All posts by Andrew Moran

The Big 3: Keeping Your Customers Happy

In an online market place filled with banners, pop-up’s, sign up’s, etc. the art of customer service in hospitality can sometimes be overlooked. It is important to remember the value behind genuine customer service – personal interaction and understanding your customer on a deeper level than hooking them into an email sign up. After all, quality customer service typically leads to new and repeat business – something hotel marketers can attest the importance of.

So what are some of the key things to keep in mind when talking about customer service and satisfaction? A recent white paper from Market Metrix discusses 3 primary areas that hotel owners, GM’s and marketers should be obsessive over. Let’s take a look at the big 3:

1. Direct Guest Feedback - Perhaps more powerful than anything in the hospitality industry is direct feedback from your consumers. This feedback can come in a variety of forms…satisfaction survey’s, social media posts, telephone calls, etc. The power behind direct guest feedback is the message it conveys about the experience of your consumer at your hotel. After all, experience is everything. Aside from giving you insight to your guests experience at your hotel, direct guest feedback also presents a nice snapshot of what you do well operationally, as well as what you can improve on. It’s a win win.

2. Competitive Benchmarking - While direct guest feedback remains very important, it becomes even more valuable (to you as a business owner) when you can leverage the data against your competitors. Things like overall satisfaction score, ratings of amenities, etc. become critical to the over riding presence of your hotel. Understanding your own performance is key to the present and future success of your business. But what is perhaps even more important is addressing and analyzing what makes your competitor stronger in one area, weaker in another, etc. A solid understanding of this information will give you a competitive advantage over other hotels.

3. Social Media - It is no secret at this point that social media is an incredibly powerful tool to leverage your business. In fact, 93% of global travelers say that their decision to book was directly influenced by online reviews and social media. The mobility of social media (Smartphone, Tablet, Laptop, etc.) is icing on the cake when it comes to social platforms. Access to social across multiple devices allows for real time analysis of what guests are saying…where they are staying, what they thought of a particular property, ratings, recommendations, the list is endless!

To Sum it All Up

A firm understanding of the 3 metrics listed above will equate to a serious advantage in the marketplace. The combination of guest feedback, competitive benchmarking and leveraging social media is a strong box of tools to help your business grow. While each element alone holds its own unique value and importance, the combination of the 3 is even more powerful. Mark Waite, EVP Marketing and Client Development put it best: “The combination of the three brings powerful balance – three legs of a stool, three primary colors, three parts to the atom and the three musketeers.

The Value of Lead Management on ResortsandLodges.com

The ResortsandLodges.com Marketing Center serves as a platform for lead management and new business generation. When used to its fullest capacity, the lead tool can be a golden ticket to increasing bookings and driving revenue to your property. But what exactly is the fullest capacity of the lead tool? How do you, as a property owner or manager utilize the lead tool so that it works as hard as possible for you and your property?

ResortsandLodges.com understands the value of your customers. As such, there are specific elements to lead management in the Marketing Center that are critical to the success of your business and campaign with ResortsandLodges.com. Let’s take a look at the main components:

1. Check your leads often - Ideally, leads should be checked and updated every couple of hours. Customers love a quick turnaround, especially when they are on the fence about booking with you. Take a lead as a compliment – the customer was interested enough in your property to submit personal information. Return the compliment and follow up!

2. Engage your Lead - In the past, you have read about customer engagement through content, front desk practices, etc. But what about engaging a customer over the phone or through an email? This is equally as important. So, the next time you follow up with a lead, engage them – ask them what they are interested in, what they would like to do during their stay, etc. The more friendly and relaxed the conversation, the higher the likelihood the customer will consider booking.

3. Make it Quick - Follow up as soon as possible. Checking your leads often is one element to the equation – following up with those leads in a timely manner is the compliment to checking the system. Best practices for following up with a lead indicate that one to two hours time between inquiry and follow up is appropriate.

4. Listen to the Lead - Before you hop on the phone or fire up the computer to email your lead back, listen to the phone call, or read the email that they sent to you. Examine the message in great detail – this will provide you with the information necessary to address every need or want that your client may have.

5. Don’t Ignore the $ - If a lead in the Marketing Center has a monetary value attached to it, follow up! A monetary value linked to a potential booking indicates that this customer is interested and willing to book with you if you’re able to fill their needs and have the availability!

6. Don’t be Afraid to Ask the Tough Questions - If you are following up with a lead, don’t be afraid to dig into the situation a little bit deeper. Ask the customer what hindered them from booking the first time around – customer engagement on this level shows a higher level of personal interest. By letting them know that you want to fully understand their needs and situation, the customer will feel more comfortable.

