Friday, February 10, 2006

What Hotels Know About You

Hotels know a lot about you. They may keep track of your pillow preferences, your food choices, and even your favorite sports team - all in the hopes of providing great customer service. Here's a summary of what certain hotels are currently doing to help win you over, as reported recently in The Wall Street Journal.

The Ritz-Carlton has a new database called Mystique that catalogues employee observations about guests for all of the company's 60 hotels. It replaces an old system that couldn't share information as easily between hotels. Since this system relies on hotel staff to notice what guests like and dislike, it allows the company to tailor services without asking guests to fill out any forms.

Marriott's "Rewarding Welcome" system asks guests for their preferences in pillow type, bed type, room location, extra towels, or refrigerator. It now shares the information with eight brands, and 2,600 hotels. Guests fill out a form to participate, so the system is entirely optional.

This year Hilton's guest recognition technology is being expanded to include in-room preferences, such as pillow, blanket, need for a crib or rollaway, and early or late check in. In 2007, the hotel company hopes to roll out RFID-tagged cards for frequent guests to carry so that the hotel can track them around the property. This would allow a bartender to have a guest's favorite drink ready as soon as the guest walks in the bar, for example. The company is also testing a way for its TVs to greet guests with a customized message when turned on.

In April, Hyatt is rolling out an "e-concierge" system so that guests can tell the hotel in advance about their preferences for amenities like golf, spas, and restaurants. Hyatt currently has a centralized guest history system that captures preferences like room type, amenity type, bed type and location near or far from an elevator. It has special codes employees can log into the system for preferences such as a guest who prefers grapefruit peeled and sliced in a certain way.

Starwood (which includes brands like W Hotels, Westin, and Sheraton) doesn't have a tracking system other than its Starwood Preferred Guest Loyalty program. The properties on its more luxurious end, like W, have internal guest-recognition systems, however. If a guest expresses a love for a certain sports team, the welcome desk will always provide that guest with a game schedule and a list of TV channels on which the team is playing. W asks guests if they want information about preferences to remain with one property, or expect it to be honored throughout the chain.

Build a stronger business by paying attention to your customers and showing that they matter when they return.

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