Managing your customer’s multi-channel service experience. Retrieved from ComputerWeekly.com: http://www.computerweekly.com/feature/Managing-your-customers-multi-channel-service-experience

McKean, P. (2013, November 21). Multi-channel customer service in the travel sector: Are we nearly there yet? Retrieved from MyCustomer: https://www.mycustomer.com/community/blogs/pmckean/multi-channel-customer-service-in-the-travel-sector-are-we-nearly-there-yet

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Rigby, C. (2013, December 1). TUI Travel delivers 21% profits growht as multichannel investment pays off. Retrieved from Internet Retailing: http://internetretailing.net/2013/12/tui-travel-delivers-21-profits-growth-as-multichannel-investment-pays-off/

SAS. (2017). Multichannel Marketing – What is it and why it matters. Retrieved from SAS: https://www.sas.com/en_us/insights/marketing/multichannel-marketing.html

TUI. (2017). Homepage. Retrieved from TUI: http://www.tui.nl

 

Great online reputation? Answer back!

When it comes to the role of the social web in a relationship between customers and suppliers, there are multiple stages they go through. Those stages are the general conversation, the development phase, the orientation and selection phase, the transaction itself and the after sale phase(Peelen, E., & Beltman, R.,2013).

Firstly, one important phase is the initial phase which is the general conversation. This phase belongs to the social media arena as most of the conversation is made on online-platforms.  In a world where social media is very present people communicate with each other, more precisely customers to customers conversation is done about different services. On different platforms customers make their own opinions about different things. When we take hostels as example, in this sector too customers have conversations about their travels and stay at multiple hostels. It might seem as if the supplier can’t do anything about the opinion that is made between customers, but this isn’t true. If the suppliers find the platforms that is used to talk about their hostel , they are able to engage and influence the conversation about their service(Peelen, E., & Beltman, R.,2013). The purpose of this engagement is to be able to control in a way the complains that could be made about their service and be able to respond back.

Furthermore, this act of being involved into the conversation between customers, especially by influencing their opinion, is called online reputation management. It basically consist of observing the opinions of previous and future guests. Guest will often post reviews and other guest will answer back and so on, but those reviews will for sure influence future guest to stay or not to stay at a certain hostel. This is why as a business answering those reviews and engage in the conversation is the best solution to keep a great reputation(“Online reputation management – make the most of your reviews”, 2017). The mad monkey hostels is a great example of this as they are answering back to the reviews even to the worst reviews in the most convincing way(“The best responses to our worst reviews on Tripadvisor – The Mad Monkey”, 2017).

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To conclude, it is clear that customers are influenced by other customers when it comes to making a decision. However, it can also be an advantage for businesses as they are able to interact with their customers and to even change their mind on the negative aspects they might have found about the business itself. They are able to keep their online reputation positive and satisfying for past or future customers.

Sources:

Online reputation management – make the most of your reviews. (2017). Customer Alliance. Retrieved 4 October 2017, from http://www.customer-alliance.com/en/articles/online-reputation-management-getting-the-most-out-of-your-reviews/

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer relationship management (p. 206). Harlow: Pearson Education.

The best responses to our worst reviews on Tripadvisor – The Mad Monkey. (2017). Mad Monkey Hostels. Retrieved 6 October 2017, from http://www.madmonkeyhostels.com/h2o_blog/best-responses-worst-reviews-tripadvisor/

Social media is a ‘’must’’ to communicate and to analyse behaviours of costumers in the tour operator industry.

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Social media is an important channel that can provide consumers with access to organisations and can significantly affect the revenues and cost structure of an organisation (Ed Peelen, 2013). Social media is all about connecting with people. Consumers and businesses use this to communicate and exchange information. Moreover, business can benefit from this by gaining customer insight, which is a very valuable asset when making decisions: What do customers desire? What are their ‘natural preferences’ or ‘instinctive behaviours’? What can be improved in the current system? (Ed Peelen, 2013)

Social media platforms Informs, advises, supports and builds relationship with existing costumers and potential costumer, which finally can result in selling by gaining mutual understanding. Social media platforms are places where interested people can meet and share comments, thoughts and opinions (Ed Peelen, 2013). For example, Facebook allows people to share their content, ideas, videos, status, mood or whatever they want to share with the click of a button (Facebook, n.d).

The advantage of social media is that marketers don’t have to push their messages owing to the fact that customers choose to allow this by following their social media pages (Timoteo, 2017). Consumers are able choose their social media platform and follow businesses of interest. Increasing numbers of followers results in a passionate social media community, which can approve the products and services of a business trough their network of reference but also by commenting on the social media page of their business of interest (Sadana, 2017). However, not everybody will be positive about the organisation’s performance, and new manners must be found to deal with this, because the experiences are being shown in an open setting (Ed Peelen, 2013). In order to get attention, content and is taking a central role: Businesses have to communicate with their costumers as well by providing them with interesting updates (Ed Peelen, 2013).

