Voyat, a social CRM tool aimed at the hotel industry, came out of stealth today and announced $1.8M in seed funding from Metamorphic Ventures, Eniac Ventures, BoxGroup and several angel investors, including Brett Crosby, who was co-founder of Google Analytics.
Metamorpic Ventures is led by David Hirsch, who worked out of Google’s New York office for 8 years.
These Google connections should come as little surprise given one of Voyat’s co-founders, Benjamin Habbel, worked for Google from 2010-2012, serving for a time as Marissa Mayer’s chief of staff.
The product aims to bring the hotel industry into the 21st century by giving them more insight into hotel customer behavior both online and on-site. Habbel says the idea for the company was born out of his own frustration as a frequent traveler.
For example, he would be welcomed to a property he had visited 20 times before and asked by the front desk if this was his first visit. The hotels had no knowledge of who he was or how often he had visited. Habbel believes this is due in large part to the impact of online booking, which has taken the customer relationship away from the hotel and given it to the third-party booking engines. Voyat is an attempt to return control of the customer experience to hotels.
“From my perspective, the industry has been sleeping for many years and relying on third parties to put heads on pillows and they lost the important component of direct relationships.” He added, with 76 percent of booking done through third parties, hotels have lost touch with their audience.
The launch today consists of two products. V-CRM provides a way for customers to set up profiles, usually tied to the hotel’s existing loyalty program via their social network login. This could be LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Google+. By connecting to the social persona of the customer, the hotel can communicate directly with the customer on social channels and also track social mentions about the hotel — good and bad.
The other tool is V-Direct, which gives the hotel staff the ability to offer discounts and other goodies to hotel guests based on how often they’ve visited with the goal of encouraging customers to book directly with the hotel to get these perks.
The ultimate goal Habbel explained was to turn loyalty into direct rebookings and to give hotels a deeper understanding of their customers.
Habbel said traditional CRM tools are not really designed to deal with individual customer requirements of a hotel with hundreds of guests. They are geared towards leads and sales cycles. Voyat has been designed to link to other hotel systems like the reservations system. That way when a guest checks in, there is a message that this person is a frequent visitor and the front desk personnel can welcome him or her back accordingly –and perhaps even offer an upgrade, a free meal or other perk.
Voyat says it gives the hotel the means to personalize the experience for each guest instead of assuming everyone that walks into the hotel is a first-time visitor and it provides the mechanism to reward loyal guests.
He believes this gives them a more level playing field with online competition like Airbnb because the strength of that service is the direct relationship people build between landlord and renter –and the social components around that. Voyat is attempting to give hotels a similar direct connection.
As Habbel pointed out back in the day, The Ritz was famous for understanding every detail of its regular customers, reportedly keeping index cards with details about their preferences. Voyat, he said, is an attempt at an updated version of that index card, but one that takes advantage of social and the web and customer activity on the property to understand customers better.