Engagement After The Fact: How Mobile Technology is Becoming a Hotel's Best Post-Stay Emissary to Maintain the Guest Connection After Checkout
By Vanessa Horwell Founder & Chief Visibility Officer, ThinkInk & TravelInk'd | August 05, 2012
"A good rule to remember is that a guest is always a guest once they have stayed with you and the services you provide."
– Scott Nadel, Chief Operating Officer, DMC Hotels/Dhillon Management.
It may not seem like a profound statement or idea, but it's surprising how so many hotel brands and hoteliers fail to remember and act on this simple piece of advice. At its heart is the optimistic, glass half full notion, that in a perfect scenario, the customer experience never truly ends – not if you're trying to engage guests and keep them loyal. It just evolves into different stages and levels of outreach and engagement. For once a guest leaves your hotel, business and leisure travelers alike often begin planning for their next trip, eager to lock in competitive prices, air travel benefits and potential room upgrades. For guests, barring something unexpected or calamitous, another getaway is always around the corner. And once they turn that proverbial corner, your hotel should be the first one they think of and consider. But it isn't unless you are creating some form of continued engagement after they've checked out of your property.
The Start of Something Beautiful
In the last few years, mobile technology in the form of feature phones, smartphones and tablets have gone far to reinvent and re-imagine the continuing customer experience. While much has been written about mobile's pre-stay and in-stay possibilities, including mobile booking, mobile checkout and a host of in-room and on-site hotel amenities, the post-stay experience has been largely ignored or thrown in as a last-paragraph addendum. But connecting with a guest after the bellhop has delivered bags and the bill paid is equally important and should be considered not the last step in a transaction, but the first step in a future stay. Think of it is as the start of a long, meaningful relationship – if done properly.
Restaurants and Mom'n' Pop stores are often fond of hanging from their doors vintage red and white signs that read, "Please come again soon" or "Thank you for your business." But for hotels looking to maximize mobile, turning the medium into the ultimate post-stay emissary, "please come again soon" shouldn't be a siloed request – it should be an expectation that is carefully and non-intrusively cultivated. In other words, mobile can (and should) be a privacy-respecting approach that entices, not enrages and can include follow-up emails, Twitter and Facebook interaction, digital surveys, future deals and discounts, as well as providing the transparency for open guest dialogue, and the granting of reviews, whether they're positive or negative.
There's no getting around the fact that we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me lately culture. Failure to connect with a guest via mobile following their stay is like saying a brand doesn't care. In these still-uncertain economic times, hoteliers would be wise to avoid that perception at all costs.