Inside Hilton’s CRM Strategy

There’s a fascinating article on Hilton’s investments in information technology in the August 12 issue of Hotels Magazine. Their system is called OnQ:

    OnQ is the IT centrepiece of a two-year-old Hilton customer relationship management (CRM) strategy – officially known as ‘customers really matter,’ though company wags prefer ‘customers rejecting Marriott,’ Hilton’s chief rival and the only other hotel company expanding at such a pace.


    The strategy is pinned on the idea that employees with a clearer idea of who customers are and what their past Hilton experiences have been can engineer constant improvement.

The system is geared towards meeting customers’ preferences, speeding their checkin process, and in the future may allow Hilton to sell additional value-added products like theatre tickets based on show availability and guest interests.

It can also tell the hotel chain when not to invest in a customer.

    The system can even be used to identify that very rare unvaluable customer. One such frequent guest of Hilton’s Hampton Inn brand, it transpired, hadn’t paid for a single night over 107 stays. Once OnQ went live, it became clear this customer had logged a complaint each time she stayed at a Hampton property, taking the brand’s ‘100 per cent guest satisfaction’ guarantee to extremes. ‘Let’s just say we invited her not to be a customer,’ says Harvey.

The system will help manage who gets walked in an oversell situation.

    For OnQ to fulfil its mission, it needs to do more than deliver information: it must be a decision support tool. For example, if a guest has complained in the past about being bumped from an overbooked hotel and moved to another Hilton property, the system will highlight that history should the same situation come up, making it less likely a hotel will ask that customer to ‘walk’ again.


    Conversely, the system may indicate that a non-HHonors guest looking at the last minute to extend his or her stay should be turned down, so the room can be held for an unconfirmed diamond HHonors member expected to show up that night.


    ‘I’ll run the risk of not filling 100 per cent of my rooms to make sure my diamond or gold customer is satisfied,’ says Harvey.

They’re rolling out checkin kiosks that will also double as airline checkin machines, and plan to introduce web checkin.

    On the check-in front, Hilton has been experimenting with kiosks at hotels in New York and Chicago, with plans to expand the programme to 45 hotels this year. Each hotel will get an average of three kiosks, which use web services to call information from the OnQ system, and there’s also an employee on hand with a tablet computer connecting wirelessly to the full OnQ system to assist customers who have trouble with the new check-in option.


    Next year, Harvey expects guests to be able to print airline boarding passes from the kiosks before departing the hotel. Hilton is also working on offering web check-in by year’s end.

And finally, private eyes may be a-watchin’ you:

    As in so many other industries, one of those technologies is radio frequency identification (RFID), which involves tiny transmitters that can be read by nearby readers. For Hilton, it could lead to embedding RFID tags in HHonors cards, so that information from OnQ could be used to alert staff to guests as they enter a property.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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