Getting Ahead of Their Needs: How Customer Data is Making Hospitality Smarter


At TalkTalk Business, we recently commissioned large-scale research into how UK hospitality workers view the future of their industry. We surveyed IT decision makers (ITDMs) and frontline workers and, interestingly, each role has contrasting views. 

The majority (74%) of senior ITDMs we surveyed say accommodation will be the first to become fully automated, while the fewest (1%) believe it’ll be the travel and tourism sector. In direct contrast, most frontline employees (42%) say travel and tourism will be the first to become fully automated, and accommodation will be the last.

At first glance, the industry appears to be divided. There’s a wide disparity in opinion between senior staff and frontline workers. But when we look at specific sub-sectors, where does the industry sit in terms of automation and data analytics? And how will hospitality make the most of tracking and harnessing customer data? 

Following the cookie crumbs IRL

Tracking customer behaviour has long been commonplace in the world of ecommerce. Digital shoppers today click countless cookie consent buttons without question, and are largely happy to be served targeted ads in return. Even when we visit Netflix or Amazon, we take the subsequent personalised recommendations for granted. These services have been exploring our behaviour for years – but when it comes to the traditionally people-focused, in-person hospitality sector, customer tracking is a much less common occurrence. 

Intrusion or innovation?

Due to the in-person nature of hospitality experiences, many hoteliers and restaurateurs have  assumed that customers would find behaviour-tracking intrusive – that being constantly surveilled would negatively impact the customer experience. But tracking behaviour is far from an unwanted intrusion – it’s a welcome innovation. 

According to a 2021 study by Oracle Hospitality, the majority of hotel guests (64%) are completely comfortable with hotels using their data and AI to better tailor services and offers – such as food suggestions and pricing. 71% of guests say that they’re more likely to stay at a hotel that offers self-serve technology – from checking in to ordering room service. This research is good news for businesses looking for tech to increase efficiency, without damaging the guest experience. 

Interestingly, the majority of our survey respondents (both ITDMs and frontline workers) agreed with guests. All respondents agreed that using emerging technologies to harness customer data – either to inform business strategy and efficiencies (33%) or for targeted, personalised services (29%) – will have a large and positive impact on hospitality. 

Shaking off uncertainty with data

After the uncertainty of the last few years, it’s never been more important to track behaviour, demand patterns and booking- trends. Staff shortages are impacting every aspect of the industry, while demand continues to evolve on a day-to-day basis, making it difficult to rely on historical data for forecasting. But does this render customer tracking redundant? Far from it. Right now, one of the most powerful weapons in the industry’s arsenal is data. It’s time for hospitality to get smart. 

High-tech, low-touch experiences

One of the more unusual – and unexpected – hangovers of the pandemic is that people are actually more antisocial. 91% of travellers report that they don’t miss being around other people when staying at a hotel, and 71% are more likely to stay at a venue that offers self-serve technology that minimises contact with staff and guests.  

Thanks again to the pandemic, many hospitality businesses have already put high-tech, low-touch experiences in place – such as voice-controlled smart hubs. These smart hotel solutions can be included in guest bedrooms, allowing occupants to adjust lighting, order room service, or request fresh towels through voice commands. They can also be programmed with guest names, making the entire experience more personal.

In our survey, hospitality workers agree that hotels would benefit the most from behaviour tracking for personalised services (58%) and from the introduction of voice control (52%). 

Smart hubs are the ultimate butler, always available to listen, record and respond to in-room requests. And there’s no better way to understand guest needs – even when requests don’t require staff action. Information requests, such as ‘How do I get on the WiFi?’ or ‘What time is checkout?’, take up staff time and are rarely tracked. Requests for services can be responded to with personalised offers. 

For example, imagine a guest requests ‘Two glasses of wine to room 103’ via voice command. The smart hub can respond with a relevant happy-hour offer to buy the bottle for just £3 extra. This personal touch can help improve the customer experience and build brand loyalty, while increasing the hotel’s average spend per room. Personalised replies can help hotels increase revenue today – and over time, smart hubs will gather the data hotels need to drive future decision-making too. 

AI: transforming hospitality operations 

Artificial intelligence (AI) in hospitality isn’t a distant dream. It’s very much here. Restaurants are rife with AI that records all types of transactional information – such as how many diners are in the restaurant, what they’re buying, how much they’re spending, and how they pay. Traditionally, this data would have been recorded and analysed by the general manager after their shift – a time-consuming manual process including entering data into a spreadsheet. With the advent of AI, these tasks can be easily streamlined, leaving restaurant owners with more time to focus on what humans excel at: food and experiences. 

In an ideal world, every smart hotel would be fully booked every night of the year. And every restaurant would fill every seat, every night. AI helps hospitality businesses edge ever-closer to this dream, tracking occupancy trends and providing the data they need to make strategic advertising decisions, or when to change their pricing strategy. 

AI is set to radically transform hospitality operations – and our survey respondents agree. 

An overwhelming majority of senior ITDMs 92% believe that operations and supply chains would benefit from AI making the majority of day-to-day strategic decisions. In fact, the only senior ITDMs who don’t agree are in organisations where the majority of these decisions are already made by AI. 

Change is here. And more is coming. 

The hospitality industry is welcoming automation and data analysis. From bistros to bowling alleys, businesses are using customer data to drive efficiencies, boost experiences and increase revenue. But to truly harness the power of data, organisations need a strong, scalable network capable of handling wide-spread automation and big-data analytics. 

With TalkTalk Business, you have complete control of your network. You can scale up and dial down bandwidth to meet demand – and you only pay for what you need, when you need it. You’ll have the next-level flexibility and rock-solid resilience you need to provide exceptional customer experiences – and the data you need to future-proof your hospitality business.

Learn more about the future of hospitality – and how businesses are finding the balance between progressive tech and personal touches. Read our exclusive whitepaper: The Future of Hospitality: AI, Data and People-Power. 

About the research

In September 2022, we commissioned a survey by Vansorn Bourne of 300 senior IT decision-makers and frontline employees in business sizes ranging from 1,000-2,999 employees to those with 5,000 or more.

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