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Global Network Links Reservation Systems

Culminating a three-year project, Carlson Hospitality Worldwide has unveiled a system that joins the taking of reservations for its hotel and cruise ship operations in more than 45 countries into one integrated network.

The program, named Curtis-C after Carlson Companies founder Curtis L. Carlson and pronounced “courtesy,” allows reservations agents around the world to see customers’ entire history on their computer screens, including which hotels they’ve stayed in and what kind of service they’ve received.

Launched at the end of January, it links not only reservation call centers around the world, but the company’s Internet reservation system and the Global Distribution System travel agents use so all reservations and interactions with customers are recorded into customers’ profiles, regardless of which medium they used to contact the company.

“As far as reservations go, every country [that Carlson operates in] has its own toll-free line. If you call from Germany, you will be connected to our call center in Dublin, and they will have the same information on their screens as if you called our reservation line in Japan,” said Scott Heintzeman, vice president of Knowledge Technologies for Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, Minneapolis.

Because Curtis-C links global reservation-taking with CustomerKARE, a customer feedback database system, and Harmony, a data and property management system that each hotel uses to manage its internal operations, the company hopes the newly integrated network will help it get a fuller understanding of its customers and their needs.

“As a for instance, now if a customer has any complaints or problems at one hotel, that complaint will be stored in the system. When that customer calls another one of our hotels, the problem will be registered and they will be aware of it so that they can make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Heintzeman said. “We say we sell them with courtesy, serve them with harmony and bring them back with care.”

Before implementing the new system, customer reservation and service information was fragmented throughout the world, Heintzeman said.

“Now customer-stay feedback, company management information, customer information is all stored on a global basis,” he said. “Before it was stored in individual hotels, on individual computers, in desk drawers. It was often never used because it was difficult to retrieve.”

Because the new system is linked to so many reservations mediums, if a hotel wants to offer a discount, it can post the discount on the system and have it be instantly visible to call center agents taking reservations over the phone, travel agents booking reservations on the Global Distribution System and customers booking reservations on the Internet. In some cases, promotions would also be e-mailed to customers who have signed up to receive e-mails about discounts in particular parts of the world through the company’s My E-Scapes program.

“Previously, if a hotel wanted to run a promotion, you had to write a work sheet, send it to central office, and they would load it into the system,” Heintzeman said. “Now you can do it within seconds from a desktop.”

To create the system, the company turned to MCI and AT&T for networking, and used an Oracle database, Sequent servers, and Forte software, Heintzeman said. A lot of the ideas about what type of information the system should include were generated in-house from corporate executives, hotel operators, and customer feedback, he added.

Separately, the company is finding that the new system helps in the collection of corporate data. The company’s Intranet, called KnowledgeNet, which contains data that hotels and corporate executives use in marketing, management and planning, is also connected to the system. Curtis-C and its integration with different databases and management systems has allowed the company to compile and gather corporate data more quickly.

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