How to Build Customer Loyalty and Retention, with Zoho and Shiji Group

Sergio Teixeira of Shiji Group discusses digital transformation, data-driven decisions, and human-centric approaches in hospitality on CXOTalk. He explains how to develop customer loyalty and retention.


Aug 22, 2023

In the dynamic world of hospitality, creating and maintaining customer relationships is both an art and a science. In this exclusive CXOTalk interview, Michael Krigsman sits down with Sergio Teixeira, director of global operations at the Shiji Group, a company at the forefront of redefining customer experiences in the hospitality industry.

Key themes of this conversation include:

  • Digital Transformation in Hospitality: Teixeira explains important shifts in the industry, especially post-pandemic, and how technology has become essential to transforming the entire guest experience.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: The conversation explores how Shiji leverages data and analytics tools like Zoho to anticipate customer needs, understand patterns, and enhance efficiency across various segments of the hospitality industry.
  • Human-Centric Approach: Despite the heavy reliance on technology, Teixeira emphasizes the vital importance of empathy, collaboration, and a human touch in both understanding customers and shaping how the company provides service.

With a global presence and local touch, Shiji provides software solutions across the hospitality industry, from high-end restaurants to golf courses. Technology underlies their commitment to guests and delivering products and services.

Watch this conversation to learn about digital transformation in the hospitality industry, the art of scaling, and the critical role data plays in shaping the guest experience. Whether you're in hospitality or any customer-centric industry, this conversation offers valuable lessons on forging meaningful connections and adapting to change.

Sergio Teixeira is a Global CRM Manager of Shiji Group. 


Michael Krigsman: We're discussing how to build, sustain, scale customer relationships, and we're speaking with Sergio Teixeira. He is the director of global operations with the Shiji Group.

Sergio Teixeira: Shiji provides software solutions to enhance guest experience and help the hospitality industry with their servicing needs in terms of technology around the guest. 

Michael Krigsman: How large is the company?

Sergio Teixeira: Altogether, there are about 1,200 employees at this moment just outside of China. We have a huge base in China as well. We have offices all over the world from Australia to Malaysia to Singapore to three here in the U.S. and opening a few more over the next few months.

There's a reason behind that. We are global, but we try and be a local company (no matter how big we get). 

Michael Krigsman: You cover a range of different types of industries and companies within that.

Sergio Teixeira: Correct, everything from your restaurants, from your restaurant within the hotel, to your golf and spa, to your golf courses. We literally cover a lot, anything that is hospitality related and has a guest involved.

Michael Krigsman: You're working with high-end customers, which means they have very high-end expectations of you.

Sergio Teixeira: When you work with demanding guests, you yourself become demanding of your providers and your partners. It's a chain reaction.

We are also demanding as well. [Laughter] But it kind of fits into the chain that way.

Michael Krigsman: Therefore, the customer relationship, customer loyalty aspect, must be extremely important to your business.

Sergio Teixeira: If you understand your customer's business or his needs, that's half the battle won. 

Michael Krigsman: It's so easy to say that, but the execution, especially in the industry in which you work, hospitality, must be so complex. 

Sergio Teixeira: If you talk hospitality, my computer is down means I have a queue sitting in front of me. I have 17 people facing me. I have a list of screaming customers in front of me going, "Where is my room? I can't get into my room."

Technology needs to be a little more seamless, it needs to work, and it needs to be reliable.

Michael Krigsman: When you think about the customer lifecycle, establishing that relationship, sustaining that relationship, ensuring loyalty so that the customer comes back, broadly speaking, what are your strategies for approaching that lifecycle?

Sergio Teixeira: We are moving into a different age of technology. The customer before, when it came to hotel solutions, was very sticky. Once you installed something, it was very hard to get out of it. 

You know, training staff, there's a big disruption that happens when you change technology in a hotel. It's stressful. There's a lot of change management involved, process changes, and it's pretty big.

As technologies evolved, this has become a lot easier to change. People are adapting a lot more to change. So, we've had to change our mindset as well.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like there's a very significant digital transformation aspect to this.

Sergio Teixeira: There is. The hospitality industry went through a huge transformation. I think it was probably the industry that got impacted the most with the pandemic. If you think about it, everything had to change and it had to change pretty quickly. 

Everybody was looking for new technologies. We need to be able to do more remote check-ins. We need to have that distance.

But how do you achieve that without losing the contact to the guest? It's a key element to this. Technology involved incredibly.

In the last two, three years, the demands of what people need and the competition that's existing at the moment has forced the hotels to rely more on their technology. It's not just about having a solution to check in a guest, but it's a solution to understand the guest.

Michael Krigsman: Again, it's another dimension of working closely with customers, collaborating with customers to really understand what they need. Then, of course, their ultimate customer who is the guest.

