Posted April 25, 2017
Personalization is no longer a gentle undercurrent for businesses looking to compete in today’s fast-paced marketplace; it’s more like a rip tide threatening to pull those who are too slow to adapt into an undertow.
The good news is that most travel and hospitality companies already have everything they need to come ashore: customer insight in the form of demographic data. With consumers more open to sharing personal information than ever before, the time is right to tailor offerings and services to differing demographic needs.
Creating a better customer experience
Whether booking a cruise online or engaging with a hotel contact center, customers expect a dialogue that’s designed for them and them alone. In a crowded travel market, companies that can harness the power of data and use it to personalize customer interactions stand to gain more business and enhanced customer loyalty, along with the knowledge that their guests are getting a better experience overall.
The issue to note, however, is that the definition of “a better experience” is bound to vary from one customer segment to the next. Not only do consumers travel for different reasons, but they may seek out a hospitality brand based on an entirely different set of requirements and expectations.
For Baby Boomers, genealogical tourism — in which customers plan their travels around locations that have ancestral meaning — is currently a hot trend. Meanwhile, Millennials are seeking adventures that diverge from the typical tourist attractions, instead choosing to immerse themselves in the local culture.
The importance of demographic data
There are countless ways that demographic information can inform how a customer service agent engages with a guest, or how a travel package is sold. Grasping that a Baby Boomer’s requirements for a hotel room aren’t the same as those of a Millennial customer helps companies create the personalized interchange guests are looking for.
When hotels use demographic data to adjust their service strategy, they’re able to differentiate themselves from rival brands and generate interest among their various target audiences. It’s helpful for hospitality companies to know, for example, that 44 percent of Millennials favor booking hotel services from a mobile phone, as reported by The New York Times last year. In its analysis of what Millennials want from the hotels they visit, the Times also found that younger consumers opt for high-tech features. This intelligence is what drove Starwood Hotels-owned Aloft Manhattan to launch a pilot program that supplemented human operators with a text message-based room service menu that allows guests to place their food orders using emojis.
It should be noted, however, that demographics alone don’t always paint the whole picture. According to Carrie Russell, the Vancouver-based managing director of Consulting & Valuation at HVS, “It’s not necessarily the age of the customer but their mindset, since you can get a 50-year-old adventurous traveler who might seek out similar things to a 25-year-old traveler.”
Demographic information is a terrific starting point and can go a long way toward helping you read current and future guests. But as Russell adds, “It’s also about the personality of that person” — making guest surveys and other means of collecting information on past experiences and desired future services a continued benefit to brands.
Leverage social data to customize service
Another way for hospitality brands to harvest customer data and gain deeper insight into the makeup of their target audience it to leverage Facebook’s Audience Insights. Aside from basic demographic information, the tool — which is part of Facebook’s business offering — allows companies to pull data related to specific interests and habits (i.e. yoga, coffee houses, shopping for beauty products, and so on) from their target audience’s Facebook profile pages. The information gleaned from this tool can be used to determine which services and local attractions booking agents choose to emphasize when they speak with customers.
To create memorable experiences and customer interactions, hospitality brands must thoroughly understand their guests. Tailoring services to the differing needs of each demographic is a key attribute of success. As Forrester noted in its 2017 predictions report, consumers “will reward companies that can anticipate their personal needs and wants.” The better travel-industry companies become at linking demographics to customer communication, the happier their guests will be.