The hospitality industry – the hotel sector especially – is known for preparing guests for their arrival with property information, area activities and dining suggestions. Once on property, the best hotels deliver exemplary service – welcoming guests by name, providing memorable experiences and little touches that give the traveler lasting memories. But beyond post-stay reminders to review a hotel on TripAdvisor or encouragement to join the property’s loyalty program, brand engagement is challenging. Too often, once guests check-out, they are gone.
From a business perspective, hotels want to drive guests to book through the lowest cost channels possible, most often the hotel or hotel chain’s website. Should the expectation be different when connecting with a guest post-stay? Maybe not from a dollars and cents perspective, but now the property knows the guest. What technologies are in place to engage with a prior guest and to send information relevant to his or her interests? Did the hotel collect enough information to know that the guest might return for a food festival or musical performance, or that the guest tends to visit the Northeast each spring? Or would a recipe from the hotel’s chef or a free download from a musical artist serve the same post-stay loyalty objective?
This information has practical applications. According to a survey by Experience, a company providing customer relationship management tools to hotels, 38 percent of guests return regularly to the same city. But only 10 percent book the same hotel again. However, 30 percent will open email communication from the original hotels, reinforcing the continued power of email marketing.
Is it even worth spending so much attention of building brand loyalty in a time when brand loyalty is eroding? Research shows that for Millennials at least, brand loyalty is alive and well. Recent reports about Millennial trends by Elite Daily and CrowdTwist show that:
- Millennials actively use up to three devices a day
- Half say social media influences buying decisions
- Millennials are brand-loyal – more than half profess loyalty to brands that they enjoy
What are hotels doing to continue engagement post-stay?
- Continue social media engagement with guests who engaged in social pre-stay and during their stay. Asking about their trip, highlights and travel tips continues the conversation.
- Reposting of user-generated content strengthens the relationship with the past guest and their following.
- Blog focused on weekend travel, where guests can choose their travel profile and find things to do in the city they’re visiting.
- Email marketing with exclusive offers for past guests.
- SPG Moments, exclusive experiential programming for SPG members (it’s free to join). Experiences are bid on using SPG points, and offer one-of-a-kind moments like Glamping at Coachella and others that can only be bought using points.
So what happens when they leave? Once hotels start thinking about check out as the beginning of long-term, engaging guest relationship, benefits will follow.
Tips to serve the guest post-stay:
- Get an email address. Email remains one of the most popular and most engaging ways to connect with customers.
- Get information. Guests share all sorts of information about themselves before and during a stay, from dining preferences, room type preferences and more. And many are willing to share even more through surveys. Hotels that use this information for good, and allow the guest to customize what they receive and when, will come much closer to brand loyalty’s holy grail – one-to-one communication.
- Invite guests to help shape post-stay experiences. Why not have your most loyal guest design a room package that meets their needs, not the hotel’s? Creating a sense of intimacy with a guest is more powerful than another discount room offer.
- Be different. Most hotels, from budget properties to five-stars, send the same information post-stay, from surveys to “please review us” messages. Is that guest worth a dimensional mail piece or branded hotel merchandise after a stay?
- Connect with the device-reliant guest. Is your guest on Snapchat or Instagram? Are you? Let your guest know that awesome things continue to happen after they leave your property. #FOMO is real!
Real and continued engagement with guests – after they check out – will deliver surprising results to hotels, building loyalty and brand advocacy among guest “alumni.” Don’t just give people a reason to travel. Give them a reason to travel to your property.