The Power of Personalization

Resourceful data collection lets hoteliers cater to individual guest preferences 

women traveler, check in or paying at front desk. Her receiving a hotel room key from Customer service representative.

According to a 2021 McKinsey & Company report, companies who excel at personalization generate 40 percent more revenue from those activities than companies who are merely average in that key area. The hospitality experience is particularly suited to customization, and hoteliers can certainly benefit from excelling in catering to guests’ individual preferences. In fact, 86 percent of travelers are looking for more personalized interactions, per a 2020 KPMG study. 

Kim Twiggs, associate vice president of market development at DIRECTV, sheds more light on this trend, which has become even stronger following COVID-19. “While travelers are grateful in many cases to just be back on the road again at all post-pandemic, they are returning with finite budgets and finite time off from work to make the most of their time away from home. This means a one-size-fits-all approach to the guest experience isn’t going to work anymore,” she asserts. “Travelers are looking for experiences and locations that cater to their unique desires and needs.” 

Offering such experiences can emotionally connect guests with a hotelier’s brand, which translates into higher lifetime customer value—a 306 percent higher lifetime value in fact, according to a Motista study.

Tech-Assisted Data Collection

Doubling down on data collection is essential to determining guests’ preferences and paving the way to enhanced loyalty. Twiggs provides a telling anecdote: “In a recent meeting with a very successful restauranteur, we learned that her restaurants have created such incredible loyalty and repeat visits by her patrons by leading her teams with an ‘ABCD’ philosophy—Always Be Collecting Data. Her servers are constantly collecting information about their patrons, from their birthdate to the cocktail they always order to their favorite table in the corner of the dining room. Each time they come in, her patrons feel recognized and appreciated for their repeat business, which creates a flywheel of success for her restaurants.”

Thankfully, hoteliers can rely on technology, not just staff, to collect that valuable information. For starters, the booking engine captures basic details about new guests (name, contact information) and the reservation (room, rate, stay dates). For repeat guests, a property management system (PMS) can automatically create a guest profile when a reservation for a new guest is made, a profile that can be refined with information from subsequent stays.

Examples of helpful data include:

  • Room feature preferences, including queen versus king, non-smoking, hypoallergenic pillows, etc. 
  • Late check-out preference
  • Room service dietary requests (e.g., vegetarian, gluten free) 
  • Seating preferences indicated with onsite restaurant reservations
  • Typical alcoholic beverage orders
  • Use of text messages versus phone to make housekeeping requests

In addition to the booking engine and PMS, contactless technologies—which were in high demand when travelers returned to hotels in 2022—provide even more data collection opportunities. “The ability to collect information about a guest through their digital transactions and contactless experiences is a seamless and nondisruptive way for hoteliers to figure out what personalized experiences to deliver to their most frequent and loyal guests,” says Twiggs. One example is the in-room TV, which “supports pandemic-inspired contactless services,” she adds. “Our latest research shows that nine out of 10 guests believe the in-room TV is suited to at least one contactless experience.”

Insights on Entertainment Preferences

The in-room TV is not only a medium for digital transactions, but also an important aspect of the guest experience that should be personalized to reflect the guest’s at-home entertainment experience. “Understanding whether a guest prefers live TV, streaming, or both gives hoteliers the information they need to have the right in-room entertainment available,” says Twiggs. “Our current research shows that 89 percent of guests watch live TV in the hotel room, followed by 77 percent watching premium channels, 73 percent watching streaming TV, and 70 percent watching on-demand content.”

Twiggs cites three best practices for determining a guest’s entertainment preferences: 

  • “Gather information in the guest loyalty profile at the time of booking or when their account is created. Ask the guest in advance of their stay how they want to consume in-room entertainment—watching live TV, through streaming apps, watching on-demand content, or casting their own content to the in-room TV.”
  • “Once an enhanced entertainment solution offering the best of live, on demand, and streaming content is installed, pull data directly from the system itself to reveal what that guest is watching on the in-room TV.”
  • “A feedback survey is a valuable resource for understanding if the guest enjoyed the in-room entertainment options provided during their stay. Ask guests if they found the in-room TV experience easy to navigate and if the content they were searching for was available.”

Putting the Data to Use

The enriched guest profiles that result from resourceful data collection allow hotel operators to anticipate special requests and delight guests with their attention to detail. At the very least, more options can be offered through the reservation confirmation email, through the loyalty program app, or at check-in—allowing the guest to do his or her own customizing. And in some cases, product suppliers enable hoteliers to offer guests a broader range of options.

“There are many ways to enhance personalization for guests, but there are also ways for hoteliers to bring personalization to their own unique brands and properties,” Twiggs points out. “For example, DIRECTV gives hoteliers the option to enable their own customized guest experience with our Advanced Entertainment Platform Partner Program. Through this program, DIRECTV provides the programming content and cloud technology platform to the customer, giving the brand or hotelier control of layering their unique guestroom entertainment experience into our product. This is a great way for brands to differentiate themselves and to make full use of guest entertainment technology.” 

Personalization can be created across many areas of the guest experience. The research demonstrates that any such initiative—provided it is grounded in thorough data collection—will result in higher guest satisfaction, which ultimately supports more significant ROI for the property.

For more on this topic, see DIRECTV’s ebook here.