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Customer loyalty, profitability drive BI consolidation at Fairmont

The Fairmont hotel chain is rebuilding its data warehouse and using one BI system to better segment and contact its customer base.

Guest satisfaction is a key metric for employees at Fairmont Hotels, from the CEO on down, according to Jeffrey Berry, director of database marketing.

So when the Toronto-based hotel chain set about revamping its data warehouse in order to identify its most valuable customers by focusing on the customer retention rate and customer profitability, it kept a close eye on guest satisfaction.

"I hate to use the term CRM because we all know what its pitfalls are," Berry said. "I'm calling it a customer experience management strategy. The technology is obviously a key part of it, but is definitely the key part of something bigger."

Fairmont Hotels, which includes 52 properties in North America under the Fairmont brand as well as Raffles Hotels in Singapore, Delta Hotels in Canada and Swissotel in Europe, is ripping out a bevy of BI point solutions and replacing them with an analytics platform from Cary, N.C.-based SAS Institute. It's taking out Business Objects reporting tools, Chordiant for campaign management, and Trillium for its extract-transform, load and purge, and replacing them with SAS BI and Dataflux, its data quality tool.

"Our plan is to get to a single platform and spend less time maintaining software and data and more time driving value," Berry said. "The key for us is cost and resources. From a technical standpoint, we weren't interested in having expertise in managing seven different tools across our platform."

For more on customer loyalty:
See how one company is using performance management to support a voice-of-the-customer program

Learn how employee loyalty can drive customer loyalty

Piecemeal BI deployments are an all-too-common problem for many organizations that have acquired the technology through individual departments buying applications for their specific needs, or through mergers and acquisitions. Vendors are racing to proclaim themselves the answer to BI application consolidation.

At Fairmont, the project was driven by the business side of the organization. Seven years ago, the company had created a consolidated data warehouse based on best-of-breed tools and already runs a BI program with its direct marketing and loyalty efforts, but it hadn't done much with analytics and maintaining that data.

Marketing wants to be able to enhance the customer experience by segmenting the customer base and ultimately driving behavior and additional revenue based on what it already knows about its guests. Currently, for example, at the start of golf season, the hotel chain runs a campaign for customers who have previously visited its golf courses.

"By virtue of the cleanliness of data we have, we're not doing it as effectively as we might," Berry said. "We really want to get a little more scientific, maybe with specific properties we know you're interested in and in the channels you want to be spoken to. We're starting to build a real test-and-learn culture."

Fairmont started the project a year ago with requirements gathering, began the data modeling in December and is currently knee-deep in the implementation phase. The project had executive sponsorship from the start and is jointly owned by Berry and the database marketing team, and his counterpart on the IT side. They meet regularly to assess the progress of the initiative.

"The biggest thing we've learned -- because there is a heavy technology spin and because the day-to-day is focused on the minutia of technology -- it's really important to make sure the business objectives are clearly established and outlined and you check against them," Berry said. "You don't want to get mired in the details so you miss the big picture. For me that's the key lesson."

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