Hotel CRM Software: How to Know What to Look For in 2023
By Hotel Tech Report
Last updated November 29, 2022
7 min read
Customer relationship management software is a powerful ally for hotels. It’s the fuel for successful hotel marketing, helping hotels achieve profitable operations through more targeted marketing and deeper relationships with guests, groups, and corporate clients.
Ideally, a hotel CRM is a single source of truth for guest information. Related systems within the tech stack should benefit from this rich source of information, and the CRM should benefit from information about a guest learned through other systems. For example, if the guest prefers a room close to an elevator, The best practice is to have this information logged both in the PMS and the CRM. That way, the guest's preferences inform how the hotel engages with the guest both at the front desk and in-between stays.
Gartner concluded that spending on CRM technology had pushed it to the largest spending category in enterprise software. This growth highlights how the need to nurture client relationships over time has become a critical challenge for all businesses.
Before you go out and invest heavily in a new CRM for your hotel, let’s explore what makes a good CRM, and then define the two categories of CRM to see how each fit into your hotel’s workflow.
What is a CRM?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management (software). Companies of all kinds use CRM systems to initiate, track, manage and grow relationships with clients from first introduction and throughout the entire customer lifecycle. CRM systems enable various stakeholders within a firm to "zoom in" and analyze the client relationship without needing to have been personally involved each step of the way. CRM systems contain a client history associated with each profile often tracking deal size, product interest and other relevant characteristics to more effectively close deals and deliver high quality service to existing clients. CRM systems typically facilitate 1-1 interactions between providers and clients. CRM is not a hotel specific term or solution and serves almost every industry globally. Regardless of industry, a CRM tool should allow you to store client information, identify sales opportunities, record service issues and manage marketing campaigns all in one central location. Many CRM systems integrate email, text messaging and other forms of communications. There is a growing trend in the CRM space around automation and personalization that is making this system more important than ever.
B2B CRM vs. B2C CRM: What's the Difference?
As we previously mentioned, CRM stands for "customer relationship management". The hospitality industry is unique in that it has two separate customers and thus needs two separate types of CRM systems with varying functionalities and capabilities.
According to Salesforce, the world's largest CRM company:
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a technology for managing all your company's relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers. The goal is simple: Improve business relationships.
Answering this question effectively is tough within the hotel industry because each hotel has unique needs for managing its customer relationships. Adding to this dilemma, hotels have multiple stakeholders that each require different CRM functionality. Specifically, hotel sales teams are working to secure new group business while marketing teams are focused on bringing in new leisure travellers. A group sales CRM is ultimately about 1-1 relationship management while a marketing CRM must be super effective at segmentation and profiling. In other words hotel sales CRMs need to be good at customization within 1-1 conversations and hotel marketer CRMs need to make massive datasets precise and actionable.
Before we dive into the different types of CRM systems for hotels, a good CRM must always be:
Easy to integrate. If you're not lucky enough to be planning a comprehensive tech stack in the pre-opening phase, you must consider integrations first. You need a CRM that is easy to integrate with existing systems -- especially your property management system.
Multi-channel. Modern communications are complex; your CRM should reflect this by supporting the variety of ways you communicate with your guests. A good CRM records interactions across email, in-person, text, and online.
Automated. Automations make your life easier. A CRM that removes rote
Within budget. It's easy to get distracted by the bells and whistles during the vendor vetting process. Paying for a bunch of things you're never going to use is not wise. Select a CRM that fits within your existing budget -- and that can grow with you (see next point).
Flexible. When you choose the software that manages your customer relationships, you need to know that it's flexible to accommodate future needs.
Secure. Most CRMs are cloud-based. This is great for speed and flexibility but can leave sensitive information vulnerable in the wrong hands.
Mobile. Finally, a good CRM is equally useful in the office and on the go. The mobile experience shouldn’t sacrifice quality or functionality.
Now that we've defined some of the important characteristics of CRM for hotels, let's explore the differences between CRM approaches.
Revinate makes rich guest data easily accessible to hotel marketers for segmented campaigns that drive revenue
Hotel Marketing CRM: Business to Consumer (B2C)
This type of customer relationship management software focuses on relationships with individual guests. This information can be used to personalize a guest’s experience while on property, as well as provide more targeted marketing in-between stays to increase future direct bookings. For example, a guest’s profile could personalize their room settings upon arrival, or your CRM could automatically send out a birthday greeting and gift each year.
