April 12, 2001, 3:43 PM — It's 12:30 a.m. in St. Louis as you stagger to the registration desk at the Monolith Royalty Hotel. Your back is in knots from being stuffed into an undersized seat in coach, your clothes reek from the smoky traveler's lounge, and your head is pounding from the screaming toddler in 17F. All you want to do is take refuge in your 15th-floor suite and sink into a bed the size of Rhode Island.
But your "suite" turns out to be a glorified walk-in closet on the second floor. Your "king-size" bed is a double that looks more like a roll-away cot. The room smells like a pool hall, and your pillow sits 7 feet above the karaoke machine in the hotel bar downstairs.
What the heck happened? You stayed at the Monolith in Boston last night, and everything was fine; same thing in Orlando, Fla., the night before. In fact, in the past eight months, you've stayed at Monolith Royalty Hotels from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu 22 times. You always request a nonsmoking room on a quiet upper floor. Shouldn't they know your preferences by now and value your business enough to satisfy them?
The answer is yes and yes. Unfortunately, Monolith is still operating as it did during the 1980s. It hasn't grasped the concept of customer relationship management and thus has no central database with which to track your personal data to ensure that you're treated in a manner befitting your value to the company.
This horror story may seem extreme, but it illustrates a real condition: the pervasive misalignment in the hospitality industry. In this industry, IT is often viewed as a service, much like housekeeping or maintenance, rather than an integral component of business strategy and the fulfillment of business goals.
The epidemic lack of efficient CRM is a powerful sign that IT is simply not in sync with business strategy. According to "Hospitality 2000: The Technology," an Arthur Andersen report with survey results from more than 300 hospitality executives worldwide, most large chains have begun to grasp the concept of CRM, yet implementation is uneven and incomplete. Overall, only 13 percent of the survey's respondents have integrated their property-management and central-reservation systems into a fully integrated customer information system (CIS), with another 11 percent aiming for a CIS in the next several years.
"As an industry, we have great customer information at a hotel level, but the collection of that data at a chain level is typically a big missed opportunity," says Scott Heintzeman, CIO of Carlson Hotels Worldwide, which includes the Radisson, Country Inns and Suites, and Regent chains. "Only in recent years have companies woken up to the opportunities of using this information at an enterprise level."