The value of lead management on ResortsandLodges.com goes farther than holding a monetary value. The personal relationships that are developed through lead management hold a priceless, long term value. Building a firm customer base, rich with relationships, is a great way to improve the reputation of your property, and your management.

Engage Your Customers

The presence and growth of social media, on a daily basis, is often times an undervalued or overlooked element to the makeup of a hotel. Certainly hotels, resort, lodges, and B&B’s across the world hold a social presence on the major platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Marketing teams and social media managers curate and manage high quality content, intended to draw a consumer closer to their product.

As a hotel, motel, resort, or a lodge, it is often times not the curation of content that presents issues. The real problems arise when it is time to genuinely engage your customer base – create action out of content. After all, the overlying goal is to book availability. What good is content without engagement?

If you find yourself stuck on different ways to engage your customers through your content, consider these three helpful tips:

1. Know your Audience – Knowing your audience does not take a whole lot. As a resort or hotel manager, more often than not, you know your demographic. The power that information holds is immense. When you know who you are curating content for, it becomes simple to target specific emotions, trends, and other psychographics. All of this information combined, can produce a personalized content experience for the customer.

2. Tell Stories – Building on the personalization aspect of understanding your audience, great marketers and sales people alike, all know how to tell a story. Ben Straley, VP of Social Technologies at Rio SEO, put it best when he said, very simply, “stories are the content.” Not sure where to find the buried story behind your customers? You already have the answer right in front of you – your audience data and web analytics hold the ticket to creating great stories.

3. Reach your Audience Where they Are – It is critical to understand where your customer is consuming their information. Today, technology allows the same content and imagery to be displayed across multiple platforms – desktop computers, smart phones, tablets, etc. It is extremely important that the integrity and presentation of your content stays the same across all of these platforms.

The Value – So what does all of this mean for your hotel? Holding a strong presence when it comes to your site and social media content gives you credibility in the market place. Consistency and quality content are great tools to boost your customer roster, and create a loyal customer base. As a marketer, it is important to use all of the tools around you to create the best content and deliver the best message – social media, web analytics, customer polls, internal data, etc. are all extremely valuable tools to the curation of great content. Using these tools will boost your credibility as a property and business, and will also have an impact on your overall ROI.

To read the full article from Ben Straley, click here.

Sell More Rooms

The 2013 VRMA Eastern Seminar in Savannah Georgia, brought industry thought leadership and expertise to the forefront. What followed was a plethora of hotelier gold; knowledgable experts and industry leaders speaking on behalf of the travel industry as a whole.

Colin Morrison, Senior System Consultant at Navis, spoke on customer service and satisfaction. Colin presented 7 non-negotiable steps to selling more rooms. These practices are simple, yet extremely effective. In his discussion, Colin stressed the importance of these steps, specifically applying them to situations that hoteliers find themselves, and their front desk staff, in everyday.

Colin began the discussion by explaining a simple sales exercise – the pen test. Simple, yet eye-opening, the pen test involves sales team members taking their shot at pitching their manager on why they should purchase a pen. The point behind the exercise? Everyone does it a little bit differently. There is little consistency, and seemingly nobody begins the pitch with a question – “What are you going to be using this pen for?” An important question in qualifying a buyer, and certainly a high value question when talking with a potential hotel guest. This exercise led Colin into his discussion about front desk customer service and how execution of the correct practices can lead to a higher conversion percentage for a property. Here are the 7 steps:

1. Use Proper Greetings – Everyone enjoys a polite approach. Whether purchasing a product, or engaging in conversation, common courtesy goes a long way. Smile – it has been proven to lead to better tone over the phone.

2. Personalize the Conversation – Once you have someone on the line, chat with them a little bit. Tell them something about yourself. People are more likely to buy from a friend. Be sure to ask the customer how you can help them.

3. Interactively Listen to the Callers Request – Listening is not enough anymore. Interactively listening involves engaging the customer in conversation, and genuinely gathering an understanding of what they are looking for. It is not a bad idea to take notes – build on everything the customer is telling you so that you can sell them their perfect experience later.

4. Convey Confidence and Pride in Your Product – Passion goes a long way in sales. Approach customers with a passion and pride for your product that will blow them away. Dig a little bit deeper here, and make sure to customize the experience to each guest. Don’t just sell the beach, spa, golf course, etc. Sell them what they want – it is different for every traveler.

5. Use Professional, Courteous Language – It can be difficult to draw the line between friendly and professional with a customer. Even if you have established strong rapport in the past, remain courteous and professional at all times.

