Hilton Hotels and Resorts is a large and internationally recognized brand in the hospitality industry with more than 5,100 properties in 103 countries and territories (Hilton Worldwide, n.d.). Hilton Hotels & Resorts target both business and leisure travellers and has its properties at a wide range of locations – from major city centres and near airports to popular vacation destinations around the world. That strategy allowed the brand to achieve a significant financial growth as well as earned a large customer database. Hilton Hotels focus primarily on customer relationship and is famous for its Hilton HHonors program, a guest loyalty program that allows guests to earn points and transfer them to prizes such as free trips or stays at any of the Hilton hotels. The program proved to be extremely successful with more than 30 million members worldwide (Hilton Worldwide, n.d.).
In order to manage such a complex and large customer database and create the promised branded experience to the customers, Hilton Hotels developed proprietary technology platform, OnQ, that integrate six major business functions: hotel reservations, customer service, revenue management (RM), property, back office support, and ownership reporting (Enz, 2010). It incorporates systems like Hilton Central Reservation System, airline Global Distribution Systems and Hilton HHonors program and acts as a single integrated platform. OnQ is part of the Hilton Hotels’ CRM “Customer Really Matters” strategy which is based on the idea of constant improvement of customer experience through a clear apprehension of customer needs and their past experiences. One of the main functions of the OnQ system is summarizing and classifying booking information such as the number of guests, catering requirements, facilities requirements etc., as well as guest personal information: guests’ nationality, age, gender, preferences, eating habits, etc (Enz, 2010). All the information is accessible to all brands of the Hilton Group. That way, front desk personnel get real-time information on every HHonors member who checks into any of the Hilton brands worldwide. The information is collected from two sources: information provided by the guest and information provided by the individual property that observes the guest’s behaviour. Therefore, the more one stays at a Hilton hotel, the more information Hilton collects, which leads to a more customized stay each time to meet the guest’s needs (Oh, 2009). Moreover, OnQ System allows the front desk staff to prepare the Best Guest arrival reports every morning, which lists and ranks all the expected guests. The report has all the relevant information for the front office to pre-assign guests to the rooms and ensures that the rooms are appropriately prepared according to guest preferences (Applegate, et al., 2008). All of these functions give Hilton Hotels & Resorts a significant competitive advantage over the other hotel brands, as Tom Keltner, EVP and CEO of The Americas hotels and Holiday Inn stated: “Our IT infrastructure is a competitive advantage; it’d take years for others to replicate it. Our branded sites look different, but they operate the same way” (Applegate, et al., 2008).
One of the other functions of OnQ system is online reservation which allows customers to make room reservations at all the hotels of Hilton Group anytime, anywhere. The Hilton OnQ central reservation system is integrated with Global Distribution System (GDS) to allow online hotel reservations through multiple channels, including 3rd party booking engines, travel agencies, Hilton Hotel websites, and call centres (Chetu Inc., n.d.). In addition, by booking online, customers can earn points for Hilton HHonors program further prompting sales. With the help of OnQ, employees can get access to guest’s status in Hilton HHonors as well as guest’s top-four room preferences (i.e., smoking/non-smoking rooms, type of bed, floor level, room location) (Enz, 2010).
Apart from online reservation, OnQ system provides web-based check-in, which enables guests with password-protected online account to check in their selected rooms online in before arrival. Once the guest checks in via the web, the hotel is notified electronically of the pending arrival and the hotel front desk can complete all pre-arrival and check-in processes so that the guest’s key card and registration packet are ready and waiting for guest’s arrival. This provides greater convenience for guests and more efficient check-in process for the hotels (Hotel Online, 2004).
Implemented in 2002, OnQ System originally had a cost of $650,000 to build, with yearly maintenance estimated at $1 million (Applegate, et al., 2008). Naturally, the costs had risen over the years, however, the investment had proven to be highly beneficial for Hilton already in the first two years after installation. By 2006 Revenue Per Available Room increased up to $105 (from $87 of 2001) (Hilton Hotels Corporation, 2006). Moreover, the rate of return guests increased from 41% in 2002 to 61% in 2004 (Enz, 2010). All of these numbers show how successful the implementation of OnQ System is.
Customer service plays a vital role in the hospitality industry and Hilton Hotels & Resorts has been successfully focusing on their customers. OnQ System provided Hilton an advantage of a deeper understanding of their customers, which therefore allowed the company to constantly improve the total customer experience. With the help of information technology, Hilton has managed to consistently ensure the delivery of each brand’s promise and keep track of its valuable customers. Ultimately, Hilton Hotels and Resorts has shown how one suitable Information System can significantly improve the company’s operations, from the personalized approach to every customer to the quality of its rooms, throughout the diverse and internationally spread Hilton brands.