Today’s CRMs attach communications from across all channels to one user profile, building a detailed view of the guest for sales, marketing, and even operations. With a CRM in place, a guest can switch communications channels without losing the history of past interactions which generally increases guest satisfaction and retention.
This multi-channel fluidity is a critical skill in today’s customer service environment. Fluidity also extends to CRM-driven marketing automation. Complex drip sequences should be feasible with a well-segmented B2C hospitality CRM, which improves conversion rates and drives more revenue for the hotel.
Another benefit for CRM is tying it to reputation management to understand how guests perceive your hotel on social media and on popular review platforms. Many CRMs connect an email with social profiles and integrate with dedicated reputation management tools, making this process seamless.
Robust tracking of interactions to see when, where, and how a guest engages with the brand
Integration with 3rd party hotel software systems (e.g. reputation management, PMS, RMS)
Multiple user accounts
Segmentation to allow grouping of similar profiles for targeted promotions
Loyalty program integrations
Email marketing and marketing automation functionality with automated follow-ups and upsell capabilities
Sales CRM: Business to Business (B2B)
Group (or B2B) CRM focuses on the relationships with brands that bring group and corporate business to a hotel. These type of relationships are high-value and complex, requiring CRM software with enhanced functionality.
When managing groups, events, and corporate accounts, hotels may be operating on multiple fronts. Whether its a sales team with multiple people, or a company with several decision makers, there’s a complexity with B2B sales that requires accuracy and transparency. The B2B CRM keeps tabs on these moving parts, and provides a comprehensive higher-level overview to keep everyone on the same page. It really is all about improving collaboration and increasing wins.
Desirable features: lead capture, prioritization and scoring; integrated RFP management to track progress (or integration with an RFP management tool); call tracking; sales pipeline overview; task and appointment automation; robust reporting, including profitability of specific proposals; automated calendar sync; ability to manage channel complexity as far as inbound business. Some larger chains may require their B2B CRM to be custom built by a software development company on a platform like Salesforce but for most hotels and hotel groups the following apps are going to provide better value and similar functionality.
What to Look For in Hotel CRM Software
1. Marketing Information: Capturing your hotel guest's information into the database is imperative if you want to analyze and visualize this data for marketing purposes. The data should be captured through the various channels such as social media and the company's website. Also keep in mind that customers may be using their mobile devices, laptops or iPads to connect with your hotel. Your dashboard data captured through inquiries, requests and reservations can be reviewed to analyze behavioral patterns of your guests to help with short and long-term forecasting. Guest feedback captured through surveys can be analyzed to review praises and complaints so you know what your strengths and weaknesses are. This information is valuable when budgeting to address these concerns. For example, if complaints were related to hot rooms, you know you need to budget for upgrades in the air conditioning system.
2. Marketing Automation Tactics: One of the most fantastic ways to leverage Hotel CRM software is for automating marketing email campaigns against the database. Emails can be personalized using the database information to help nurture relationships. Staying in contact between stays with email campaigns can spark return visits and encourage positive online user feedback on social media. If your hotel is based on local seasonal activities, it's easy to automate seasonal campaigns by publicizing yearly events and targeting local and international guests.
3. Customer Experience: Elevating customer experience can be achieved by sending out personalized automated confirmation emails when a booking has occurred. Information from the CRM system can be used to recommend nearby attractions or adding a personal touch to the room based on the customer's captured profile. For example, the customer may have booked the spa in previous visits or required specific room accommodations. This information can prove valuable to enhance customer experience, thereby encouraging repeat visits.
4. Operations Management: With operations management being a large percentage of hotel expenditures, it's necessary for hotel management software to help staff be proactive in cutting these expenses, especially labor costs. Operations management software can be integrated with a CRM package to help by automating room cleaning schedules, linking work orders to rooms and the time spent on them. The history of an asset or room can be tracked to help with analyzing trends of property issues and their related costs.
5. Centralized Profile Database: Historical or conversational data relating to customer information is captured into a centralized database to allow sales reps and other hotel staff to access them at any time. This valuable data whether related to reservations, social media contacts or client reviews are updated in real time so information is always up to date and relevant. Since the data is created and updated in one place, the risk of duplication and incorrect data is minimized.
At the end of the day, employees who are the most effective at keeping their customers happy will ensuring the success of a hotel. Hotel management software will give them the right tools to ensure this happens.
BONUS: We found this infographic to be helpful in outlining the key differences of B2B versus B2C CRM software.