6. Ask the Customer if you can Make the Reservation – When it comes time to sell the booking, you have earned the right to ask the customer if they would like to book. What is the worst that they can say? No?

7. Always Thank the Caller – It is critical to end every phone conversation with a simple “thank you.” Another small practice that can have a major impact. As you thank them, remind them where they are calling. Something like, “Thank you for calling ResortsandLodges.com, have a great weekend,” will suffice.

These steps are simple, and can be implemented into any front desk staff, at any hotel. Practicing these simple steps in sales training and executing them in the field will leave you with a more satisfied customer base and a happy hotel staff.

This content was presented at the 2013 VRMA Eastern Seminar. Credit Colin Morrison with the thought leadership.

Gaining Customer Loyalty

In the hospitality industry, it’s the latest, greatest hotel features, lowest prices, and most eccentric travel packages that seemingly draw the largest followings. That is great for large hotels, with the budget and marketing dollars to execute high level plans and build a “loyal” customer following. But what about all of the other guys? Not every hotel or lodge has the financial wiggle room to head-up major loyalty program efforts. Not to worry, there is a strategy to building a loyal customer following – and it can work for anyone. A recent article written by Ted Wham, VP of Travel Industry Solutions at Responsy’s (a Marketing Solutions company), goes into extensive detail around a 10 step plan, designed to build long term customer relationships and loyalty. Let’s take a look at the basics of the plan:

1. Analyze Weakness - To best serve your customers, it is critical to assess your own weaknesses as a company. Once weaknesses are brought to the forefront, improvements can be made, making your product better, and your customer happier.

2. Listen to Your Customers - It is important to determine both what the traveler wants, and how they want “it” delivered to them. Listen to your customers, and take into account the things that spending trends, market shifts, etc. might have on your demographic.

3. Understand Your Data - In order to fully understand your customers, you must first have a firm handle on your data. Capturing and applying key data in the marketplace can be one of the most beneficial and effective tactics in your arsenal.

4. Give it to the Traveler Right Now - Integrating real time details into your marketing efforts is a key element in gaining a loyal customer following. Make sure deals, packages, or special offers are all current and detailed correctly.

5. Keep the Customer Informed – As we all know, travel plans can change at the drop of a hat. It is important to keep your customers informed on anything that may alter their travel itinerary.

6. Embrace the Times - Travelers are researching, planning and booking their trips across multiple web devices everyday. Keep with the times – Understand how to use social media to your advantage. Twitter and Facebook have incredible reach capabilities.

7. Tie-In More Benefits - Travelers love free things – promotions, extended stays, etc. However, travelers also appreciate the little things being included in the premium price they are paying for lodging – things like airport shuttle service, rental cars, complimentary beverages, etc. The more the merrier.

8. Keep Customer Service Spot-On - As holds true in any business, customer service is crucial to consumer satisfaction. Make sure that your customer service efforts are solid – from booking time all the way through the check out.

9. Stand Out - Too many loyalty programs look alike. Be creative – develop ideas that are going to blow your customer away and keep them coming back for more.

10. Encourage Feedback - When the trip is over, don’t stop there! Follow up with your customer – dig deep into their experience. This goes back to analyzing weaknesses. Understanding the customer experience can lead to improvements for your hotel.

Full article found on MarketingProfs. To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Video Marketing 2

Video and Your Marketing Strategy

People love video, right? Who doesn’t like to sit down at the computer and watch something interesting, informative, entertaining, or inspiring? The truth is, video is spreading like wild fire in the marketing world. Millions of online viewers consume billions of videos every month, and across multiple platforms – desktop, mobile, etc.

The latest market research released by the comScore Video Metrix Service shows that 182.5 million Americans consumed 39.3 billion online content videos in March 2013, alone. Perhaps even more shocking than that number is the number of online video ad views, which topped at 13.2 billion in the same month.

So what does this mean for your marketing strategy? Aside from the obvious, lets take a look at the major benefits of video marketing in the hospitality industry -

1. Complete Visual - Video allows for a descriptive and visual experience that words often times cannot provide.

2. People Watch Video - The numbers above are proof enough that video is massively popular among consumers. Data suggests that video will continue to gain in popularity as time goes on.

3. Video Leads to Purchases - According to data collected by comScore in a separate study, website visitors are 64% more likely to purchase a product online after watching a video.

Keep in mind, video is an evolving medium for delivering information to your consumer. The same principles apply to video that do to content – short and sweet. Video, like printed content, is consumed over multiple different platforms. Get your message across clearly, stick to the point, and be flexible to change.

