5 Customer Loyalty Tips that You May Not Know About

By Jim Holthouser Senior Vice President Brand Management, Embassy Suites Hotels | May 22, 2011

At Embassy Suites, we respect the old saying "the customer is king," but we recognized early on that it takes a lot to bring that simple saying to life, each and every day. In our brand's earlier years, we focused on mastering the fundamentals of customer service, because we are true believers that before you can earn customer loyalty, you must have the basics down pat. alt textIf your hotel is not spotless and your front desk employees are not hospitable and welcoming, there aren't any tricks in the book that will keep customers returning to your hotels. Now that we've built a strong foundation, we live by the following five guidelines that help us build loyalty and obtain real results for our hotels' bottom lines.

1. A fanatical focus on consistent execution of the brand pillars at every property

If you ask our guests what keeps them coming back to our hotels stay after stay, we're confident many of them would mention at least one of our brand pillars – two-room suites, free cooked-to-order breakfast, nightly Manager's Receptions serving complimentary beverages and snacks, and an atrium or open public area that provides a sense of space, light and nature. The brand pillars allow us to differentiate the brand in a crowded marketplace and create an incredibly strong value proposition for guests. While these factors certainly impact customer loyalty, we think it's the special attention that we pay to the execution of these brand pillars at every property that makes a difference. The fanatical focus on consistent execution of the brand pillars gives us confidence that guests will have a positive experience time and again, no matter which of our 200+ properties they visit throughout the Americas. We're so focused on maintaining these standards, we'll turn down new deals if a developer doesn't agree to incorporate these elements, because we know guests count on us to deliver this hallmark experience.

2. Acknowledge and recognize your repeat customers

Everyone likes to walk into a party or get-together and have that feeling of being recognized and known. At Embassy Suites Hotels and across the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of brands, we strive to bring that special experience to life for our customers every time they walk into our lobbies. Through proprietary tools like our Hilton HHonors loyalty program and Customer Really Matters (CRM) technology, we have the ability to acknowledge and recognize our repeat customers in a highly personalized fashion. From seeing if they have stayed at a Hilton Worldwide property within the past 12 months to having visibility into any issues that might have occurred at a past stay, we empower our front desk employees to create a tailored experience for all of our repeat customers. The extra bit of personalized service goes a long way when it comes to customer loyalty.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.