Sergio Teixeira: Exactly, and that is the best way to achieve something. If you understand the whole journey and understand the end goal of what your customer needs, the better you are able to deliver what the customer needs.

Michael Krigsman: Therefore, you have to put yourself in the mind of both your customer (the hospitality chain, hotel, whatever it might be, venue) as well as their customer. 

Sergio Teixeira: Correct. As part of a hospitality service provider, the first thing I do in my hotel, I'm looking [laughter] not at the room, at everything else. I'm looking, how does this operate? "Oh, that's interesting how you're doing that." "Oh! Your card works nicely."

It's really strange. I'm not looking at it from a technology point of view, but I'm looking at it from an experience point of view and learning. It comes in as second nature, I think. everybody that's come from hospitality, that's probably the first thing that they do.

I consider that putting myself as a guest and understanding, okay, what is happening now is a trend, and keeping up to-to-date on that.

We need to offer protection. We need to offer peace of mind. And we need to offer seamlessness to that experience.

Michael Krigsman: Now let's go back to this notion of customer relationships and retention and scaling all of this. Tell us about the technologies that you use to make all that happen.

Sergio Teixeira: Although we are a hospitality service provider, solutions provider, we are still a company. We still have our needs, our measurements.

We need to understand how our growth works. We need to understand our customers' habits. We need to understand their service needs as well. 

We need to identify trends. We need to anticipate that there is an issue.

If we are going to be a local company providing local support to our customers and providing services to our customers, we need to have the ability to first identify them, of course, but also understand what are our customers, who are our customers, what do they have from us, and what do they need from us.

The more information we have about our customers, the better we can service their needs. That goes for everything from the sales, the marketing process, right through to, at the end of the day, your finance needs.

Michael Krigsman: Where does Zoho fit into this landscape you've just been describing?

Sergio Teixeira: At the end of the day, we still need to operate as a business, and our demand is driven from the customers in terms of partnership and working together with our customers. We expect the same thing.

This is where Zoho fits in. It's a good partnership that we have. 

We have the support, and it helps us drive our business, really, in terms of from our CRM, our sales teams, our marketing teams, campaign management. It helps us with customer conversion and customer retention, and a lot of things, and data. When we did partner up with Zoho, it was a very natural evolution.

Michael Krigsman: What are the Zoho products that you're using?

Sergio Teixeira: We started with people, but it quickly evolved. We moved quickly into CRM and desk. We then put campaigns in, marketing forms. 

We need to understand our data a little bit more, so we brought in analytics. We're in the process of gathering our CRM data, and now let's compare it with our service data.

They listen, and it's incredible how their development and evolution is actually pretty impressive.

Michael Krigsman: I've actually been following Zoho for years, and they really do listen, and they really want customer feedback. They really do care. 

Let's jump back to these customer relationships.

Sergio Teixeira: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: What are the principles that, for you, underly the establishment of these strong, ongoing relationships?

Sergio Teixeira: The partnership and relationship and the way that you communicate work together and listen to your customers is key. If you do all those together, the retention almost happens naturally.

Michael Krigsman: Now you've mentioned data several times, and you mentioned that you're a data-driven organization.

Sergio Teixeira: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: Can you tell us about the role of data in all of this as well?

Sergio Teixeira: One of the projects that we're currently working on is, how we do use that data? What else can we bring into it to help our organization work better?

It's just small things, but it's great that you have this great sales analysis. But there are other factors that you need to consider.

Great! Sales have sold 50 million in there. But then you go and look at the other side, and you go, "Oh, um... Why have we only installed one customer out of those 50 million?" 

Then this is where the analysis come in. If we can improve that whole journey, and if we understand the customer journey from end-to-end and not just looking at sales numbers and support numbers, but look at it as a whole, that improves our efficiency as an organization but also our response, how we work.

Michael Krigsman: You're looking at the data to help guide you through the entire customer journey.

Sergio Teixeira: Correct. The more we have in there, the better it helps us to understand what that journey is.

It's interesting that, in our organization, our journey is sometimes pretty different. If you think about it, you are my customer as a golf resort is very different to my spa customer. The needs are different. 

They all want to achieve the same thing, the service of the guest. But the needs, the requirements, the sales cycle is completely different, and the end result and the requirements are also a little bit different.

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about personalization then because that's really what you're alluding to, using the data to understand the customer regardless of their specific environment.

Sergio Teixeira: At the end of the day, if you look at a lot of noise, it never makes any sense, so you always try to allude to patterns. You try to allude to trends. 

Only once you identify a trend can you look into it deeper. If you focus on a lot of noise, it doesn't really help you in making decisions at all.

The time of going into spreadsheets and pulling all this data and spending 60,000 hours of man work to try and come to a solution that now takes you 5 minutes nowadays, it's an incredible change. 