Rock Solid SEO

SEO – What it Means

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial,” or “natural” listings on search engines (Search Engine Land). Major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing all spit out results in an order based on what the engine deems as the most relevant to the searcher. Unlike paid advertising, SEO is free.

Meta Tags – What They Mean

Within the pages of your website lies the source, or the coded makeup of your multiple pages. Unique to each page, the source contains two critical elements: The Meta Title and the Meta Description. Let’s take a closer look at each one of these -

1. The Meta Title

The Meta Title is the most important element to the makeup of any page on your site, and generally contains no more than 70 characters total. Contained in the Meta Title are a select number of keywords, related to your property, site, and specific page. When Google indexes a search query, it looks for and deems words that it finds to be the most relevant to the search. For example: If you have a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, and you are writing the SEO specific to the Spa page of your site, your Meta Title might look something like this at its most basic form:

<title> Arizona Hotels – Phoenix – Spa </title>

“Arizona Hotels” is the most relevant search term in this Meta Title, so you want to put it first. Next, specify where exactly in Arizona your hotel is – in this case, Phoenix. Lastly, curate the Meta Title to the specifics of each page – in this case, the Spa page. If this Meta Title were for the “Golf Course” page, you would curate the title accordingly.

2. The Meta Description

The Meta Description is the snippet of information that is displayed on Google, directly below a search result (insert screenshot). Again, curated to specific pages across a site, the Meta Description is loaded with keywords, generally containing no more than 150 characters total, that search engines index as the most relevant. While the value of the Meta Description has declined in recent years, it is still important to tuck in as many keywords as possible when curating the content.

The Big “No No”

When writing the SEO for your site, it is important to keep in mind a number of factors – keyword relevance, page specification in the Meta Title (as mentioned above) and content curation specific to the page (the Meta Description).

What is often times overlooked, and what is a major mistake in SEO, is duplicate title tags. Duplicate title tags are Meta Titles that contain the same keyword more than once. For example:

<title> Arizona Hotels – Phoenix Hotels – Hotel Spa </title>

Notice the number of times that the words “Hotel or Hotels” were used. What is the problem here? Google, or any other search engine, reads that title as having duplicate content. When a duplicate is picked up, the search engine squashes it…disregards it, throws it out of consideration completely. Essentially, your page becomes non existent to a search engine result.

Recap

Whether you outsource your SEO to a web services company, or house your SEO internally, the points covered here are extremely important to take into consideration. It is important as a property owner or marketing team member to understand the value behind quality SEO. A solid SEO plan accompanied by a great website design is a golden ticket to success in the marketplace. An investment in your sites SEO lands a solid chance that you will see a positive ROI. For all of the latest and greatest SEO news, tips, and insights, check out the links below, and visit our business blog.

1. www.seomoz.com

2.www.searchenglineland.com

Low Time On Page? No Sweat…

If you have been checking your Google Analytics lately, and noticed an odd trend of seemingly low time spent on your pages, don’t panic just yet. The problem may in fact not have to do with the content of your pages. After all, people want to read what you have to say, right? The issue is actually the system in place for tracking average time on page of your website. Here is how it works -

1. Timestamps – Google calculates the time spent on each page of a site with what they call a timestamp – a sort of stopwatch, clocking the time from initial page load, until entry into another page, at which time a new stamp is created.

2. The Formula – Say you load page “A” – at which time Google stamps a time of 00:00. The content you are reading on page “A” is fascinating enough to leave you gazing and reading for 30 seconds. Now, you see a link to page “B” that you think looks even more interesting. When you click the link to that page, Google starts a new timestamp, at a starting time of 30 seconds – the time you spent on page “A.”

3. The Disconnect – Here is where Google leaves us wondering – and leaves you frustrated at low page times. Let’s say you remain on page “A” for 25 minutes, gazing and reading that amazing content you love so much. But now, instead of linking to page “B,” you exit the site. Google has no timestamp for this fairly common occurrence. It has no way of knowing how long you spent viewing page “A.” Remember, the timestamp on page “A” begins at 00:00 and the time spent on that page is the starting point for the timestamp on page “B.” If there is no page “B”…there is no timestamp available.

How Google Does It

Google does attempt to account for pages that have no secondary timestamp. The calculation Google applies subtracts the number of page exits. So, what you are left with to calculate average time on page is this – Average Time on Page = Total Time on Page ÷ (Pageviews – Exits)

Even accounting for exits does not completely resolve the issue. Sites that yield a high number of bounces (someone enters the site, reads something, and immediately leaves) still are missing a large piece of time on page statistics.

For help and answers all things Google Analytics, click here.