Seven Tricks to Regain Customer Loyalty Through Your Website

By Cid Jenkins Vice President, ATG's eStara | January 27, 2012

How can hotels measure online success? Now more than ever, it comes down to being able to measure the results of the enhancements you put on your site. Here, I offer seven tricks designed to help you measurably strengthen customer loyalty via your Web sites and lift online reservation rates, even in these interesting economic times.

1. Engage travelers with a human touch

Leaders in the travel and hospitality industry have already shown their commitment to their guests by creating interactive, engaging Web sites that entice with video, high-end photography, virtual tours and more. But too few are giving researchers what would most help them close a booking: the ability to instantly interact with a customer service agent. It's only natural that some travelers face hesitation when booking a trip online, particularly when specific questions arise regarding hotel amenities and services. How far a walk it really is to the beach, or what the qualifications are of the people staffing the on property kids camp? Answering these and many other questions quickly and easily can be the deciding factor between a completed reservation and a lost customer. Research has shown that online customers and prospects are more likely to book with you if they can engage in a live phone call or text chat when they need specific information or have questions.

The benefits of instantly linking your guests with hotel representatives via live chat and phone conversations also extend beyond increasing conversion rates. This capability also helps you streamline your call center process by having real-time access to the consumer's Web activity. When you talk to a customer via a click to call service, your agents can already know the context of what the caller has been looking at on your site, so they can more efficiently address their issue.

2. Connect with your travelers via online video

Many times travelers are introduced to a hotel through its advertisements on third party Web sites. Video advertising is certainly on the rise - and not just in the hospitality sector. With its popularity come advancements in technology. Today, hotels can transform video advertisements from passive content into active, revenue-generating leads. For example, even when advertising on third party sites, hotels can drive customer loyalty by making those videos actionable, driving traffic directly to their site, encouraging visitors to save the hotel's contact information or even offering a live interaction with a hotel agent directly from the video interface while the prospect is still playing the video.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.