Pressure for All-in-one Hospitality CRM is Building, But None Meet the Demand…Yet

In an industry where companies host 45 to 65 software applications to run the business, Hospitality IT is clamoring for any software package that can support a wider array of important business processes. And, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is no different. Faced with data silos, sales and marketing departments that do not collaborate, and ever-increasing pressure to convert existing customers and leads into revenue, companies want a system that will do the job and further reduce the application services footprint.

The unfortunate reality is that today there is no single solution that meets every requirement to manage customer interactions and increase guest loyalty… yet. Our competitive analysis of six CRM solutions that claim to serve the Hospitality industry revealed a cross section of what these companies want.

Hospitality Sales and Marketing departments have limited choices for specialized CRMs. The applications we explored were mostly packaged extensions to standard CRM architectures, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce.com. . These solutions are deployed via the cloud or as an on-premise solution, or both, and they come in a variety of pricing configurations. This evaluation does not examine pricing and additional configuration costs, which are an unavoidable factor in ANY implementation of this kind.

What Hospitality CRM Shoppers Want

Based on requests from our own clients and the Hospitality CRM offerings in the IT marketplace, we can derive the following priorities:

  • B2B account management (National and Local Accounts)
  • Standard interaction management with 360 degree view of the guest
  • Commercial-grade email marketing tools and direct mail tools
  • Large group and events management
  • POS and Food and Beverage integration (to support 360 degree view)
  • Guest loyalty program management (with customer kiosk)
  • Reporting and analytics, including targeted vs. actual revenue
  • Turn-key integration with other hospitality systems

What Hospitality CRM Shoppers Get

The following table aggregates specific functions of evaluated packages to general business requirements. We ran a subjective evaluation of whether the tool, based on its marketing collateral and/or sell sheets, mostly or adequately delivered the functionality.   Any product evaluation will find that each software vendor plays to their strengths. For example, NewMarket manages catering and events and integration well, while SuiteCRM excels in supporting National and Regional Account management.

Each package has its strengths and weaknesses. The point of this analysis is to lay out the competitive landscape so CRM shoppers can identify candidates that meet immediate needs and future requirements as well. However, no decision can be made without considering external factors such as change management, data quality, and above all total cost of ownership. See “Get Real with your CRM Solution” for more information on these external factors.

The Final Word

The simple conclusion is that no single tool does it all…There is no silver bullet. Depending on the specific needs, hospitality companies will likely continue to host multiple tools to support its own unique ways of running the business. We talked to several companies at Hitec 2010 and learned that they are actually using various combinations of Salesforce.com, NewMarket and MS Dynamics CRM to meet all of their CRM needs. You can imagine the opportunities to consolidate!

However, the real recommendation is that the right implementation is the one that meets a base set of requirements and can then be extended through open architecture and/or customization to meet very specific needs. By steadily customizing and configuring the CRM, those additional software packages and processes will drop off the IT management footprint and at the same time make sales and marketing more productive.

Extending your CRM solution with XRM and other development kits offer true opportunities to realize ROI. Consider that your implementation is just Phase One on a strategic roadmap, which will later include functionality to:

  • Integrate more data from other systems to get a better view of customer behavior to make proactive marketing decisions and accurately measure the business
  • Deliver advanced customer insight through previously unavailable analytics
  • Increase user adoption by rolling out must-have functionality

Hospitality IT departments will roll out the red carpet to any one application that can retire multiple software packages and data silos at once.  That carrot is always being dangled before CIO’s and Technology Directors. At this time however, Hospitality-centric CRM’s are not there yet.  Hospitality companies must continue to push vendors to deliver on these promises. As these products mature, more and more options and greater functionality will become available. Until then, select a tool that allows you to realize immediate value from out of the box functionality and then exploit the open architecture and development toolkit to extend functionality.

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