Written by: Beth Hamilton, Product & Marketing Manager
Did you know that the average repeat guest spends 300% more with a brand they return to? Although this may not necessarily mean longer stays, it could mean more frequent stays with your properties. The key question being: how do you encourage guest loyalty? We’ve done our research and found that these five activities will help you to attract repeat guests
1. Engage your employees
I used to work at my University fitness facility while I was doing my commerce degree. I loved that job so much that I stuck around for many years after completing my degree after starting my career in hospitality technology. Many of the members would ask why I continued to work there even though I didn’t need the money. The answer was simple; I really enjoyed working there and it showed. Forbes was right when they said that “customers will enjoy not only the product or services offered, but for the employees, as well”. When I was happy to be there and happy to see the members, that had a positive impact on their day the usually a positive impact on their workout – and who doesn’t want that?
Service and hospitality can be a tough gig in customer service, and with the increase of a contactless experience, you have fewer in-person chances to wow your guests; it’s important to make those moments count. Ensure that your employees are trained, knowledgeable, know what’s expected of them and have the guest in mind.
2. Deliver excellent and 24/7 customer service
The numbers talk when you do not provide a stellar customer experience:
Although international travel is currently less popular than in the past, many signs point to that changing rapidly. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes that international travel “will come back even stronger than domestic will” once borders open and restrictions lift. Keeping this in mind, it’s important that your team is ready, available, and able to help your guests at any hour with everything from bookings to in-room technical support. This may be hard if you’re a small rental group, but using value added partners can lessen the burden and help you wow your guests. Consider using technology partners that can assist by providing this end-user support so your team only has to handle the amenity concerns.
3. Educate on your product and area
When I began my hospitality tech career, I was mentored by a seasoned hotel professional who at his peak served as a revenue manager for a large property group in Eastern Canada. I remember him telling me a story about how important it was to advertise what you had, or you risk getting guest complaints.
He told me about how they were taking new photos for their website one year and the chairs in the room weren’t striking enough. They decided to move their red lobby chairs into the guest room to add some color to the photos.
The result: multiple guest complaints about being placed in the wrong room because they didn’t have “the red chairs”. The morale of the story: ensure that what you’re advertising is relevant and that your guests understand exactly what they’re getting from you and your area.
Keep in mind, I wouldn’t worry too much about complaints like this:
Automated emails and messages are a great way to communicate expectations to guests. It’s important to remember to send any pre-arrival messages out ahead of the cancellation policy to ensure guests can change their mind without penalty – that saves you on some complaints. These emails could include public health guidelines, construction in the area, local area attractions, document requirements, and reiteration of their booking details. Remember: sometimes an unhappy guest has nothing to do with what you’re offering, but with the surroundings.
4. Collect feedback, make changes, and respond
In my past life I worked for a company that offered a hotel comment card system and in my experience, paper comment cards only yield around 2% return. This makes it difficult to understand and act on feedback – plus you have the nuisance of manually inputting the details for tracking. Online comment cards, on the other hand, typically receive a 20% response rate and many systems allow you to automate responses and view intel/trend information from your mobile device. It is imperative to stay on top of this information if you want to attract repeat guests.
When I worked for this company, these were always our recommendations:
- This email should be sent 24hours post departure and shouldn’t take more than 5minutes to complete.
- Stick with Yes/No questions like: Were you satisfied with your villa? If no, give them the option to specify why: amenities, size, cleanliness, etc. This way, you can drill down to your problem areas without having to read through excessive comments.
- Avoid scaling questions like: Rate your villa on a scale from 1-5. What does a 3/5 tell you? It was average, but you have no information to act on. Action is important for you to fix problem areas.
- End your survey with these two loyalty questions: “Will you return?” and “Will you recommend?” Ultimately you want to know if the problem areas they identified will ultimately impact any future stays or recommendations. If not, well they should still be dealt with, but are less of a concern.
- Send the comment card to as many people who’ve stayed as possible – this means you need to collect email addresses for everyone staying and not just the booker.
5. Add value through specific email marketing
A real wow is when your marketing campaigns are targeted to the individual. For instance, if I only book using my corporate code or discount, I probably won’t be interested in the water park down the street. Similarly, if I book during a holiday period, I probably want to know about road closures, events, and possible interruptions during my stay.
There’s some technology magic that needs to happen here and an automated strategy is important in order to make this scalable. Here’s a few things you should consider with this:
- Check if your PMS (property management system) has ways to flag preferences on your guest profiles that aren’t in a comment field. A comments field is next to impossible to reference consistently and automatically.
- Check if your email marketing platform can also accommodate those preference flags and send emails triggered by them. API connections between email marketing platforms and PMS’s are fairly common, but you need to make sure that they connect properly and are triggering the right emails using the right flags.
This takes a little time to set-up and manage, but the results speak volumes. Even though we’re moving to fewer in-person interactions with the increase of technology, details like this show that your brand cares and that you want your guest to have a stellar experience with you. HubSpot agrees and says that, “Sending one-size-fits-all campaigns to all of your subscribers with no consideration for who your subscribers are, what they’re interested in, and where they are in your brand’s life cycle has no place in email marketing anymore”. Check out this email from Airbnb as a great example.
All of the data points to the fact that acquiring new customers is hard and expensive work – and it’s much easier to maintain customers than acquire new ones. If done well, these five recommendations will help you attract repeat guests, and see increased revenue as a result. Stay tuned for part 2 in this series where we discuss “How to Attract Repeat Bookings with Automated Emails”.