It’s no secret that guest loyalty drives revenue at hotels. Dedicated customers bring with them a number of advantages, as they’re more likely to book direct and tend to contribute a higher ancillary spend. Most importantly, they become invaluable assets to your property as ambassadors for your hotel, leaving positive reviews and recommending your business to new guests.
However, guest loyalty differs between branded and independent properties. A guest carrying a hotel rewards card is often loyal to a family of brands, while those loyal to an independent hotel are dedicated to an individual property. That kind of loyalty can lead to exciting opportunities for independent owners and operators. What’s more, independent hotels frequently have more control over loyalty and guest reward options, translating to greater guest satisfaction and even higher loyalty rates.
Independent hotels should continue to build on this by considering what they can and want to offer loyal guests. There are a number of simple ways to make guests feel special during their visit that aren’t groundbreaking or at a high price point. How about a glass of wine at check-in? What about free bottles of water waiting in guestrooms? Because they’re not confined by larger brand standards, policies, or costs of point redemptions, independent hotels have some flexibility to fit loyalty costs within the confines of their budget.
Building guest loyalty can seem like a big undertaking, but there are some simple ways to begin implementing a strategy.
1. Give back to guests – There are two tactics hotels can use to drive loyalty—hard and soft. Hard items are those that you can touch and feel, such as a bottle of water waiting in a room, or a treat at check-in—a glass of wine or a cookie.
Soft items are those that are not tangible, but are equally valuable. One of the best “soft” strategies to drive loyal guests is through acknowledgement. A letter of welcome and thanks can go a long way to turn customers into repeat guests.
Acknowledging and then rewarding loyalty can beget more loyalty, too. For instance, offering a discount or perk to returning guests can show that a hotel values their business. Additionally, it helps to incentivize past guests by giving them access to the best available rates, offers, and packages. Before blasting out an offer to everyone at large, give your past guests first access as a reward for their loyalty.
2. Invest in a good CRM system – Great technology on the back end can help on the front lines. Look for a system that allows you to create guest profiles and integrates seamlessly into your other tech programs. You can add profiles to track guest preferences and stay frequency. With the tap of button, you can determine the best way to tailor rewards to guests, whether placing them in their favorite room type, offering late check-out, or simply having a small token ready at check-in.
3. Communicate with and train the team – Know who is staying at your hotel before they walk through the door. Consider holding a daily stand-up meeting to discuss who will be visiting for the day. Look at the profiles in the CRM to determine exactly what each guest wants from their stay and talk about how to greet them. There is no better way to build loyalty than through excellent customer service from a well-trained, tuned-in team. Everyone from your general manager to housekeepers should be trained to develop a relationship with loyal guests. Greeting your loyal guests by name and mentioning something personal to them connects guests to the team and therefore the hotel.
4. Listen to guests – Hotel rating and reviews affect loyalty. Spend time reading what your customers say about your hotel. If there are complaints, seriously consider them and determine what you need to do to fix the issues—and then actually fix them. Respond to all online reviews in a timely manner with a personal tone to show that you care about each guest who walks through the door. If a guest complains in a review and you have fixed the issue, invite that guest back. Remember that loyalty can be built after a negative experience if the service recovery is genuine and authentic.
About the Authors
Johnathan Capps is the vice president of revenue and Sam Trotter is marketing strategy manager at Charlestowne Hotels, a full-service hospitality management company.