By closely monitoring activities of consumers on owned social media pages, businesses are able to analyse behaviours of costumers. Bot positive and negative feedback can be a motive for businesses to innovate their services to gain competitive advantage. Feedback shows a business how it could improve relationships, supports product launches, increases market share, revenues and profitability and changes brand attitudes (Ed Peelen, 2013).

A great example of a tour operator who uses social media to communicate with their costumers and see it as an opportunity to analyse consumer behaviour is ‘’TUI’’. TUI has a Facebook community of 3.5 million followers and daily posting information about its organisation, which are of interest to their followers. Followers on their Facebook page are liking, sharing and tagging their network references on various posts of TUI. This contributes to that messages of TUI is being easily spread to existing costumers and potential costumers, which results in relationship building by being on top-off-mind-awareness. TUI’s Facebook page, also allows costumers to chat directly with their employees for bottlenecks and feedback. This offers TUI the possibility to analyse the behaviour and various opinions of costumers to innovate their services or to create certain marketing strategies (Hulshof, 2013).

To conclude, social media is a crucial channel for tour operators to communicate with costumers and to analyse their behaviour. This contributes to relationship building with both existing costumers and potential costumers and also assists tour operators to innovate their products and services. This all will contribute to gaining competitive advantage in the tour operator industry.

 

Bibliography

Ed Peelen, R. B. (2013). Customer Relationship Management . Bournemouth: Pearson.

Facebook. (n.d). Sharing on the Web. Opgeroepen op October 2, 2017, van Facebook: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/sharing/web/

Hulshof, A. (2013, February 20). TUI Nederland: van zenden naar interactief reismerk. Opgeroepen op October 7, 2017, van Marketingfacts: https://www.marketingfacts.nl/berichten/tui-nederland-van-zenden-naar-interactief-reismerk

Sadana, S. (2017, July 24). Louisem. Opgeroepen op October 6, 2017, van Why Social Media Marketing Is A Must For Business: https://louisem.com/205538/why-social-media-marketing

Timoteo, J. (2017, January 16). How to Build a Social Media Following in 2017. Opgeroepen op October 5, 2017, van Impact: https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/grow-social-media-following

 

 

 

Enticing Hostel Customers through Social Media

In my previous blog, ‘How to understand hostel customers by analyzing their Social Media behaviour’, I mentioned that there are several ways in which a hostel owner can take advantage of the correlation between Social Media-users and their target group. However, I only discussed the understanding of their customers. In this blog, the focus will lie on the active use of social media by hostels, with the intention of peeking the interest of your customers.

HONEYCOMB-MODEL1

Figure 1. The Honeycomb of Social Media

The Honeycomb Framework (Kietzman et al., 2011) discusses seven building blocks, namely ‘identity’, ‘conversations’, ‘sharing’, ‘presence’, ‘relationships’, ‘reputation’ and ‘groups’. All these blocks have a different social media function. You can read more about this in my colleague’s blog ‘The right channel combination for hostels on social media’ (van Gerwen, 2017). Herein, she also argues that, to create more engaged customers, a hostel should use a channel combination of Google +, Facebook and perhaps Instagram and Twitter. I will be using the hostel chain of YHA New Zealand as an example, because they are active on all of these social media channels.

So after you have analyzed your target group’s social media behaviour, and created the proper channels to reach them through, it’s time to start thinking about your content. When you’ve done your homework, you should have a good insight in what your (potential) customers like and dislike. It is important to make your content interesting and helpful, and not just about your business (Lonoff Schiff, 2016).

blog4 yhaThe picture above is from the YHA New Zealand Facebook-page.  The text reads: “From where we’d rather be today: trekking to Mt Doom followed by a soak in YHA Ohakune’s spa pool…”. As you can see, they made a post in which they feature a major attraction in New Zealand, while also promoting their accommodation. With the picture they used focusing on the destination rather than the hostel, people will be more inclined to pay attention to it. This is also the strategy they use for their Instagram page, all the pictures they post are of a destination. In their comment they will discuss the destination and somehow incorporate the name of a YHA hostel close to that destination.

In conclusion, if you want to get the most out of customers by using social media, it is important that you research your target group well. Additionally, you have to choose the right channels to reach your target group, the Honeycomb Framework can help with this. Lastly, you should put a lot of focus on the content of your posts, it needs to engage your customers and peek their interest. If you put effort into all this, you can definitely entice your customers into staying with you on their next trip!

 

Bibliography:

van Gerwen, M. (2017, October 9). The right channel combination for hostels on social media. Retrieved on 10 October 2017 from https://customerengagementmanagementintourism.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/the-right-channel-combination-for-hostels-on-social-media/

Kietzmann, J. H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I. P., & Silvestre, B. S. (2011). Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business horizons54(3), 241-251

Lonoff Schiff, J. (2016, May 25). 13 ways your business can attract more social media followers. Retrieved on 10 October 2017 from https://www.cio.com/article/3074863/social-networking/13-ways-your-business-can-attract-more-social-media-followers.html

Figure 1 retrieved from https://smbp.uwaterloo.ca/2013/10/honeycomb-and-social-crm/

Picture: https://www.facebook.com/YHANewZealand/