The Hotel Folk group comprises six privately-run hotels that have built their reputation by creating excellent experiences for guests. Maintaining their high service levels is largely the result of how much the hotel group reinvests in their people and operations.
“The ethos behind the Hotel Folk is all about the people who work in our hotels – our folk – and we put a lot of effort into their training and their development so that they’re able to deliver what we call a ‘blow your socks off hospitality experience’ for all of our guests,” says CEO, David Scott.
As experts in providing great service, the community-oriented approach of The Hotel Folk sets them apart as a collective that is “obsessed with looking after guests”, as David would say. GuestRevu helps The Hotel Folk to optimise guest experiences and keep up with the ever-changing travel environment by integrating their real-time guest feedback with perfectly timed future guest communications from their For-Sight CRM and marketing tech.
The Hotel Folk were managing the same employees, but their association as a hotel group wasn’t evident in their data. “We were individually run really, so all of the hotels had their own brand by the name of their hotels, so the Hotel Folk never really united or brought anybody together in the sense of having a cohesive brand identity across the group,” David explains.
The lack of integrated guest data was evident in how some of their daily operations ran independently. Changing this would mean that their systems, processes and procedures would unite all the staffing and technical elements of the Hotel Folk brand, so that they could make the most of guests' data, and perform as a united front.
The main goals of the Hotel Folk were:
The systems and processes that generate client data for the Hotel Folk were not interconnected, and this created a knowledge gap between staff members who were essentially under one umbrella (The Hotel Folk).
“We didn't have any understanding of guests that stayed in one hotel that may have stayed in one of our other hotels, everything was sort of very compartmentalised and put into its own individual box so we could never see it all as a whole”, CEO David Scott explains.
That meant the staff were not interpreting and acting on the same sales, guest, and guest satisfaction data with a similar approach; because it was not all in one system.
“As a marketeer, data and information is everything,” Says David. “And understanding how consumers behave, what they're looking for, what their needs are is really really important.”
Not having a well rounded understanding of their guests meant The Hotel Folk as a group were unable to engage in a personalised way with their prospective and current guests. There was also not enough rich data to understand and target specific types of guests with relevant communications and product offerings.
One of the inevitable hurdles to reopening hotels is hitting the mark with marketing strategies that reignite travel confidence. The Hotel Folk had the challenge of adapting their key messages to the ‘new’ travel environment, while staying top of mind and personal to returning guests.
The Hotel Folk’s guest profile has changed, and this has meant that some of their communication strategies have needed to change, too. Since covid “a significant percentage of the people who have stayed with us we have never seen before, they are new guests to us” David explains. “Normally we deal with a very loyal, very rich repeat base of customers, and actually the way that we then onwardly treat those new guests is different to the way that we would normally treat our loyal guests.”
The data available to the group through their use of GuestRevu and For-Sight allows them to create different engagement and communication strategies for different types of guests. “We’ve actually gone out of our way with different campaigns to almost welcome the new guest back, and encourage them into their second or third visit,” says David, “whereas what we’d normally have done for our loyal customers may have been something a little bit different - it’s more about small pieces of added value and just a little reminder that we’re still there.”
Thanks to GuestRevu’s real-time guest feedback and reputation management features, integrated with For-Sight’s CRM and targeted marketing solutions, The Hotel Folk possessed rich data and were able to:
Having the advantage of an integrated tech stack automates and streamlines the way the Hotel Folk access and use data to continue pleasing their guests; and, as David explains: “I guess what I probably didn't understand at the beginning was actually how well as agencies they [GuestRevu and For-Sight] would work together. And it's probably that collaboration that's given the real power in the data and information that we have, because they have really championed and driven that forward, without me really having to get involved and drive that”.
The Hotel Folk have seen a huge increase in direct bookings, and it comes down to a number of elements. Being able to segment their guests successfully through the use of data has driven their engagement and helped them to stay on top of their guest journey, ensuring each touch point is quick and easy for the next guest to transact and convert into a direct booking.
