Hotels have their fair share of challenges these days. Online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline are ubiquitous and reassure customers that they are getting the latest deal at the best price. But when guests book through OTAs, hotels often miss out on the chance to gain valuable customer information that they can use to develop customized deals and more personalized stays.
With the right online booking engine (OBE) and marketing strategy, hotels can gather ample information about their guests no matter how they book. Guest data can then be developed into loyalty programs that entice guests to become repeat customers and brand ambassadors. Here are some effective ways you can collect customer feedback and use it to create loyalty rewards that keep guests coming back to your hotel time and time again.
Gather Feedback Through Many Channels
It’s no secret that we live in a more-connected world than ever—guests can communicate with their favourite companies and brands online and in person. As guests take to different platforms to express their preferences and experiences, hotels need to make sure they’re gathering valuable information from all sources.
For starters, getting guests’ email addresses will help you to send out targeted promotions and customer satisfaction surveys. Having a user-friendly online booking engine can increase direct bookings on your website, but there are ways to source essential data from indirect bookings, too. Try offering free wifi in your rooms, and have users enter their email addresses to gain access. Encouraging guests to leave reviews on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or even Instagram is another way to gain critical information on which hotel features guests appreciate most and where your hotel can step up its game.
Take Guests’ General Needs into Account
To make a loyalty program enticing to your customers, you need to know what features they appreciate the most. A good first step is finding out if their trip is for business or for leisure. It’s a simple question, but one that can yield a lot of valuable information.
For example, leisure travellers are more likely to be interested in what’s going on outside the hotel, so appropriate rewards may be discounts at local museums or popular nearby restaurants. Business travellers usually have limited time and restrictive schedules, so they are more likely to be interested in perks inside the hotel. Try offering a business guest free drinks, spa treatments, room service or premium gym access. Other tech-oriented rewards, such as Uber discounts or Amazon credit, may delight both the business traveller and younger, tech-savvy guests.
…And Then Customize Offers with the Specifics
While knowing the purpose of a guest’s stay is important, a successful loyalty program will personalize its offerings based on guests’ specific preferences. With a sophisticated PMS system, hotels can merge guest profiles to ensure that their preferences are stored in one centralized location regardless of whether they booked their stay online, over the phone or in person. An innovative PMS will integrate with other applications and devices—for instance, with specific hotel mobile apps that customers can use to communicate with the front desk.
Once hotels have the technology in place to successfully gather and store guest data, they can customize their perks and rewards. Whether hotels partner with a third-party marketing platform that integrates reservation data, or encourages bookings directly through their OBEs, offers should take into account guests’ locations, dietary restrictions, previous requests and even special dates such as birthdays or anniversaries. Offering a gluten-free meal in the hotel’s restaurant or providing a room upgrade for a repeat guest’s birthday will help to create a stronger connection between the guest and your brand and increase the likelihood that they will return in the future.
Guests are more motivated to join loyalty programs if they receive instant gratification—so consider including immediate rewards, rather than using a point system where rewards are earned over many stays.
Remember That Relationships are More Important Than Rewards
Ultimately, the main point of your loyalty program should be to make your guests feel connected to your brand. Loyalty programs are a smart way to drive bookings and provide a higher quality of stay, but they only work if your guests feel valued and understood. By using guest information in strategic ways, hotels can make an ordinary stay truly extraordinary.