Every business needs a core of regulars, but few more so than hotels. They require less marketing, provide a core source of revenue and also promote you to their friends. So how do you ensure that more of the people who visit your hotel for the first time, come back?
1. Help guests plan their stay
The customer experience doesn’t begin when guests arrive at a hotel – it starts when they make a booking and start looking forward to their stay. Anticipation can be key to how people think back on their experience at the end. They then take that anticipation and compare it with the reality and with past hotel experiences to form an impression of the Hotel. Did the expectation match the result and was the overall experience better than the competition?
Start this early in advance of their visit. Send them information about the kind of things they can do during their visit – whether it’s an activity, an event or anything else. Help them to plan ahead, to build anticipation and to really start looking forward to their stay before they pass through the doors.
2. Use technology to engage
A hotel can use technology to engage more fully with guests at every stage of the process – from the time they start planning, to their time in the hotel, and afterwards, and an increasingly popular way to do this is with apps.
The vast majority of your guests will already be using smartphones or tablets. Mobile apps provide all sorts of benefits. They can offer self-service options, such as checking in and out online, ordering room service, requesting a taxi or car valet. It’s not necessarily about eliminating human interaction, but giving guests more options and making tasks which are sometimes more onerous faster and more straightforward.
3. Give them free stuff
It’s an old ploy, but it’s a good one. Whoever said bribery doesn’t work doesn’t know much about the human condition. Give people free things when they arrive – it doesn’t have to be much; perhaps a box of sweets or even a bottle of wine with their room. It helps to create a great first impression and builds some good will. It shows that you’re prepared to go the extra mile to ensure they enjoy their stay.
Loyalty programs can also improve guest retention. Help them build up points for discounts or free gifts. Combining these with an app makes the process much more transparent, so guests can track their points, and see what they’re getting. They also allow hotels to personalise the offering more effectively for each guest.
4. Using social media
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and co have woven themselves deep into our everyday lives – so much so that businesses almost feel obliged to have a social media strategy, but they don’t always know how to use it effectively.
One option is to simply promote yourself to people, show them your facilities or offer incentives. But you can also maintain contact with people after their stay, engage with them, and encourage them to come back.
It’s an excellent way monitor your own performance. Twitter is a great place for feedback. Good comments obviously help you build a reputation, but it’s the negative comments which can be most useful. They show you what people are saying behind your back and help you improve your business. Don’t be afraid of your critics – engage with them and show how you’re addressing their concerns. By doing so you may even turn your critics into repeat guests, and you’ll show everyone else how much you care and that you’re committed to making your Hotel the best it can be.
5. Use social proof
Imagine you’re looking for a place to eat in town? One is full, the other is empty; which do you choose? More often than not, it will be the one which looks busy and popular. We are social creatures and like to follow the herd.
Hotels can deploy social proof tactics to show images of people having a good time. Try posting pictures of your guests having a good time – be it in the restaurant, bar, a gym or anywhere else. Doing so will obviously create privacy issues, but there is a cheat. Hire a few models to play the part of happy guests for your hotel. Picture them enjoying all the facilities the guests enjoy.
Yes, many people will spot it as a staged photograph, but even so it has the same impact. It still helps people to imagine their own stay and associate your hotel as being busy and in-demand.
6. Retain guest information
Welcome to the age of data – a time when businesses of all kinds are realising just how useful customer information can be. Retaining their information helps you maintain contact with them, letting them know about developments in the hotel and any special offers.
The use of apps also helps you to build data and visibility about how guests are using the hotel and what services they prefer. It’s a great way to see where you need to allocate staff resources to improve your performance and encourage guests to rebook.
7. Offer Direct booking incentives
Direct bookings are valuable to all hotels. Before guests leave, give them incentives to book directly with you again. It increases the chances that they will choose you over the competition and increases the custom you get without costly affiliate marketing.
Make a point of reminding them to book directly. Guests can be a forgetful lot from time to time and many simply forget that they can make direct bookings. It’s easy to use the default avenues which wastes time and can cost more money. Remind them that they can book direct and show them how to do it. If it’s easy, and especially if there is a discount available, they are much more likely to go direct.
8. Do your job well
This last point is perhaps the most obvious, but let’s mention it anyway. Do your job well – make sure their experience is as good as it can be. Get the basics right such as room cleanliness and appearance. Make sure your customer service is five-star at every stage and be there to help your guests plan their stay outside of the hotel.
Serve good food in the restaurant and great drink in the bar. Too many Hotels think of people as being captive customers at this stage, and so let their game down when it comes to dining, but that’s a big mistake. Put yourself in the shoes of your guests. If you’re given poorly cooked and overpriced food – would you want to go back?
Reinventing the sales funnel
The end goal is to turn the traditional sales funnel into a more productive loop – one which sees people come into your hotel for the first time, but come back again next time they are in the area, as well as recommend the hotel to their friends and family. Such a loop builds momentum, with each new loyal guest bringing in new people themselves. Get it right and you’ll soon have an easy to access bedrock of regular guests providing a nice, stable revenue stream.