How AccorHotels is building emotional connections with customers

Hotel operator shares how its using social customer and human understanding to improve customer experiences

Delivering great customer experiences onsite is a mandatory requirement for any successful hospitality business. But how do you do you create that connection once the customer has moved on – or before they have even arrived?

This was the question posed by chief operating officer of AccorHotels in the Pacific region, Simon McGrath, as he strived to increase occupancy rates across more than 200 local properties.

Four years ago, the company realised it had capped out on growing numbers through improvements to functional service, and embarked on what he describes as “a fairly obsessive guest strategy” to increase engagement, McGrath says.

“We took a first-mover advantage into the emotional connection with customers, rather than functional service,” he says. “We put a lot of work into understanding our business was about human engagement.”

While AccorHotels had used traditional feedback gathering tools such as surveys, McGrath was aware this was only capturing a small segment of feedback, and was in itself not serving to build engagement.

“Historically, an emotional connection has always been established in hotels by a general manager talking to a customer in the lobby, and then word-of-mouth carries that experience to other people, and it becomes of benefit to a hotel,” he says. “What we understood was if there was ever a way to digitise that conversation between a general manager and guest in a genuine and authentic way, that would be very powerful.”

Then in 2014 McGrath came across Local Measure, an Australian startup that specialises in surfacing social content related to specific physical locations.

“We saw the ability to digitally look at large amounts of customers and what they were thinking, without it being narrowly railroaded or structured,” McGrath says. “We saw genuine customer thought at scale. And it was also very easy to use.”

The tool was placed within AccorHotels hotels across Australia, and McGrath says uptake was swift.

“They wanted it because they were doing this in a manual form, but this allowed them greater scale,” he says. “We have always asked general managers to be good with guests, and they have always wanted to be. What Local Measure has allowed us to do is digitise the feedback that one person just can’t get on their own.”

Local Measure was subsequently rolled out globally in mid-2016. McGrath says he is pleased with the overall benefit.

“When we started our customer journey three to four years ago our NPS was 22,” McGrath says. “And our NPS today is 40. That is about the same level of service you would see in Asia.”

In one instance, the manager of AccorHotels’ Swissotel property in Sydney could respond directly to a returning visitor using Local Measure’s foreign language translation capability, and welcome him personally to the hotel.

“We spoke back to them in Polish,” McGrath says. “There is nothing more personalised than that.”

Driving loyalty

McGrath believes Local Measure will also be essential in growing AccorHotels’ loyalty program, which is now driving between 30 to 35 per cent of AccorHotels’ business. While membership in Australia today stands at 2.1 million, McGrath is keen to grow that to more than 4 million.

“The only way we can fuel that loyalty platform is with service, and service drives repeat visitation,” McGrath says. “In 2016, we had a record year in terms of our competitor set market position. Five years ago, we would have done that through breakfast offers and cheap discount rates – tactical marketing. Part of the reason we moved to service was there were no more offers to give. We were doing very well, but at some point in time we had to return to what our product, is, which is experiences and genuine service.

“That has then driven people’s obsession to want to be part of our loyalty club, and we make sure we recognise them, that we look after them and their individual needs. That is what we promise through loyalty. So any tool that will allow is to recognise them through an individual approach through our loyalty club is going to fuel it.”

Local Measure itself now has offices in five cities around the globe, and recently raised $4.5 million from investors. Founder and chief executive officer, Jonathan Barouch, says AccorHotels is typical of many of Local Measure’s customers, who are striving to be closer to their customers.

“It is about creating a connection with a guest that ultimately sees them come back, and the data shows that,” Barouch says. “Even something as simple as acknowledging a guest by name and signing your name off as the general manager of the hotel has an impact on satisfaction scores and repeat visitations.

“So it is pleasing to see it driving revenue rather than just being an expense line in the marketing budget.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Taking performance cues from east Asian markets

As the ‘Asian century’ becomes ever more prevalent and the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers speed, marketers are having to surf a tidal wave of creative destruction. The choice is stark: Embrace change, or resign yourself to a Darwinian fate.

Dr Chris Baumann

Associate professor, Macquarie University

Searching for social and marketing data

Many marketers, agencies - and everyone in between - get caught up on bubble references and data points. They’ll use Facebook best practice as the only best practice for Facebook executions and only consider metrics and responses of the one channel they’re expected to deliver on.

Isaac Lai

Connections strategy lead, VMLY&R Sydney

Why Australia needs more leaders

A few weeks ago, our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison took it upon himself to tell companies and their CEOs where to go when it came to societal issues. It wasn’t an organisation’s place to get involved. Instead, he said it should be left to governments to solve societies challenges.

Dan Banyard

Managing director, Edentify

Congratulations! So good to see a business turnaround with a good omni channel email lead strategy.Antanthonyidle.com

Anthony Idle

How Total Tools overhauled its omnichannel marketing

Read more

Well, you can always improve your service. Your customers will appreciate your efforts.

Mike Thompson

Report: Australian customer experience good but not great

Read more

Thanks for sharing! Terracotta Jewellery Online Shopping Ethnic Jewellery Online Shopping

Cotton Sarees Online

How data is driving the customers of a lifetime for BaubleBar

Read more

Informative blog. Xero is a well-known revolutionized accounting software, specifically developed to provide best User Experience and mak...

NavkarConsultancyServices

Xero evolves to fit a changing marketplace

Read more

>Writes article about how to show diversity in an authentic way>All featured opinions are from white women

Jennifer Metcalfe

Food for Thought: How can brands show diversity in an authentic way?

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in