How to Create Better Experiences in the Hospitality Industry

Gallivant Africa

There’s no denying that the tourism industry is one of the largest industries in the world. According to Statista, 1.323 million international tourists traveled in 2016 and the total contribution of travel and tourism to the global economy was $8.27 trillion USD. Hospitality is a critical component of why people travel.

If this many people are spending money on travel and tourism, hospitality professionals must provide customers with an excellent guest hospitality experience to keep them coming back and to grow their businesses. Competition is steeper than ever and customers want to be delighted or they will choose another provider.

Hotels and travel companies can do this by using data to create personalized experiences. In this article, we’ll outline how data can be used in the hospitality industry and show examples of how your company can do it right.

The Big Data trend in hospitality

Hospitality companies aren’t short of data – there’s tons of it around and big data has provided an unparalleled view into their customers’ behavior and how it impacts profit/growth. As consumers seek personalization and unique experiences, big data is more important than ever.  The hospitality industry has an enormous opportunity to capitalize on this data they’ve been collecting for years and implement customer experience programs that provide true delight.

In the hospitality industry, traditionally operational data (O-data) has been produced. These are tangible records of tangible activity, and give you insights into how customers function. O-data includes metrics such as:

  • Property name/ID
  • Brand/sub-brand
  • Geographic (e.g., region, country, state/province, city)
  • Property type (e.g., urban, suburban, etc.)
  • Primary market served (e.g., business, leisure, convention, airport, etc.)
  • # rooms in hotel
  • Reservation source (e.g., corporate online site, 3rd party online site, travel agent, hotel direct call, group/meeting/convention, etc.)
  • Length of stay
  • Number of guests/room
  • Number stays at property in past 12 months

While this data has been helpful, it doesn’t give the full picture. O-data tells you what happened but doesn’t tell you why the guest felt a certain way or how to improve their experience. To get the full picture of customer preferences, companies must together their Experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data).

Using X-data in hospitality

While we know O-data is metrics like guest length of stay, check-in date, and reason for stay, X-data is quality of stay, customer effort score, and NPS ratings. X-data is the human factor data — the beliefs, emotions, and sentiments. It’s the human feedback that points to the gaps between what you think is happening and what’s really happening, and it’s necessary for companies to understand in order to delight their customers.

X-data tells you why consumers behave the way they do. For instance, you know families with children under 5 are your most profitable customers, but what’s driving the experience for them? What actions can you take to increase repeat bookings with that group and turn them into advocates by getting them to share their experiences? The next frontier is partnering that with X-data, to close the experience gap.

Examples of bringing X and O-data together

In many instances, understanding the O-data will not provide you with enough information to create better experiences for your customers. Only once it’s combined with the X-data can you create personalization in your marketing and service efforts.

Website experience

Perhaps you’re gathering data and find out that you have an abnormally high abandon rate at the checkout. This data will tell you where the issue lies, but without X-data and surveys you won’t understand why people are abandoning. After surveying customers on your website, you could find out what there’s a glitch on your checkout process for customers using mobile devices, and since more than 25% of consumers book their travel through their mobile devices, this is causing an issue. X and O-data combined give you the full picture and allow you to make the appropriate changes.

Online reviews

Online reviews influence the purchase decisions for 93% of consumers and they should be a vital component to your marketing strategy. However, it’s difficult to get insights from your online reviews. You may be able to get operational data such as age and length of stay, but because they’re open text it can be difficult to extract insights. Those pieces of open text can be very powerful and they’re typically full of great insights, but reading through thousands of pieces of feedback is like reading through a novel and trying to categorize every single sentence. Qualtrics Text IQ uses artificial intelligence to analyze the data and categorize it base customer experience gaps.

Repeat bookings

With O-data, you may understand that 50% of your customers are repeat customers, but you won’t understand why they keep rebooking until you have the X-data. After using surveys to dig deeper, you may find that 80% of the people booking have families, and you offer free breakfast and a pool specifically for kids, and that is why they’re rebooking. Now, you can focus most of your marketing on families with kids and even provide special programming for kids on the property to attract more guests. Without the combination of X and O-data, you wouldn’t know specifically who to market to and what programs to provide to improve retention.

Bringing all your insights together

Once you have all the X and O-data, you’ll need to cross-tabulate it so you can extract the relevant information. The only way to get a holistic view is to pull your X and O-data onto a single platform. Once you do that, you can find connections and make recommendations to your service and marketing departments for improvements.

Qualtrics has customer experience software that’s tailored towards the hospitality industry. Using this software, you can identify critical insights at every touchpoint in the guest journey from booking right through to check-out and identify the areas you need to focus on to drive loyalty and spend. Experts at Qualtrics will even help you assess your current CX strategy and deploy a best-in-class program specific to your business.

And why stop at customer experiences? Qualtrics can help companies in the hospitality industry get all their insights for customer experience, brand experience, product experience, employee experience, and market research all in one place.

Gallivant Africa
Gallivant Africa hosts junior journalists and intern travel writers to share their stories and experiences with our audience. Read their stories and help them grow into leaders of the industry.

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