How to create a personalized guest experience
For hotels, the key to successfully personalizing the guest experience is to know your customers. Once you do, effective customer relationship management and digital technology can make it easier to foster repeat business.
They may be working with standardized products, but major hotel chains are making an effort to personalize the guest experience. To do so, they are leveraging big data generated by traffic on their Websites and social media accounts, as well as their direct communications with customers. Furthermore, this approach is absolutely available to independent hotels as well. Here is an overview of some best practices for hotels, proposed by marketing firm Cendyn.
Pre-arrival: Lay the groundwork
It requires little effort to send personalized reservation confirmation emails. These messages must be short, address customers by name, indicate the booking dates, and include a few words affirming that the customers are expected. This sets the stage for a personalized experience and raises the guests’ level of enthusiasm.
Hoteliers can follow this with another email a few weeks before the scheduled arrival date, to help customers plan their stay. This message could include:
- links to activities or services (restaurants or a spa, for example) either on-site or in the area, as well as the option to reserve;
- an opportunity to upgrade the room;
- detailed special information like an extra bed or any allergies;
- a short survey to determine the traveller profile, interests and purpose of visit.
For example, here is part of the pre-arrival survey used by the Four Seasons Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Source: Four Seasons
Several days before arrival, hoteliers can send a third email highlighting:
- reservation details (room, restaurant, spa, etc.);
- an overview of any events occurring on-site during the stay;
- the weather forecast.
Take advantage of these opportunities to showcase your products and thus increase revenues. Remember, most email is read on mobile devices, so make sure your content is easy to read on a small screen.
A virtual concierge
In lieu of administering a pre-arrival survey, the Virgin Hotels chain lets customers share their preferences on the Lucy app. With this virtual concierge, users can indicate their ideal overnight room temperature, the number of extra pillows required and whether they are a foodie, for example. The hotel can thus adjust the thermostat at night and notify the customer if there is a gourmet event like a public market in the area.
During the stay: Take action!
Once you have gathered information about customer preferences, the tone is set and expectations are high. It is now time to follow through at the operational level. Staff on duty must be informed about customers, before they arrive.
A daily meeting
Every morning, front desk staff can meet to review the files of all the customers arriving that day, or at least the VIPs, in the case of larger establishments. These files should provide the following information:
- customer name and any special information noted from the pre-arrival survey and prior email exchanges;
- number and frequency of past visits;
- products and services consumed during previous stays.
This will ensure that employees are properly prepared to offer a personalized welcome to each and every customer.
After customers have checked in (at the front desk or virtually), the hotel can send a welcome email or text message, depending on their preferred method of communication. This should be short and sweet, reiterating that the staff are at their disposal. During the stay, the hotel can send other targeted messages—but not too many!—that can encourage spending. For example, a microbrew fan could be offered a complimentary drink. The guest will feel special and may order a meal or another drink.
Post-stay: Capitalize on the experience
Hotels must now send post-stay emails to thank customers for their business and invite them to post a comment on an online review site and answer a short customer satisfaction survey. In addition to doing this necessary follow-up, hoteliers must add any information about the establishment reported by customers to their file; this includes posts shared on social media. These data can be used to personalize a future stay, as well as strengthen customer-hotel relationships.
For example, having noted that a yoga enthusiast had published a photo of herself on Instagram during her stay at a Kimpton Hotel Group property, the company sent her a new yoga mat at home.
To cultivate the relationship, hoteliers can send customers birthday wishes, invitations to join their loyalty program or information about upcoming events that correspond to their profile. Don’t over-use promotional messages, but do send exclusive discounts and unique products before they are widely advertised.
Personalize to enhance one’s reputation
Personalized services lead to customer satisfaction and foster loyalty. Satisfied customers will tell their friends and families, as well as spread the word on social media and online review sites. It is in the best interest of hoteliers to develop strategies for gathering and effectively using data about their customers to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.
Image on first page: Pixabay
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-Botti, Gina. "How Hotel Marketers Use Personalization to Acquire and Retain Customers," DialogTech, April 8, 2016.
-Cendyn. "Journey to Loyalty - Personalizing The Guest Experience," consulted online October 25, 2016.
-Gallo, Carmine. "This Five-Star Hotel Builds Fantastically Loyal Customers with Seven Memorable Techniques," Forbes, September 8, 2016.