In the competitive travel and hospitality industry, hotel chains must think and act with the personal touch of a B&B proprietor in order to keep guests coming back again and again. Even with thousands of guests checking in and out of different properties across the globe every day, there are some tactics hotel chains can leverage to make every interaction with every customer on every channel feel unique and tailormade.
In this post, we’ll introduce three of the best strategies to strengthen customer relationships. Let’s jump in!
Increase direct bookings
Most of the large hotels chains are listed on travel sites like TripAdvisor or Expedia, while they’re simultaneously trying to get more people to book directly through their respective websites. And for good reason. When guests book directly through the hotel website not only does it save those brands money, but also it helps hotels form a more direct relationship with customers. Some chains, like Hilton for example, are increasing the percentage of guests booking directly through the hotel website by offering preferred pricing to their loyalty program members when they book direct. As Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta explained of the decision to introduce preferred pricing to HHonors members who book direct, "The ultimate objective is … about having direct relationships with our customers. We want them to get the best value that they can get, get the best experience, and we obviously want to lower our distribution costs for both ourselves and our owners" (Business Travel News).
Focus on an omnichannel experience
Customers do not exist in a vacuum of their physical stay; their session on the hotel website or their research in your mobile app, so the experiences on those different channels cannot exist in a vacuum either. Being able to create a consistent, seamless, personalized experience comes down to two simple words--Big. Data. As our Co-Founder and CEO Scott Weller told HotelBusiness, “There’s a rising focus on improving personalization efforts strategically and making them varied, value-driven scenarios—all that comes from data.” Data (namely liberated data) enables hotel chains to drive value for every guest who stays at their hotel whether that be offering particular rooms based on a guest’s previous stay, showing certain offers on the mobile app, or providing special experiences on-property.
As Weller explained, “The ability to check in without engaging with a human, gain access to a room without a key card, pay for things through the app all lead to frictionless experiences.” Making these things a reality for your brand requires a digital transformation for many organizations that depends on the decisions they are making around how they manage customer data. “You need to have a great data hygiene and data management acumen to achieve things like customer service and chatbots engaging with customers. It occurs through data integration” (HotelBusiness).
Think beyond transactional behaviors to build loyalty
Most of the major hotel brands have a loyalty program. You’ve got Hilton Honors, SPG, Marriott Rewards, and more. While there are some differences among these programs in terms of how rewards can be redeemed (which is in and of itself a strong strategy for brands to employ); all of these programs are solely based on status, points, and transactional behaviors.
We know that user generated content (UGC) and social interaction are valued among consumers and increase redemption in loyalty rewards. According to Loyalty360, “75 percent of millennial travelers look to UGC like reviews and blog posts as opposed to travel advertisements when booking a trip.”
Hotel chains should reward evangelists of their brand for writing reviews or sharing pictures of their experience at the hotel on social media; a strategy that kills two birds with one stone. Hotels will be helping to inspire more of the UGC that consumers love and trust, attracting more patrons to their brand, as well as deepening loyalty with existing customers. Hotel brands have put more effort into social monitoring in an attempt to improve customer service; now it’s time for them to also increase social and user generated content into their loyalty strategy as well.
Increasing direct bookings, improving the omnichannel experience, and thinking about building loyalty beyond transactional behaviors are just a few of the many tactics hotel chains can employ to strengthen relationships with their customers. If you want to learn more about specific strategies your brand can leverage to stand out from competitors, deepen connections with guests, and impact the bottom the line--contact us today for a consultation.