In the previous blog, we spoke about how technology helps in attracting and acquiring guests; a unified distribution system helps hotels enhance their visibility and booking engine allows travelers to book easily. While technology can bring in a lot of travelers to your hotel, what matters after that is the level of guest experience your hotel offers.
Hotels that provide satisfying guest experience are valued more than hotels that offer only inexpensive packages to draw travelers. A guest needs to be viewed as much more than just a booking.
Bigger brands like Ritz Carlton take pride in providing their guests with high-standard, exceptional service. They do this by utilizing their guest database to quantify their service standards. They analyze their services on factors such as how well have they attended to a guest, what are guests saying about them, where have they lacked and what they can do to improve themselves. These analyses help them find their faults and work towards delivering a high-standard guest service.
Given the fact that the small independent hotels have limited manpower and technology, it becomes difficult for them to have mechanisms to provide guest experience as high as the big hotel chains. Nevertheless, they can use simple ways to engage with their guests.
Being a regular traveler, I feel effective engagement should start from the time the hotel receives the booking. Travelers book 73 days prior to their arrival (Source: Attacat), so hotels have more than two months to build a relationship with their guests.
Another interesting survey by Gallup reveals that, ‘Guests spent an average of $457 per stay at the hotel they visited most frequently in the past 12 months, but fully engaged guests spent $588 per stay compared with $403 per stay for actively disengaged guests — a difference of $185 per customer.’ Hence, creating highly engaged guests is crucial.
Here are simple ways in which independent hotels can engage with their guests prior to their arrival. Engagement can be two-fold: 30-45 days before they arrive and then closer to their arrival:
Add personalization to your approach
In usual scenarios, once the guest has made his booking, he receives a booking confirmation mail from the hotel and that is the only communication that a hotel has with its guests prior to their arrival. How about personalizing the email so that it leaves a strong impression on your guest and helps them visualize the property. Here’s a unique email I received on making a booking that made me share it with colleagues as well:
Also, by having a dedicated person call up the guest and take down details such as his preferences, purpose of visit (business/leisure) and requirements during arrival will help the hotel create a good impression and customize its services accordingly. Even the guests will feel acknowledged and would look forward to the stay.
Offer assistance with sightseeing packages
Offer assistance on call to those who are coming to your city for the first time and are unaware of the tourist attractions.
Customize the amenities
Once you have the details of your guests such as preferences and their purpose of visit, you can customize the services according to their likes. For e.g.: If your guest is a business traveler, offer in-room stationary, early breakfast and shuttle services to commute within the city. (Also Read: How small hotels can attract and delight business travelers).
Connect on social media
Connecting with guests on social media channels well in advance will give you a huge platform to begin engagement. You can request your guest to like your page on social media in order to check out the ongoing and upcoming offers, details of special events and remarks by the other guests. (Also read: E-book on how to engage with guests on social media)
As the guest nears arrival, he is closer to visualizing his journey and you can be a part of this stage:
Ring in a gentle reminder
Send a reminder email with details of the weather, direction, location/map and interesting sightseeing tours. These little details will help your guest know what to expect on arrival. Let the guests know who will meet them when they arrive. At this stage, you want to assure them that you are looking into each detail to make their stay comfortable. You can also capture maximum information like the guest’s scanned Identity card at this stage that will make the check-in process quicker later.
Utilize your resources
Utilize your resources as brand ambassadors to engage with guests. Here’s citing an example of an apart hotel in Phuket that cleverly used its chauffeur to engage with a guest.
“I made a booking with BYD LOFTS Phuket and on arrival, I was provided an airport pick-up from the hotel. The drive was approximately about an hour and a bit more. The time I entered the cab, I was offered hot towels by the chauffeur to freshen up and relax. After a while, he handed me an iPad with all the details of the services, amenities offered by the hotel and asked me to generally browse through it. His idea was to get me familiar with the property before arriving. The home screen of the iPad was running a virtual tour of hotel which was quite impressive. The chauffeur probed me to go further and explore the nearby attractions listed. There were links to the hotel’s social media pages and the TripAdvisor page to read the guest reviews. So, by now I was pretty familiar with the property, its nearby attractions and also the opinions of the guests who had stayed. It was surprising to see how the chauffeur further marketed the property. Because of this, I knew exactly what to expect during my stay and I actually looked forward to it.”
This kind of thoughtful and targeted engagement strategy not only creates brand loyalty, it also results in multiple word-of-mouth recommendations and repeat business.
Engagement is a two-fold process; it helps in getting the guests to your hotel and retain them. If your hotel starts engaging with them at an early stage, chances of making amends are higher if anything goes wrong. Always, value your guest and don’t just treat them as sources of revenue. Remember the famous proverb, ‘First impression is the last impression’, so do your best to nail it right!
"They came, they saw, they booked: Did your hotel hook them?",