Hyatt International Uses Database to Better Serve Its Guests

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CHICAGO -- Hyatt International Corp. is aiming to heighten awareness of customer needs by adopting a company mission built around database marketing.

"The company feels very good,'' said John Yurcisin, director of database marketing for Hyatt International. "When you talk to the hotels, we're changing the mindset, being customer-driven. There is a shift from me to we.''

In Jakarta, Indonesia, Hyatt created an advisory panel of influential, high-spending restaurant guests from the local community to gain a more objective view of customer perceptions. Their feedback was used to drive changes in customer service.

Hyatt International, Chicago, started its Integrated Marketing and Communications (IMAC) program three years ago in 72 hotel properties in 34 nations outside North America and the Caribbean to better manage the data generated from guest transactions, frequent-guest programs such as Gold Passport and other sources.

As Yurcisin explained during a case study of IMAC at Direct Marketing Days here last month, Hyatt was "data rich but data dumb.''

IMAC grew out of courses taught by Don Schultz and Kate Bergin at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Both are professors in Medill's Integrated Marketing Communications program, where Yurcisin received his master's degree, and serve as Hyatt consultants.

Implementation of IMAC began with a course for hotel managers that condensed into five days what Yurcisin learned in two years at Northwestern.

Fourteen courses over 24 months trained 320 executives. Individual hotel executive committees and department heads took a similar two-day course, and all employees were required to attend a half-day seminar. New hires attend a similar half-day orientation, and a three-day course for new executives also is being developed. So far, Hyatt has spent $1.3 million training 4,500 employees in 10 languages.

The courses stress that all employees are biological databases and that clean data is as important as a clean kitchen. Waiters and bellhops, for example, are sources of customer data because they have the most direct interaction with Hyatt guests. Hotel managers and executives also are gaining a better appreciation of guests and better communicating with their co-workers through the integration of departments and intra-department promotions.

Hyatt hired 70 marketing analysts to work with hotel managers and installed IMAC project teams at each hotel. Some hotels have embraced IMAC, but others have been slower to adapt.

"Anytime you change a company, changing the culture is the toughest challenge,'' Yurcisin said. "Managers already are customer savvy, it's just a matter of using the resources available better. Technology lets you focus and target a little more effectively.''

Competition among Hyatt hotels is another obstacle that IMAC is gradually turning into a resource. Rather than trying to outdo one another, successful hotels are encouraged to share their best practices. During planning for the launch of its boutique hotel in Paris, for instance, Hyatt culled data on French guests staying at the Hyatt in Bali, Indonesia, to develop connections for targeting in the Paris market.

Hyatt is developing its databases using reporting tools from Cognos Software, Ottawa. Individual hotel databases are being linked on a regional basis. Germany is the first fully linked region.

The lack of database technology didn't slow down the Hyatt in Cancun, Mexico. Instead, hotel staff sifted through transaction folios by hand to segment different guest behaviors.

"We taught principle and foundations,'' said Yurcisin, who explained that purchasing technology is up to each property owner. "It shows the value of the training.''

Although they share the same corporate office, Hyatt International and Hyatt Hotels Corp. (United States, Canada, the Caribbean) are separate companies running on different philosophies.

Hyatt Hotels runs a centralized database operation, while Hyatt International is more fragmented. There is some collaboration on marketing, and as Hyatt International gets its technology up to speed, Yurcisin expects more overlap.

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