Is Your Website Talking to Your Call Center?

By John Federman CEO, eStara | January 27, 2012

Since the internet allows people to comprehensively search for the lowest prices, some have said that customer loyalty in the travel and hospitality business is an outdated notion. I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement. Loyal customers remain the lifeblood of the industry.

However, the convenience and efficiency of the Web has lead to laziness on the part of many tasked with servicing customers.

In the past, whenever a customer had a question online, companies were quick to offer them FAQs, and perhaps an email address. While these self-help strategies are fine for handling routine questions, they are ineffective at turning undecided prospects into customers. The days of using the Web as an interactive brochure are long gone. Hotels need to do much more to assure they turn online lookers into bookers. In addition, now that the competition is just a click away, customers will not hesitate to leave your site (and your brand) if they do not get quick resolution to their problems.

As humans, we strive for personal connections within each facet of our lives. We frequently inhabit places we are not only familiar with, but that also recognize us and enjoy our presence.

Hotels.com utilizes real-time web analytics and customer behavior patterns to identify high-value customers. With this information in hand, they can offer their most coveted clients special rates and also give them a chance to speak with a customer service representative to answer their questions. Companies that reach out to customers during key points in the sales transaction with useful information differentiate their offerings from competitors and turn themselves into a destination site.

Once a loyal customer is identified, Hotels.com can tailor their site's offerings to suit that particular person's preferences. For instance, if the customer frequently stays in a the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel during the winter while they ski in Colorado at Steamboat Springs, Hotels.com can offer the person a discounted rate based solely on their buying history. Marketing strategies that reward customers' brand loyalty with exclusive bargains always rewarded themselves through increased web site traffic, bolstered online revenues and, possibly most importantly, happy customers turning into company evangelists.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.