Category Archives: Hotels

7 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

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Online hospitality is transforming into an industry defined by personalization, relevant content and the social experience travelers influence everyday. As this trend continues to unfold, it is becoming increasingly difficult to build brand loyalty. How do you win a customer over and keep them coming back time and time again, when the travel process starts earlier than it ever has, and is not over, even after booking and stay?

This is a dilemma that has been creeping up the alley of online hospitality marketers everywhere. Finding the right combination of social interaction, email marketing, promotional activities, etc. can be a fine line to walk. At the core of any successful business (or hotel in this case) is a loyal customer base. Customers are the primary factor in shaping the success of your hotel, resort, or lodge.

The question now becomes; how do we, as hotel marketers, build a customer base that is loyal, and remains that way for an amount of time that will prove to be profitable for our business? In a recent white paper released by Maxymiser, 7 primary ways to build a loyal customer base were revealed. Let’s take a look at each one, and explain the significance of each as it pertains to your business.

1. Ensure a Quality Experience - It is important to recognize that customers attitudes are shifting. What was once a market dominated by the best value, or lowest price, is (and really, already has) shifted to a market in which buyers are looking for an experience that will set one resort apart from another. When you are attempting to lay the foundation for a loyal customer base, keep in mind that travelers are looking for that once in a lifetime experience, that little something that makes their stay different from anywhere else.

2. Increased Ancillary Sales - Depending on the size of your hotel, ancillary revenue will obviously shift one way or the other. The tricky intersection of when and how to offer ancillary value to the traveler is one that hotel owners and GM’s have played with for years. When you are thinking of how to adopt a loyal customer base, think “Timing and Description.” It is important to offer an ancillary opportunity to the traveler at the right moment, as well as very clearly depict what exactly is being offered.

3. Personalization – According to data from Google, 83% of leisure travelers, and another 76% of business travelers now plan their travel online. The planning process includes anything from reviews, to price points, social media to video and visual assets. Because the road to selection is so clouted with variables, personalization becomes extremely important. The key to personalization is ensuring that the process begins in the earliest phases (research) and continues through the travel journey, concluding with personalized follow up, post trip.

4. Transform the Experience - Personalization can be thought of as points similar to what is explained above. However it can also be thought of as transforming an online experience to make the message more personal to the traveler, and enhancing the likelihood of purchasing. For example, a common message on several hotel sites is a “no availability” pop up of sorts, often times on the event calendar or booking engine. A simple way to improve this message, and make it a positive for the traveler is to add in something like “here are some other available dates that you may find helpful,” or something equating to a message of that nature in an attempt to squash any discouragement.

5. Ratings & Reviews – The always important and heavily relied on online reviews are a sure shot way to build a loyal customer base. Hotels with reviews are viewed as more credible in the eyes of the consumer. More credible sources typically have a higher rate of conversion and a more loyal customer base.

6. Leverage Social Media - According to independent research, one out of every four travelers uses social media to research and plan their vacation. Furthermore, a Forbes study of Facebook users revealed that 50% of travelers were “influenced” by seeing friends pictures of travel on Facebook. So what does this mean for your social media efforts? Billions of users scroll the pages of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more, everyday. It is important to have an understanding of your customer base and reach out to them in ways that connect to them on a personal level – if you are a family resort and your Facebook audience is comprised of families who have stayed with you before, put out relevant offers, offer special savings to your fans, etc.

7. The Mobile World – Development across the mobile platform has reached new heights in the previous months. Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have become more widely used than the everyday computer. Consumers are on the go. Plain and simple. In fact, tablet use is projected to spike by 180% in the next year alone. If you are a hotel marketer, this is big news. It is extremely important that your website is responsive – fits to exact screen sizes across multiple devices. Why is this so important? Failure to run a responsive site means that your messages, visuals and representation of your hotel are distorted when they are not viewed on a computer screen. The masses are moving to mobile and tablet. Your website must do the same!

Fill Vacant Rooms

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Vacant rooms are a problem for hoteliers across the world. There is seemingly always a few rooms open here, a few rooms open there. Old logic will tell us that these rooms are going to remain empty; if you did not book anyone in advance, that room is going to sit empty. In today’s tech-savvy, multiple device world however, this is not the case. There are several great ways that hoteliers can fill vacant rooms – even last minute. A recent article by hotelmanager.net shed some light on 3 simple, efficient ways to fill last minute availability. Here they are:

1. Always Have Something to Offer - Creating a deal or a package is a great way to fill last minute availability. Same day booking discounts, special incentives for the duration of a guests stay, etc. are all great ways to drive guests to your front door. Some may argue that by offering a discount, money is being lost. Think of it this way: if the room sits empty, is that also not money being lost?

