Hotels can use data and a bit of TLC to make a differenceNews / Technology | OnlineBy Viewpoints | July 22, 2016Share This article was originally published on Many hotels are challenged to meet short-term targets whilst having to formulate strategic priorities in a highly competitive business environment.How is it best to deal with this dilemma?NB: This is an analysis by Anna de Visser-Amundson (senior lecturer and research fellow at Hotelschool The Hague) and Thomas Landen (head of marketing in EMEA at Revinate).By starting from a customer perspective, you can truly understand what really matters to your guests.For example, adding 55-inch smart TVs in the guest rooms is nice but what difference does it make to the overall guest experience?And how relevant is such an investment in a market where travelers bring their own devices and content?A customer-centric hotel would first get the basics correct. For example, can your guests easily charge their devices in the room?When you consider this, how valuable is that 55-inch smart TV as you crawl on the floor to find an electric outlet? It happens more often than we would like to think.A hotel’s ability to become truly customer centric will make the difference in today’s market. Freely available segmentation reports and rigorous customer data collection can provide for deeper customer insights.Knowledge beyond the easily accessible guest booking data and knowing if your guests are part of a conference, or are traveling for leisure or business, is vital to uncover latent needs and to fully understand your guests’ experiences throughout the phases of the customer journey.Starting offTheir journey begins with the search and booking phase.Considering that more than 65% of all travelers do not know where they are going when they start searching, this phase presents a huge opportunity for hotels.Knowing also that 77% of travelers use their smartphone to seek travel inspiration makes a mobile friendly site a top priority.Hotels can try to lure travelers by looking outside the hotel industry.For example, the Swedish tourism board launched an app that allows anyone from abroad to call a free telephone number and randomly get a local Swedish person on the phone.Icelandair offer travelers the opportunity to book one of their air stewards(esses) as a local guide to show travelers the local and hidden "gems" around Iceland.In times when local and authentic experiences are key elements for many travelers, these are just a few suggestions for hotels to consider.They may even offset threats from peer-to-peer rentals like Airbnb; often perceived to be more social and local.In-situThe next "stay" or consumption phase is the moment a first-time guest turns into a loyal guest and a loyal guest into an ambassador.Customers who have had good past experiences, spend 140% more compared to those who’ve had poor experiences.As per our earlier example, hotels can help localize the guest experience by providing them with suggestions for experiences through local peer- to-peer "sharing" companies.For example, proposing to your guests to use something like Eatwith to reserve a seat for dinner at someone’s house. Can it get more local and social than that?Small touches in the hotel can also make a big impact. Offering a guest the opportunity to eat breakfast at 11pm or borrowing the hotel’s goldfish to keep you company in the room, are other small, quirky and yet powerful ways to put a smile on a guest face.Moving towards the end of the customer journey, the post "stay" phase, travelers are in fact at their lowest point emotionally.According to the "peak-and-end" rule by Daniel Kahneman and recent research at Hotelschool The Hague, shows that peaks, but in particular the end of the guest's experience, have a significant influence on their overall evaluation of their stay.To this point, at one hotel the last question was not the normal "would you like your bill in an envelope?" but a farewell with a goody-bag filled with homemade cookies and a bottle of water for the road.What a great way to leave a strong lasting impression on your guests!In short, it is by gathering information and putting the guests center stage that will allow you to see that small changes can make a big difference.NB: This is an analysis by Anna de Visser-Amundson (senior lecturer and research fellow at Hotelschool The Hague) and Thomas Landen (head of marketing in EMEA at Revinate).NB2:For the full paper please click here.NB3: Infinity pool hotels image via BigStock.