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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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.