Transforming raw data into meaningful actions.
By Mike Flaskey
In an industry where customer service is at the forefront of all business activities, the hospitality sector is flush with meaningful data. New analytical tools have slowly helped leaders better understand the data and discover what their members, owners or guests want.
However, transforming those wants into actionable programs, and then using the data to predict what consumers will want next (before they know it themselves) is where many challenges arise.
Using the Right Data to Realize Better Outcomes
Recognizing data analysis can lead to many different rabbit holes — from where to gather it to which parts to review. It’s helpful to implement certain parameters as a guide during assessment. For example, consider boiling it down to the simplest of terms: how does this information benefit the company (short- and long-term), and how will it enhance our key stakeholders’ experience?
Oftentimes it will become evident that there are three key elements vacationers seek — and expect — during their stay: simplicity, experiences and personalization. But the questions remain, “How do you find this data?” and then “What do you do with it?”
Keeping It Simple
The expectations of guests are changing and it’s up to our teams to respond quickly to these ever-evolving, specific needs. The vacationer of tomorrow is a mobile traveler, which means many of our members, owners and guests want access to services and experiences at their fingertips. Gone are the days when guests would need to trek to the lobby to sign up for an excursion, let alone make a phone call.
At Diamond Resorts, we’re testing several online concierge services that allow members, owners and guests to book experiences online, before they arrive or without having to walk to reception. We’re also experimenting with various SMS capabilities and looking at how to best use them to communicate with our guests. We will then eventually be able to use data to compare how many people made live or in-person requests versus online or app-driven requests to help refocus our strategy moving forward.
Building the Right Experience
As with many businesses, the hospitality industry is not immune to the power of “social proofing.” From a travel perspective, a brand’s response and utilization of this knowledge will be a defining characteristic in 2018 and beyond. One such data set to hone in on is customer reviews, as they are tightly tied to an organization’s web presence and booking experiences.
In such a competitive environment, there are sites dedicated to managing reviews, complaints and other sentiments that members have after they stay or interact with staff. According to a recent survey, only 22 percent of respondents say they never use review sites for hotels and other accommodations, which means 78 percent do. That’s an incredible number and organizations would be wise to value this information as highly as reviewers and prospective visitors do.
To ensure a 360-degree due diligence approach, companies should monitor these third-party sites for insight into what’s working and what needs improvement. It’s critical to track this information, as a company’s success (or failure) can rest on how it processes and reacts to members’ likes and dislikes, as well as focusing in on areas where it can offer better service. For example, if we roll out a new event or activity at several of our resorts, we can use reviews to determine in which locations it performed best and where it may need to be reconsidered because it doesn’t fit the geographical desires.
Owned platforms, of course, also yield volumes of data — and social media has been a way for the industry to pilot new ideas and gauge customer response in real time. Social media is a powerful tool and sharing has become engrained in our society. Organizations can use social analytics to see how their followers engage with different content and then use that intel to transform their social strategies and push out relevant content. Social media has also become a natural way to add external voices to a brand’s conversation. Utilizing brand ambassadors and influencers, or repurposing user generated content can further enhance a brand’s credibility, and extend awareness beyond that organization’s social following.
Incorporating a Personal Touch
Going from the macro to the micro, data can also be leveraged to personalize each guest’s experience. Whereas online customer review forums can be analyzed to identify patterns and affect overarching or broad strategy, 1:1 data analysis can help build customer loyalty. If you request feedback via an email survey following a visitor’s stay about the chocolates left in their accommodation and you receive a response that the guest is lactose intolerant, consider replacing it with a non-dairy treat next time.
If you know a guest’s favorite part about walking into the hotel room on their first day of vacation is seeing a handwritten note from management welcoming them to the resort, take notice. At Diamond Resorts, our dedicated resort teams try to take note of each return member’s preferences and strive to deliver those personal touches. Even the smallest details can make a difference for member retention.
Data can also inform, or predict, which road to take next. When attracting potential new members, predictive analytics can leverage existing data to ascertain what makes a successful conversion and where issues may crop up. Creating a “mock-user” set allows organizations to target these prospects with a customized package that fits their own unique lifestyle. Furthermore, with current members, this data can indicate which individuals may respond better to a phone call, while an email notice will suffice for others.
Data collection is only as good as the action it spurs. As we continue to incorporate data analysis into our marketing strategies for member reach, and compete alongside other travel services that have recently emerged into the mix, we are always first and foremost committed to keeping our members happy with their experience when they choose to vacation with us. The combination of traditional customer service and analyzing higher level data is the perfect marriage to meet these goals.
Mike Flaskey, CEO of Diamond Resorts, has more than 20 years of senior leadership experience in public and privately held companies, with a key focus on growth-oriented companies within the vacation ownership industry. He previously held the position of executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer for Diamond Resorts from 2014 to 2016, and executive vice president of sales and marketing, North America for Diamond Resorts from 2010 to 2014. Throughout Flaskey’s tenure at Diamond Resorts, the company has achieved unprecedented growth both organically and through strategic acquisition integration.