When it comes to making purchasing decisions, consumers nowadays have more options than ever. Almost every product and service comes with a huge range of choice, and this is no different when it comes to choosing a hotel. There are often hundreds to choose from in any one place, so hotels must work hard to cultivate loyalty and encourage guests to come back. Attracting guests for their first stay is one thing; retaining those visitors and ensuring they return is a whole new challenge.
Some studies show that up to 90% of hotel guests never return to the same venue twice. In many areas this is unsurprising, as many travellers don’t wish to holiday in the same places repeatedly, or if they do, may wish to stay in a slightly different area. However with business travel, staycations, and mini-breaks on the rise, there are a few things hotels can do to encourage guests to come again.
The first (and perhaps most obvious) point is that hotels must consistently present the best version of themselves to guests at all times if they’re to persuade guests to return. You may have an amazing website and good ratings which convince guests to book, but they won’t be back if their experience doesn’t match up with your online presence. It is all about the experience. If you present your best selves to all guests, whether they’re business or leisure travellers, they’ll have fond memories of their stay and you’ll have a better chance of seeing them return.
Customer service is central to this. From a guest’s perspective, a hotel should be a sanctuary – a home from home where they shouldn’t have to worry about a thing. Needs should be catered for and issues resolved with minimal delay and disruption to a guest’s day. Be mindful that if guests are abroad they are also out of their comfort zone, so personable and reliable customer service can help put them at ease. Not only this, but efficient customer service means that even when things go wrong, guests are appeased and only mildly inconvenienced, and still feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. Without paying keen attention to the level of customer service you’re offering, and making it a priority, you cannot expect return visits.
Another place where hotels can helpfully interact with guests both during and after their stay, and remain in their periphery, is on social media. Building a strong social media presence and encouraging guests to follow your accounts when they’re staying in your hotel means you’ll be in their minds and on their feeds long after they’ve checked out. Encourage guests to ‘check-in’ on Facebook when they physically check-in, or offer guests the chance to win a complimentary night’s stay if they tag and share photos from their visit on Instagram. Engaging with guests in this way means they won’t forget you, and also means they can keep up to date with your latest news should they be interested in your new suite, refurbished gym or summer booking offer. Don’t be forgotten.
Loyalty points systems are a little more vintage, but are not to be derided when it comes to encouraging return visits. Loyalty points systems are helpful, as they give guests tangible benefits upon returning. Working on a tiered basis – e.g. two return visits means a free bottle of prosecco, four return visits means a free three course dinner, and six means a free stay with dinner included – is a good way of ensuring you’re not giving away too much too soon. But having a good rewards system in place could essentially mean the difference between a guest choosing you, and choosing somewhere similar nearby. It’s a crucial difference.
Referral systems are of a similar ilk, and are another useful way of encouraging guests to spread the word, and even come again themselves. Referral systems ensure you stay relevant to your visitors by adding value to them even after they’ve checked out. An effective email marketing campaign complete with well-timed reminders about what they stand to gain by referring a friend is a non-intrusive way of keeping your hotel in guests’ minds.
Another potentially profitable revenue stream for securing guests old and new is to create space where companies and individuals can host events. Hosting events means your hotel can fill up quickly, and if people like what they see during a corporate event, conference or even wedding, they may choose to return again under their own steam. Events can help you showcase what your hotel has to offer in a different context, and can help get you on the map for potential returning guests.
Cultivating customer loyalty in the hotel trade, whose business is the coming and going of guests, is a tough task. It’s far from impossible though, and hotels mustn’t overlook the benefits that loyal visitors can bring. From word of mouth recommendations, to building a sense of community within your hotel, customer loyalty is a great asset. It’s good practice, and makes great business sense, to cultivate it.
By Simon Botto, CEO of DayBreakHotels