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How The Traveler Search-Shop-Buy Experience Can Be Improved with True Personalization

Integrating review data into Search and CRM not only enhances travel planning, it’s also a recipe for truly exceptional guest service—a start to finish enhancement.

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Imagine a frequent business traveler is planning his family Christmas vacation in, say, New York City. He visits a handful of travel sites on a mission to find a family-friendly, festive hotel for the trip. Many sites are recommending hotels for his trip, but these “personalized” recommendations are often based on data mined from previous search behavior, leaving him with a long list of results featuring fantastic hotels for business travelers. In theory, this effort to personalize search results is great, but clearly there are cases where this kind of predictive personalization can’t cover all the bases.

Now, imagine these predictive recommendations are enriched with data from millions of verified travel reviews. This allows our traveler to input his search criteria (“family-friendly,” “great atmosphere,” “excellent service,” and so on) to get a list of hotels that truly fit his (and his family’s) needs for this particular trip. This extra step is valuable—it further customizes those predictive results—and a combination of the two is true personalization. It allows booking engines to give the traveler more control over his search and, ultimately, his hotel experience.

In fact, we can even take things one step further. TrustYou, for example, structures review data in a way that allows our partners to offer “responsive” recommendation engines to travelers. There’s no single way to do this, because with big data there are so many opportunities to customize its presentation. For some companies, a responsive recommendation engine might offer travelers the option to say what hotels they like and then present them with similar properties in a destination. For others, it could allow travelers to input a certain set of criteria (boutique hotel, WiFi, fine dining, and so on). No matter how the search is personalized, simply making responsive results a reality speaks to the I-want-what-I-want-when-I-want-it traveler of the 21st century. The one who knows how they want to feel and what they want to do while they are traveling. Think Millennials.

Personalization isn’t just limited to booking engines and travel intermediaries. Let’s take another example. A stern-looking man in a business suit angrily stomps through the door and over to the front desk of your hotel to check in to his room. The front desk manager may think, “Ouch, it looks like he’s had a bad day; maybe I’ll offer him a complimentary drink at the bar,” a valuable and pleasant idea, no doubt.

But consider this alternative: the hotel has integrated its review data into its CRM and PMS in order to create rich guest profiles, a solution that TrustYou offers its clients (with great results). Beyond picking up on social cues that this guest is clearly having a rough day, the front desk manager is able to pull up this guest’s profile to learn more about him. His name is Mr. Smith. He stays at the hotel on a monthly basis and always requests The Wall Street Journal with his green tea in the morning. The last time he stayed at the hotel, he wrote a mediocre review, complaining that his room was too noisy because it was next to the elevators. Oh, and his guest profile shows that he has never been to the bar, but he does frequent the spa. Knowing all of this information, the front desk manager instead says, “Welcome back, Mr. Smith! We are so happy to see you return. We’ve reserved a very quiet room for you that is far away from the elevators this time. It is stocked with extra green tea, and your Wall Street Journal will arrive under your door at 7am sharp.” Then, just before Mr. Smith retreats to his room, the front desk manager adds, “Oh, and Mr. Smith, if you have some time during your stay, we would love to treat you to a complimentary access to our spa amenities during your stay!”

The latter response personalizes the guest experience. It is this kind of wow factor that takes a hotel experience from “good” to “extraordinary,” a change that will undoubtedly be reflected if Mr. Smith chooses to write a review. In fact, a change that may even prompt him to write a review, if he hadn’t been planning to do so already.

At the end of the day, travelers want more control over their experience, from the beginning (travel search/discovery) to end (during their stay). Review data allows for exactly this. It just boils down to how we choose to implement the data to align business goals and best serve travelers. It allows us to make travel experiences better, across the entire search-shop-buy process.