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As the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic wears off and hotels begin opening their doors again, we’re all collectively starting to realize just how much our businesses must adapt to a new normal.

Short term, we’re opening with skeleton crews and welcoming guests with new social-distancing guidelines. We’re continually calculating labor costs and average daily rates to determine “break even” points.

Now, as hard as it might be, hotel and casino operators must shift their thinking long term and begin preparing for what hospitality will look like post- coronavirus. Those planning to settle right back into the way things were will be in for a rude awakening. Owners and operators focused on leading their markets in recovery are taking this time to rethink their business models and aiming to run leaner operations while dramatically improving the entire guest experience.

What does this new, post-COVID guest experience look like? We know a few things: Hotels and casinos will connect with their guests much more pre-stay, seeking to anticipate their needs before arrival. Guests will be assigned a room, upload their payment info and identification, and will finally be able to bypass the front desk on the way to their rooms. Breakfast buffets are largely gone, full-service restaurants will be scant, housekeeping is optional and guests will communicate with staff on their own preferred devices and channels.

Pre-COVID, hotels and casinos were searching for the holy grail: Tailoring the entire guest experience at every guest touchpoint to meet an individual guest’s needs. Now, the stakes are even higher, and the entire guest journey must move to a digital platform where guest interaction is done with no physical contact.

The good news? The necessary information is there, and operators are finally understanding how to unlock their internal data and put it into action.

A 360-Degree Guest View

Right now, hotels and casinos are collecting a slew of data points about their guests and their transactions, yet many of them are discarding this valuable information without using it to the best of their abilities. Data is traditionally sourced from your central reservations system (CRS), property management system (PMS), point-of-sale systems, and food-and-beverage outlets. Now, operators are gathering data from new guest touchpoints, such as first-party website data, social media data and on-property geo-location data.

Many hotels and casinos store this data in a rudimentary database on an internal server. Others are linking it to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and building basic guest profiles. Most, however, are discarding it without ever truly understanding its value.

Even when guest profiles are built in a CRM system, they’re often incomplete. Guests may have multiple profiles and, without the proper tech integrations, guest information isn’t shared with other important systems in real time. Legacy, on-premise technology means guest data is often duplicated in several different silos within your tech stack.

But with the increasing adoption of cloud technology and open APIs, safely accessing and analyzing guest data is becoming easier than ever. Today, hotels and casinos are best served storing all their guest and transaction data in a centralized location where it can be accessed and analyzed in real time. And with the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, accurate data modeling is no longer a pipe dream.

Today, cloud-based business analytics software can pull disparate data from your own systems without building specific integrations to each of them. This allows operators to capture data across the entire customer lifecycle – from acquisition to retention – and build a centralized “golden record” of each guest, or potential guest, who has interacted with your business in any way. Having a guest’s golden record stored safely in the cloud means there is a single, 360-degree view of every guest that any system can access in real time.

What does this allow hotels and casinos to do? Better predict customer behavior, drive incremental revenue through tailored offers, and build long-term loyalty. For example, no longer will guests receive generic offers when they visit your website – now custom packages are built and presented in real time based on the guest’s past purchase behavior. A golden record of each guest also helps drive on-property spend with real-time, customized offers based on guests’ actions while on property.

Use Intelligent Decisioning to Trigger Events

Once operators overcome the challenge of collecting and storing all their available data in a central location, the next important step is deciding how to action it. After all, having the data won’t change your business, but the decisions you make with it will.

Systems can use intelligent decisioning to trigger events similar to an “if this, then that” implementation. For example, let’s assume you have a guest in your casino who you know, based on his or her past history, doesn’t gamble. However, you know this guest is apt to spend money in your restaurant and retail locations. Instead of making a free-play offer while the guest is on property, choose instead to offer savings in the retail shops.

Social data can play a key role here. For example, a guest who posts on social media that she had an amazing spa experience at your property should get another offer for additional spa services the next day.

These are incremental revenues your hotel or casino can collect just based on personal messaging while also enhancing the guest experience.

Personalization Equals Loyalty

Advancements toward using data to personalize experiences are underway all throughout our daily lives. Consider the Amazon shopping experience, where products are recommended based on what you’ve searched and bought before. Or Netflix, which recommends entertainment based on your personal preferences.

Across hospitality, operators are searching for similar ways to put their incredible amount of data into action. Transforming the data into intelligent decision-making has been largely out of reach, but hotels and casinos today are committing to utilizing data to improve the customer experience.

Start by taking advantage of the data you already have, storing it centrally, and building models to action it. While it may seem like a complicated project to tackle, the tools and resources are finally available to assist. Start small, working incrementally toward your goals, and you’ll see immediate benefits in revenue and guest satisfaction.

Want more on building “golden records” of your guests? Watch the on-demand webinar, “Keys to the Kingdom: the Necessity of Analytics in Gaming and Hospitality,” presented by SAS Hospitality & Gaming.

About the Author

Chris Knothe is Principal Industry Consultant for SAS Hospitality & Gaming, which helps hotels and casinos utilize advanced analytics to maximize the value of their data. Prior to joining SAS, Knothe led Duetto’s Hospitality Solutions division, helping hotels across the globe implement innovative revenue optimization strategies. Knothe brings an extensive background in both hotel operations and SaaS technology solutions.