REVIEWER: Gary Thomson, CIO for Choice Hotels.

BACKGROUND: Choice Hotels International is one of the largest and most successful lodging franchisers in the world. The company has more than 5,000 hotels, inns, all-suite hotels and resorts open and under development in 45 countries and territories. Its brands include Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Cambria Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, MainStay Suites, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn.

HARDWARE PLATFORMS: Sun Server E6800 Sun Solaris 10.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Choice Hotels wanted to maintain its leadership position in a highly competitive market; increase revenue through more efficient, targeted marketing programs; and improve customer service and loyalty by interacting with guests in a more meaningful way. These objectives required Choice to create a complete, integrated guest history, including needs and preferences. Choice Hotels, which serves 15 million guests annually, struggled with mountains of complicated data from multiple systems representing thousands of global properties. Guests often register using multiple identities (variations on names and addresses without any consistent identifier), frequently do not use their loyalty program number and often stay at different Choice Hotel brands for a variety of reasons. Choice needed a solution that could aggregate complex customer data, seamlessly integrate with its loyalty program system and link data maintained in existing legacy systems.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Initiate Identity Hub software aggregates/reconciles guest data from various systems, including central reservations, property management and loyalty marketing programs. The software enables Choice to recognize guests in real time at the point of service by accurately matching guest information according to demographic and historical data. If Initiate Identity Hub software does not find a customer record, the software creates and deploys a new one. Initiate also provides reconciled guest data to Choice Hotels' existing frequency marketing system to help the company capitalize on valuable cross-sell opportunities. Benefits include recognition of guests regardless of which property they visit due to real-time data management and integration; smarter cross-selling marketing campaigns, producing an increase in the number of hotel stays from frequent guests; and better understanding of guest histories, resulting in an increased number of loyalty program accounts.

STRENGTHS: Initiate Identity Hub software has four main strengths: it accurately matches guest data based on demographic or behavioral histories, it provides real-time customer deduplication and recognition, it integrates with existing legacy systems and it scales to meet performance requirements with significant data volumes.

WEAKNESSES: Initiate does not provide operational reports within the product that provide insight into potential performance problems and concerns. This capability would be helpful.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Customer relationship management (CRM) vendors originally under consideration were not able to cleanse and dedupe data in real time, which was critical to Choice. Choice Hotels chose to work with Initiate because its software was able to aggregate data from various global sources and manage the matching, cleansing and deployment of guest data to users.

DELIVERABLES: Choice passes guest data to Initiate Identity Hub to determine if the guest exists or is new. Initiate returns this information in Java objects that are zero or more rows in size. Choice also compares customer service agent (user) activity against the Initiate Identity Hub database to determine staff activity levels.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support from Initiate is good, and the company is responsive to Choice's needs and requests. Initiate works closely with Choice to solve its business and technology needs. Initiate explains how things work versus just "fixing" things.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is complete and easy to understand. Although Choice isn't certain it could run the product with documentation alone, Initiate has been very helpful by sending configuration files. Choice could determine the configuration settings using only documentation, although it would have been difficult and time-consuming. 

Initiate Systems Identity
Hub v6.1
Initiate Systems
200 W. Madison, Suite 2300
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 759-5030

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