David feels that their partnerships with For-Sight, GuestRevu, and Guestline mean that The Hotel Folk have all the hard work already done when it comes to gathering the insights that inform how they communicate with guests in the future; and now it's about tweaking the finer details to get the most from each tech solution to optimise the use of guest data.
“We have all of our sales information, we have all of our guest information, and we have all of our guest satisfaction information – and by tying all of those three things together you can start to make really intelligent decisions about what you need to change and influence for the future,” David claims.
Integrating real time guest feedback with future guest communications was one of the goals the Hotel Folk set out for their team, and achieved.
Without reliable, quantifiable guest data, it would have been more difficult to target marketing messages that speak to the separate wants and needs of guests. Having two main audiences (new guests and loyal guests) to satisfy means that the marketing journey needs to be tailored to suit the two, according to the data collected, to be more attractive and create value for the guest experience.
“I Having the ability to understand [that] this person who stayed here, we’ve never seen before, it’s like, ‘ok well maybe we’ll invest in some direct mail and some richer communication to you because we need to give you a little bit more of a reason to consider returning,’” says David.
David further explains how using the power of guest data has really helped to shape the segmentation and creative execution of their marketing communications, and this has made their marketing journey more engaging and personal for guests.
“We go through some very complicated segmentation modelling using the data through For-Sight and then combining that with the trends that we see through GuestRevu,” David explains. “Often we've got various different email formats or pieces of communication that are going out very very personalised to lots of different groups of people. And it's important to us to measure the level of engagement rate, (and that's done through things like the open rates of emails and if we see that that's going down or that’s increasing) then we enhance what's going well or change what maybe isn't working. And that can change through time of year; it can change whether it’s in January or whether it's in July, it can change [depending] on what the weather’s doing, so we track all of those things to make sure that we optimise all of our marketing communications.”
He also felt that the way they interpret and use the data at their disposal shows that the Hotel Folk actually know and understand each guest individually. He mentions how having the integration of guest feedback data with CRM data is critical, because, according to David, “Otherwise, you just run the risk of looking stupid becuase you’ve sent the guest a message that comepletely contradicts their previous experience – good or bad.” In today's world of mass communications, which at the end of the day are also very personalised, it's hard for him to picture how they would ever survive without that type of integration in the first place.
Having the same integrated tech stack across the hotel group meant The Hotel Folk were operating in sync. An employee could easily move between any of the hotels, possessing the knowledge of each system meant no momentum would be lost in the teams and standards would always be of the highest quality.
This made the working environment even more conducive for the folk, and the output was commendable service every day. “The data that we get from GuestRevu is huge, I mean, I use it in so many different ways – I use it to reward our staff, we have what we call “Folk Points”, which are points that go into a monetary equivalent at the end of each year. So if someone gets a positive mention in a guest review they win Folk Points for themselves, they win rewards for their hotels, we reward and incentivise against the promise we make to our guests, which is about being hospitality experts.” David explains.
Not only did the use of an integrated tech stack streamline and motivate their staff, the Hotel Folk also benefited from the access to more attention to detail. As David puts it, “From an internal point of view it's really powerful. We use it to inform our refurbishment programme, we understand by room type where the biggest issues are in certain bedrooms so we can focus our maintenance teams and our refurbishment into those specific areas, so we can add value in so many different ways as well as making ongoing operational improvements to standards and procedures to make sure that we get it right every single time,” he further explains, adding “if you don't use it, then I would definitely say that you're missing out.”
Feedback from guests empowers the Hotel Folk to make necessary operational changes quicker, and with attention to detail.
When the feedback comes from guests, the staff are often more proactive in their response, because that feedback is from the personal perspective of the guest, rather than a professional perspective from management.
David says, “It almost changes the sentiment of what that (feedback) actually means – it’s not me, it's not the hotel manager, it’s not someone within our business talking about it; it's actually a guest giving you real-time feedback to say, ‘this could be better’ and I think quite often that gets a better response from the staff than actually us pointing it out ourselves.”