Planning a holiday? Hop onto Google and search for the best hotel deals in the destination of your choice and you’ll see a plethora of choices. Or just drive through town and you’ll see hotels mushrooming on every corner of the street. We’re spoilt for choice and in consequence, hoteliers have always been in a constant struggle to keep their guests loyal.
The digital advancement has undoubtedly reshaped our marketplace and changed the face of consumer behavior. While guests are spoilt for choice with the array of selections in the market with just a click of a button, there are other factors that contribute to the turbulence in the hotel industry. From the ease of information sharing and accessibility via the web to the arrival of hosting platforms such as AirBnB, staying afloat in the industry is truly no easy feat albeit not impossible.
The nature of the hospitality industry is centered around service efficiency and comfort, with customer experience being the core of its very business. However, findings of a recent research conducted by Esteban Kolsky the CEO of thinkJar, suggests that customers of this digital age are more educated, empowered and presently have more options available to them. And while they have an array of choices, customers are more inclined to trust the brand first before engaging with them. And we all know that for brand loyalty to enter the picture, customer engagement has to first be present.
“Customer experience is defined by the customer, for the customer, at each touch-point, each time,” said Kolsky.
On top of that, the research revealed that consumers are looking for more than just a promised good experience. They are searching for a guaranteed one. At least 55% of them are no longer satisfied with the former and are willing to pay more for the latter. The study also highlighted that air travel and hospitality are ideal illustrations whereby upselling better experiences can foster a gradual increase in revenue and reinforce brand loyalty.
And while the digital advancement has granted consumers the power to demand and pick whichever hotel that best serves their interests, we also have tech to thank for the myriad of opportunities available for hoteliers to adopt in order to keep our modern-day guests engaged.
Before Their Stay
Reiterating Kolsky’s point that each touch-point has an equally important role in the overall customer experience, we can conclude that customer experience management strategies have to start from the very beginning. This includes the moment guests come in contact with your brand, which in today’s case does not refer to physically setting foot in the hotel but visiting virtually instead.
In order to operate in this digital age where most decisions are influenced by the opinions of netizens, it is essential for hoteliers to ensure their website is able to impart a lasting first impression. Besides establishing a website that is user-friendly, optimized for mobile and up-to-date with the latest information as well as contact details, having a seamless online booking system is probably the most crucial part of it all. It also helps if there are additional information guests may also find useful during their visit; minor details such as shuttle times, nearest train stations and more may seem trivial but adds to the improvement of the overall experience, especially for travelers.
Typically, after a booking has been made, a confirmation email will be sent to the guest — this marks the brand’s first direct engagement with the customer. Adding a personal touch to this standard ‘thank you for booking’ email helps your brand to stand out among competitors and has the ability to make your future guests feel valued before they can even step through your hotel doors. The same principle applies to the rest of the emails that follow after, such as an email reminder of their upcoming stay prior to the date. Again, including additional information relevant to their upcoming stay such as the local weather forecast, guide to the area and a highlight of any festive celebrations during this stage contributes highly to improving the guest experience.
During Their Stay
All those email engagements is a build-up to this stage where the real experience comes into play.
Today, hotels can leverage on the power of technology to further improve the experience for guests as well as to increase the efficiency of their own operations. Tools such as web apps are great for reducing wait time and offers a more seamless experience. Long processes in the hospitality line such as checking in and out, ordering room service, booking of facilities and more can be made simpler with just a single click of a button. Requesting for feedback and ratings after each experience is also much more convenient for both the guest as well as the hotel marketing team for the purpose of data collection.
Being in an era where “pictures or it didn’t happen” define society’s standards of validating experiences, hotel marketers are at an added advantage. Campaigns and contests that encourage guests to take photos of their experience in the hotel to get rewarded are quick ways to generate brand awareness and ramp up engagement rates.
To seal the deal, introduce a loyalty program to encourage guests to revisit by incentivizing them with rewards. Besides offering them exclusive members-only discounts, a comprehensive loyalty program is an essential tool that could assist the marketing team in building a database with all the information gathered and delving deep into the understanding of their guests. This ultimately helps with tailoring approaches in order to offer a more personalized and exclusive experience for guests.
After Their Stay
The experience doesn’t end the moment they step out of the hotel. Using all of that rich information gathered in the database, hotel marketers can send out a post-stay email to guests with a prompt to rate their experience with a tailored approach. Incentivize guests to give a review by giving them points or other forms of rewards.
Typically, members of a hotel rewards program would receive latest news and members-only offers via email as well. These emails usually come off dull and overly pushy for sales. Marketers can use their database to their advantage to tailor approaches according to guests’ best interests in order to make these emails more engaging.
Another form of engagement includes birthday greetings and rewards. These can be attached with a discount code for non-members and exclusive birthday rewards for members of the loyalty program.
Take The Sukhothai Bangkok’s loyalty program for example. The luxury hotel’s loyalty program incorporates a five-star member experience in just a single click of a button. The program offers members the opportunity to earn points during their stay at the various dining outlets within the premises, as well as multiple tiers to climb as they hit specific spending amounts.
Members are also treated extra special on their birthday with double points for all transactions made in participating outlets. The brand keeps their members updated with the latest news and offers via a marketing messaging tool for a more personalized approach.