I recently called a hotel to talk about guest loyalty and they said their marketing person was away and I should call back.
But creating guest loyalty shouldn’t be the remit of just one person. Everyone should be involved. It’s not just about sending out emails with discounts, it’s about embedding ideas that make people remember your hotel and love it.
In fact, if you keep sending out offers to your guests, it can feel more like a bribery programme than a loyalty programme. As the Beatles reminded us, ‘money can’t buy you love’ and it’s true — you can’t buy love, you must earn it. And you earn it by showing you care.
And there’s no better way than showing you care and making your guests feel loved than by giving them the personalised treatment.
The personal touch When a guest feels a hotel understands them, they are 13% more likely to stay there again. And if someone’s been to your hotel before you’ll have data on them. So why not use that data to show customers you care and understand what’s important to them. In fact, over 70% of customers expect you to be providing personalised services according to McKinsey, it should be a case of how rather than if.
Here are just a few ideas for great personalised touchpoints to get you started:
Show what’s special about your hotel and partner up with local businesses to provide unique thoughtful gifts
A booking engine showing only relevant content
A pre-arrival communication to arrange value-add interest activities
A check-in using the guest name and a thoughtful arrival gesture
The room having the desired pillows, temperature, music, view; welcome gift
A phone call to check satisfaction with the room
Providing a thoughtful gift for their activity – if they’re going horse riding, for instance, hand them a small gift box with a sugar cube in it and tell them they can use it in case of emergency
Post-stay communications to events/activities of interest and special occasions. Through segmenting your database, you can make the communication more tailored to the individual.
Leverage the data to get old guests to come for different purposes – e.g. if someone came for a business trip, they could now be enticed to come for a leisure stay
Thoughtful gestures like these cost very little, but the payback you’ll get will be huge. They say it costs 7-25 times more to attract a new customer than to keep an old one, so when you’ve got the opportunity to build that relationship with a guest you should take it.
Train your staff to capture and leverage information on your guests preferences so that they can make each interaction more relevant and memorable. If you can make your guests feel loved and that you care about their happiness, they’ll be much more receptive to staying engaged and coming back. Also, why not give customers rewards for repeat purchase and recommending your brand online through social media and reviews.
Loyalty is hugely lucrative - research done by Bain & Company shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 75%.
A very effective way to increase retention is through having a customer reward and recognition programme. Virgin Hotels have ‘The Know’ to personalise the experience. When you sign up they ask you about your preferences for salty or sweet; crunchy or chewy; still or sparking; red or white; favourite snack and drink.
Rewards by Lucknam Park provides each returning visit with a handpicked additional experience of benefits as their gift to repeat guests. The rewards improve with repeat visit frequency.
Special moments make special memories If you can give people something unique and deliver it in an interesting way, you’ll create vivid memories that will make them feel your brand is something special.
A great example of this is the Magic Castle Hotel in LA and their popsicle hotline. Visitors at the hotel can pick up a red phone by the poolside to hear, "Hello, Popsicle Hotline." They request an ice-pop in their favourite flavour, and a few minutes later, an employee wearing white gloves delivers a free popsicle in the flavour of their choice, on a silver platter. Give your guests a reason to talk about your hotel and to remain ingrained in their minds, by offering added value on things that they care about. Do you have a remarkable popsicle moment?
Great beginnings and happy endings It’s easy to just focus on the time when a guest is at your property, but actions before and after they have stayed with you can be just as powerful and memorable, if not more so. They expect to be looked after when they’re staying with you (they’re paying after all). But if you can show you care outside their stay, it’s another way to really foster their loyalty.
If someone books direct, why not send them a personalised message offering them a free drink when they arrive. Centre Parcs let guests design their own itinerary before they arrive. Anything like this which involves the guest in imagining and thinking about their stay, helps in creating a mood of anticipation. Legoland Windsor helps build pre-stay excitement with offers of value-add experiences. Commercially it is very smart also, as this locks in more ancillary revenue and creates guest stickiness to be less inclined to cancel before arrival.
Welcoming guests by their name and thanking them for staying again is hugely valued as people want to feel recognised and appreciated. And of course, if they’re a returning customer any data you can use from their previous visit to offer them a more personalised service, will add huge value: “We remember you had a room overlooking the park, would you like the same again?”, “We remember you always liked breakfast in your room last time you stayed. We’d love to offer you a free breakfast in your room for your first morning with us.”
Everyone feels positive when they are thanked. This is a moment that you can both make people feel good by thanking them for choosing to stay at your hotel with a handwritten note. To make it even better, why not provide a repeat booking offer to express your gratitude and try to secure a repeat booking through your direct channels?
And again, keep trying to think of creative ways to engage with guests. If someone’s coming to stay with you over Christmas, why not send them an advent calendar with a picture of your hotel on it and a simple message that you’re looking forward to seeing them. The key is to keep communicating and enticing them to choose you. What could your hotel do to provide a surprise and delight moment pre- or post-stay? For example, at the Hotel Brooklyn they have a welcoming doggie biscuits and water on arrival.
Don’t check out when they check out A guest might have finished their stay with you, but how they feel as they leave and over the following weeks, is so important to whether they will visit again. You have an opportunity to make it a strong happy ending with a free gift. And if you can make it personalised, so much the better.
At Paradise Beach Resort on the Caribbean island of Nevis, for instance, each guest receive a free pair of Havaianas flip-flops in their shoe size.
Why not also think about what you can do to make your guests journey home more pleasurable. If your guests have children, give them a free book of games to play in the car. Or again, personalise it. You know where they live, so offer them a list of places of interest on their way home. And how about an arriving home survival kit of a pint of milk and a loaf of fresh bread and some locally made jam?
And then after a couple of weeks you could send them an email, or even better a personalised letter. BA sends out a personalised letter thanking the customer for flying with them. But it also includes the points the customer earnt on their last flight and their total points, as well as a button giving you the chance to, ‘plan your next trip’.
Using customer relationship system (CRM/CDP) cleverly, underpinned with right strategy and training, is a great way to create deeper end-to-end engagement.
For instance, if you know someone stayed with you to celebrate an anniversary or a birthday, send them a little something to show you remember them. Because loyalty is all about capturing their heart.
And if you can capture their heart, their head will follow.
Ali Powell, CEO of Commercial Acceleration, is on a mission to increase the repeat business % for UK independent hotels (currently standing at less than 10%). If you would like to discuss reward and recognition solutions for your hotel, please get in touch
Commercial Acceleration www.comaccel.co.uk