2. Leverage Social Media - Recent data published by eMarketer, revealed that 1 in 4 individuals will use social media in 2013. With this trend continuing to rise year over year, social media is hoteliers gold. If you have last minute availability, broadcast it to the billions of people using these platforms. Keep it consistent and deliver a solid message across your Facebook page, Twitter feed, Google+ page, etc.

3. Use Travel Ads - Fairly similar to the second tip, travel ads require leveraging a second, and even third party to assist you in promoting last minute deals, packages, and awareness. There are dozens of opportunities and companies to lend a helping hand with travel ads. They have a history of being affordable and yield effective results.

Last minute availability does not have to be a waste of a room or lost profit! Using these simple and effective ways to create awareness around your open rooms can prove to be very valuable.

9 Ways to Generate More Revenue Through Your Bottom Line

The recent white paper released by HSMAI is a gold mine for hotel managers and owners as shoulder seasons start to creep in. The white paper is an in depth explanation of various (and proven effective) ways to generate more revenue to your hotel’s bottom line. How? It is simple really; a good majority of the tactics discussed in the report deal with internal management, trends, and developing positive habits that lead to positive results. To recap, here are the top 3 ways that Trevor Stuart-Hill, President of Revenue Matters, recommends for driving more revenue:

1. Focus on Forecast Performance - It is critical to ensure that every level of employment has a clear understanding of the operational and financial forecasts of  the company, as well as the implications that each carries.

2. Engage Your Associates - It is no secret that guest satisfaction is often times directly related to a physical experience. With that being said, it is important to empower associates at your hotel. After all, there is a good chance various associates will play a roll in forming your guests experience. Empowering your associates raises morale and creates a positive energy around the workplace.

3. Optimize Market Segmentation - Perhaps the most critical element to any successful business is understanding your customer. Rather than target customers in a broad bucket, find and focus in on your most profitable customer. Understand actions such as booking windows, channel preference, etc.

But What About the Other Ways?

Not to worry, there are still 6 more ways to generate more revenue through your bottom line, as discussed in the white paper. Let’s take a look at the remaining ways, as well as discuss what they mean for your business:

4. Match Staffing Levels to Demand - The hospitality industry is no stranger to last minute fluctuation in demand. It is important that hoteliers adapt accordingly and staff according to demand.

5. Know the Value of Your Services - Understanding the value of your various services and perks can go a long way in driving revenue. For example, a late check out or early check in time sliding for a normal fee – consider some options there.

6. Be Religious About the ROI of Your Marketing Spend - ROI is a key business metric in measuring the success of both basic and complex business projects and activities. Having a holistic approach to these numbers can pay dividends in the short and long term.

7. Wow Your Guest Before They Walk in the Door - A creative way to drive additional revenue to your bottom line is to enhance the guest experience before they even walk in the door. Leverage your social media to offer incentives to guests who book early, as well as present supplemental services that can be utilized for a small additional fee. Little things can go a long way.

8. Know Your Charges - It is a good practice to review a guests expenses days before they arrive. This ensures that everything was covered, and nothing was under or over charged. On the day of check out, do the same thing. You would be surprised at how often things are missed.

9. Be on Top of Your Hotel - Proactively managing your hotels assets is a sure fire way to increase your revenue. Closely monitor energy and efficiency at your hotel according to occupancy level and seasonality. Doing so with committed practice will prove to be beneficial.

If you are looking at the coming months and wondering how to grow your revenue through your bottom line, look internally at these nine steps first. Simple practices that go a long way in both employee and guest experiences. Using these steps as a reference will be beneficial to both hotel management and guest.

Google & Reviews

Many of our business partners at ResortsandLodges.com have been given insight into the power of customer reviews: Reviews drive credibility, can be used as a tool to improve front end staff, as well as drive a higher conversion rate. As consumers continue to use reviews as a trusted source of online research in the hospitality industry, generating positive reviews becomes increasingly important.

New data and analysis from Digital Marketing Works, has revealed the importance of reviews as they pertain to Google, and the recently updated carousel feature in basic searches. The study, performed in June of 2013, revealed a strong correlation between average review rank and quantity and where hotels popped in the carousel search results. How strong was the correlation? To put it simply, the correlation between these data points was strong enough to yield that “Earned media (online guest reviews) is now a major component of Google’s search results for hotels.

So what does this mean for your business? Using the research as a platform for any type of actionable item, experts are urging hotel owners and GM’s to focus more on generating Google reviews. Of course, the standard platforms for reviews remain equally as important (Hotel Review Sites, Social Media, etc.).

To learn more, and to read the full article with data and analysis, click here.

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.