I do remember times when a revenue manager used to spend hours and hours looking, "Okay, we've made this much. This is what I'm forecasting," and everything else.

You now have revenue management software where it just goes in there and says, "Well, you should sell your rooms at this amount, and this is how you make the best profit."

This has been a big shift in this with data. I think this is the next level with analytics tools as well within the hospitality industry.

Michael Krigsman: What are the Zoho tools that you're using to help you with this?

Sergio Teixeira: Mainly analytics on this. They've come up with something fantastic, actually, which is the data transformation. It's kind of a little bit of a godsend: spanning the stakes, inconsistency of data. 

It's tricky. It's tough when you have a huge amount of data, to manage all that, and not have five dedicated people doing that. 

And the fact that you can actually bring it from other sources. You don't just have to rely on the Zoho products. You can actually bring it in from anywhere, and then you can have your full analysis on it. For us as a business, we see the importance of it. 

Our CEO, actually, constantly, he's got his dashboard now. And, in five seconds, he's got a full overview of what's happening in the company in terms of sales and everything else. A pretty powerful tool.

Michael Krigsman: Would it be correct then to say that data, for you, is the foundation of not only understanding your business but understanding the customer, their habits, their expectations, the patterns and the trends that are arising to help you run your business better and to be more responsive to your customers?

Sergio Teixeira: Correct. If you can anticipate a customer's needs – sort of like, let me forecast my revenue, let me forecast what my customer experience is – that would be a great tool. It's having the ability to find those and see those, identify those. This is where data becomes key.

There's no other way that you can have a coordinated action unless you have something that you can actually make a plan from. That is what data brings you. It gives you a start to where you can plan to.

Michael Krigsman: Then the ability to learn and to take those lessons in order to scale, and also drive consistency.

Sergio Teixeira: To me, scaling is helping the organization grow in a sensible way. To grow in a sensible way, again, you need to understand your patterns and your data patterns to be able to make the right decisions are where you are going to go. This applies across the region – the products, the region, the sales teams, and everything.

Michael Krigsman: How does the data help you drive customer loyalty and customer retention? Can you draw that linkage for us?

Sergio Teixeira: Customer happiness, customer sentiment. You can also learn from your lessons as well. This is the other thing.

Just because I've lost 10 customers (because I haven't talked to them for 20 months), if I don't know that, then I won't be able to do anything about it, so I'm going to lose another 20 customers at the end of the month. But learning from your lessons, from that data, that is the other part of it.

Michael Krigsman: The data then is telling you the story of the customer at various points in their lifecycle.

Sergio Teixeira: Correct. Again, it comes back to data from identify the customer journey. How did I find you? How did I convince you? How did I keep you? And how do I keep you further? If you've gone, how do I get you back?

Michael Krigsman: What strikes me as being very valuable, very important is you have clear business metrics and clear business goals. That's your focus. But then you're using the data to support the achievement of those very specific business goals.

Sergio Teixeira: It's not just all about growth. There's no point in growing if you're bleeding everything from the other side. 

It's the harmonious relationship that you have during the customer journey. It's a lot of effort to gain a customer. It's a lot easier to retain a customer if you do everything right. 

If you look at the cost analysis when it comes to how much it actually takes to gain a new customer, it's actually – you know what – if you retain your customers a lot more, it's a lot more efficient.

It's a very easy analysis to do, again through data. Of course, cost of marketing, the effort of the salesperson, the commission, everything that goes in. 

Finally, you're a customer. You're onboard. Then you're working happily. 

If you don't upset them, and you keep them happy, then you have a customer for life.

Michael Krigsman: Sergio, given all of this, what advice can you offer to folks who want to use technology and use data to drive better, stronger, deeper, longer-lasting customer relationships? 

Sergio Teixeira: I always tend to look and say, "What are we trying to achieve as a business? What can help me achieve that in the best possible way?" Find something that's easy to administer and that hasn't got a lot of complexity on it, but make sure that everything you do gives you the right output because this is what you are looking for: the data, clean data to help you with the end results of what your software implementation was.

Michael Krigsman: As we finish up, I have to ask you this question. You have obvious empathy and understanding of the customer. How do you translate that into technology and data?

Sergio Teixeira: It doesn't matter how much data that you have. There is always a human element to this whole journey that you have. 

The translation of technology needs to be to put yourself in people's shoes. It comes back to asking that question. What do I want to achieve on that? 

Don't overcomplicate it. Make it simple to use because sometimes making it simple to use, you capture the right information because people feel more natural about it. That can make your life a little bit better but, at the same time, help the company drive forward.

Michael Krigsman: Actually caring.

Sergio Teixeira: Exactly.

Michael Krigsman: Sergio Teixeira, thank you so much for speaking with us.

Sergio Teixeira: It was fantastic being here. Thank you. [Laughter]

Published Date: Aug 22, 2023

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 802