Engaging with Customers Beyond Their Stays

By Shayne Paddock Chief Innovation Officer / Guest Management Solutions, TravelClick | March 29, 2015

Getting engaged is a life-changing event. From December to February, couples around the world are knee deep in engagement season, according to a recent study. For hoteliers, engagement season isn't fleeting; rather it’s a 24/7/365 courtship of continual communication via email, mobile messaging, social media interactions and review site monitoring sprinkled in. In years past, hotel marketers were focused on popping this question: "Will you give me your email address so I can send you a one-time reservation confirmation?" Today, the big question has changed: "Will you opt in to receive personalized communication from my hotel filled with relevant content before, during and long after your stay?"

Communication has, and always will be, the key to any lasting/loyal relationship. If you want guests to engage with your hotel, they need to be “courted.” This requires knowing just the right thing to say and the right time to say it. The one-and-done days of sending out an email confirmation and then not speaking to the guest until they check in are over. To build loyalty and get guests eager to hear from you, a courtship must ensue between hotel marketers and their guests; that means learning about each person on the reservation and what he, she or they like and dislike along every step of the customer's journey (from the research phase, booking and pre stay, to onsite, post stay, and through incentives to get them to return).

Consider this: If dad is traveling on business and brings the family along; what is available for mom to do during the day with the kids? Are there activities that would appeal to children? What about adult activities for mom like spa services or golf lessons while the kids are being entertained? The only way to truly engage guests on their level -- and to make them willing to provide you with critical personal information -- is to speak to them as if you really know them intimately. But how and where do you begin?

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The first step is to do away with the tedious and time consuming manual eMarketing process and implement Hotel Marketing Automation practices. The most efficient hotels today are those that streamline marketing workflow processes via highly targeted and personalized email marketing, social media/website marketing, eSurveys, drip marketing campaigns and semantic analysis. When routine tasks are automated, it frees up time so staff can become more customer focused and service driven.

An Epic Engagement Story

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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.