Skift Take

The use of technology in hospitality must go beyond improving consumer-facing products and digital experiences. Its true potential will be realized when hotel staff are empowered with the right insights at the right time so that they can transform guest experiences.

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Customers across all generations demand experiences that are connected and personalized. According to Salesforce’s Trends in Customer Trust report, over 60 percent of all consumers say that connected processes (such as seamless handoffs between departments) are extremely important to them for engaging with a business. Among millennial consumers, this becomes even more prominent with 75 percent saying that seamless experiences are very important.

However, as travelers’ interactions with brands become more omni-channel, connecting experiences across all touchpoints is becoming increasingly challenging. A hotel guest might research a property on a search engine, book a stay through a travel advisor, confirm the reservation via a phone call, check in using the hotel’s mobile app, and book on-site experiences with the concierge. At each touchpoint, the guest is conversing with a different person from a different department, sometimes even at different organizations.

One of the ways in which hotel brands can provide seamless experiences across multiple touchpoints is by ensuring that employees are empowered with the right guest management solutions that leverage a combination of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), deep analytics, and customer relationship management software integrations. As more customers want to interact with a real person — more than eight out of 10 U.S. consumers according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers — these guest solutions can improve the staff’s ability to provide personalized, meaningful, and human experiences to their customers.

“In today’s digital-first era, experiences with a human touch differentiate good experiences from great experiences,” said Jacqueline Nunley, head of hospitality at Salesforce. “Empowering employees with a sense of ownership to do their best work delivers great guest experiences and drives positive business results. Salesforce’s solutions for hospitality brands provide employees with a single point of access to guest profiles with information on pain points, missed opportunities, transaction histories, and other data that helps hotel staff personalize every interaction.”

How Salesforce helped Marriott provide a seamless guest experience

Marriott Hotels & Resorts uses solutions powered by Salesforce to ensure that every Marriott associate at any level can respond directly to the needs of a hotel guest. “We want to make sure that people feel the human aspect of our business. We started as a root beer stand in 1927, and now we are the world’s largest hospitality company with close to 7,000 hotels and 30 brands. But always core was this idea of hospitality and taking care of our people so they can take care of our guests,” said Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott’s global chief commercial officer.

As hospitality brands grow and expand, they are faced with the challenge of making sure that scaling up doesn’t compromise the personal customer experience and the human touch being offered. One of the ways in which Salesforce helped Marriott facilitate this was through one of their products, the Service Cloud, which provides every customer service agent with a 360-degree view of each guest.

Teresa Phoenix, a Marriott associate who works as a trainer, back-up staffer, and reservation agent, noted that having guests’ historic information and preferences as part of the 360-degree view helped establish familiarity as she addressed the guest’s concerns. “In the end they say ‘Wow, thank you so much. I really appreciate that customer service you gave me.’ I’m smiling, and I know that they’re smiling, too. It’s a win-win on both ends,” she said. This holistic view of the customer enables hotel staff to veer off scripted questions and answers and connect with hotel guests in a meaningful way that goes beyond the transaction.

“Marriott is a really, really big operation, but we serve every guest, one customer interaction at a time. [By] partnering with Salesforce, we’re building a platform that enables us to go fast, but do it in a way that’s elegant and still warm and human at the same time,” said Brian King, Marriott’s global officer – digital distribution, revenue management, and global sales.

How hotel brands can prioritize guests preferences and provide transparency

Being able to communicate with customers using their preferred channel is also becoming increasingly important. Two-thirds of consumers in Salesforce’s survey said that they prefer to communicate through email, text, or chat. Another consumer survey conducted by Trustyou, a platform that collects guest feedback, looked at what hotel guests expect with regards to direct hotel communication. The study found that interactions through text messages resulted in highest consumer satisfaction levels.

One of the ways in which Salesforce is enabling the above is by making sure that employees are able to connect with hotel guests via their preferred communication channels. “For example, integrating Apple Business Chat into the customer relationship management platform allows reservation agents, front desk employees, and support staff to provide relevant, real-time support to hotel guests,” without losing context, the human touch, or personalization,” said Nunley.

The Salesforce report found that 78 percent of customers are willing to trust companies with their personal information if they use that information to fully personalize their experience. At the same time, 91 percent are more likely to trust companies that are transparent about how they use customer data. Salesforce allows hospitality brands to provide customers with that transparency by creating and using dynamic profiles in a way that informs guests of exactly how their information is being used.

These dynamic profiles are constantly being enhanced as hotels learn more about their customers’ needs, which enable them to not only offer personalized recommendations, but also contextualize service recovery efforts. Additionally, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence solutions are able to match consumer profiles to those of like-minded travelers and provide the most relevant, next-best action to appease guests who may have been inconvenienced.

“If a hotel guest is unhappy, Salesforce solutions equip employees with relevant information, including insights into guests’ behavioral history. For example, if a particular guest has visited the spa during every hotel stay, built-in AI capabilities will recommend a complimentary spa service for this guest. A relevant offer like this will have a much better impact on the guest experience than something that the hotel guest will not use,” said Farhan Mohammad, global head of travel and hospitality at Salesforce.

Salesforce’s study also found that 84 percent of customers said that “being treated like a person, not a number,” is very important to winning their business. “Hospitality brands are not only competing on the quality of the product or service delivered, but on how they make their guests feel,” Nunley said.

“Today’s data management tools need to integrate information from multiple sources, clean it up, serve predictions, offer recommendations, and provide transparency. This is what enables hotels to engage their guests and employees effectively, collaborate with each other, and act on insights gathered,” said Mohammad. “Hotels need to leverage data to offer excellent customer service. Therefore, using technology platforms that facilitate faster decision-making, transform raw data into actionable insights, and provide a better understanding of a traveler’s needs and wants are essential to success.”

This content was created collaboratively by Salesforce and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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Tags: artificial intelligence, cloud technology, hospitality, personalization, personalized travel, salesforce, travel technology

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