More than ever before, customers across industries expect to be heard and greeted with a personally tailored customer experience (CX) across their entire journey with a company. From a CX perspective, each encounter—whether online or in person—is an individualized exchange and an opportunity for a company to gather customer feedback. That feedback is found across feedback sites online, but it exists as “unstructured data”—data that holds valuable information but is difficult to dissect. Through AI text analysis, though, every comment can be leveraged into a personalized customer experience strategy.
In the hospitality industry, as Deloitte’s 2019 US Travel and Hospitality Outlook report outlines, customer experience across almost all departments and systems faces several challenges: rising operating costs are forcing companies to look for areas where they can become more efficient; risks to a company’s reputation are high, especially in times of crisis management; and an increase in competition has lead to a decrease in loyalty. Each of these challenges requires improved planning and practices—and the tools to get out ahead. A CX strategy that incorporates text analytics lets companies recognize previously unknown data-gathering opportunities and transform their guests’ comments and insights into loyalty-building experiences with their brand.
Making CX personal in hospitality
As hospitality organizations rush to personalize services and products, they may lose sight of either the big picture or one of the thousands of individuals who constitute it. But it’s important for them to understand that the connection between customer experience and brand loyalty depends more than ever on what guests are saying about them. In this time of online feedback and data analysis, making the most of that connection depends on data.
Deloitte’s “Next-gen hotel guests have checked in: The changing guest experience” reports that guests with a higher loyalty status indicated they were 75 percent satisfied with the company, while guests with a lower loyalty status were only 61 percent satisfied. The report goes on to highlight five areas that link loyalty with CX: engaging with guests, empowering them, delighting them, listening to them and really getting to know them. And while the report states that 80 percent of all guests who responded to Deloitte’s research survey were satisfied with the friendliness and attentiveness of the service they received, only 60 percent and 65 percent of them, respectively, were satisfied with the proactive communication and personalization of the experiences. That represents a huge value-tied opportunity for hospitality industry decisions-makers.
NPS is not enough
The unstructured data found in online reviews and social media sites is rife with emotional feedback: it’s where customers tell their stories and reveal their true feelings about products and services.
The net promoter score (NPS) is a popular metric of customer loyalty and satisfaction. When the NPS is integrated into a CX strategy, CX begins to become more personalized, and when it’s employed alongside other customer feedback, the ability to personalize the services increases. The more feedback received, the more accurate a company’s CX strategy can become and the more it can be adjusted to changes in consumer trends. Embedding both NPS and AI text analysis into CX strategy lets companies connect with guests on an experiential and emotional level. The unstructured data found in online reviews and social media sites is rife with emotional feedback: it’s where customers tell their stories and reveal their true feelings about products and services.
Take data out of organizational silos
The 2019 US Travel and Hospitality Outlook report recognizes that for hotels to drive capability around personalization, “ecosystem integration should be a priority,” including back-end connectivity. Data is gathered every day in almost every hotel and travel and tourism company, from the customer relations to property management departments. Rather than siloing customer information in separate databases, which presents a challenge, text analytics tools centralize relevant information by automating data collection, analysis and implementation.
Feedback analysis can be integrated with on-site data gathered by property management systems, customer relationship management, loyalty programs and other systems, making personalization opportunities easier to spot. Data analysis also connects the voice of the customer to decision-makers such as customer experience officers and guest experience officers. When guests’ preferences can be pinpointed, companies can reach out with complimentary offers both during their stay and in the digital realm through data-driven, profit-generating intervention programs. As a result, the customer feedback loop begins to close: when companies know what a variety of guests are saying, they can take action in relevant areas and promote those changes back to their guests.
One hotel’s CX transformation
Most organizations operate at or below the level of meeting customer expectations, meaning that customers felt negative functional satisfaction and would possibly never repurchase, which has an impact on brand and business performance.
With the potential for posts on social media and online feedback sites to go viral, one customer’s bad customer experience really can make a difference to a brand’s image. The recent report Wow the hospitality customers: Transforming innovation into performance through design thinking and human performance technology follows the Mira Hong Kong hotel’s journey reviewing guest feedback in several departments and widening the scope of their CX strategy in an effort to not only meet guests’ expectations but exceed them. The report points out that most organizations operate at or below the level of meeting customer expectations, meaning that customers felt negative functional satisfaction and would possibly never repurchase, which has an impact on brand and business performance.
The Mira Hong Kong hotel case study applies human-centered design thinking to CX, illustrating how exceptional customer experience is created by “injecting purpose and empathy into everything the hotel business does.” Their design thinking process of innovation followed an “ideate + prototype + test” cycle, with the test phase yielding unexpected insights from feedback, including guests’ responses to everything from check-in desk experiences to treatments at the hotel spa.
In searching for solutions that would appeal to the majority of guests, the hotel realized they had to look at a true diversity of individual perspectives, from age to income, including the extremes of the spectrum. Everyone’s experience mattered. No one’s feedback could be left out, but rather than look at all of it individually, the feedback could be analyzed together, allowing for workable conclusions to be drawn. The hotel’s experiments in personalizing CX resulted in heightened efficiency across departments and increases in both guest loyalty and revenue.
Insights through text analysis
If we expand the Mira Hong Kong hotel’s experiments to include past and future guests, people who are searching for a hotel online, and customers who have made comments on dozens of major and minor online feedback sites, enough data can be gained to provide a company with understanding and insight. AI text analysis of customer feedback identifies valuable data without losing sight of individual customers’ experiences, feelings towards a company or level of brand loyalty.
The “Next-gen hotel guests have checked in” article reports that “engaging guests meaningfully and creating lasting, positive impressions is the path to obtaining and retaining guest loyalty and advocacy.” These complex insights can drive action, letting companies tailor recommendations for guests, notify them about events happening during their travels and generally make their experience more satisfying, special and memorable. AI-aggregated data and analysis lets companies identify customers by multiple and overlapping segments, communicate with them through customized messages and offer relevant upgrades and services that suit them.