Engaging with Customers Beyond Their Stays

By Shayne Paddock Vice President of Product Development & Innovation, 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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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.