What can’t be personalized these days? From your iPhone cover to google searches to suit your location, even ordering a cup of coffee has become an art of individualization. So, of course, guests naturally expect personalization when they stay at a hotel. Providing personalized service has far moved beyond knowing the guests’ name. It makes a guest not only feel welcomed, but valued and creates an emotional bond. But how do you create the personalization – that emotional bond – that will have your guests come back time and time again? There are 3 KEY stages where digital communication can help with personalization resulting in loyalty from guests – these are: pre-arrival, on-property and finally, post-stay stages.
Pre-arrival stage engagement starts with a personalized confirmation email that a guest receives as soon as a guest books their stay at your hotel. This is done more easily if a guest books directly, however, in most instances – this is overlooked for days or completely when a guest books through a third-party vendor. Ensuring that your guest receives a welcome email in a timely manner regardless of how it is booked starts the turning of the wheels of personalization.
A follow-up email, a few weeks before the guests’ trip, such as a pre-arrival survey or options for some activities/events available at your hotel – give you insight into their preferences. It also allows them to make special requests (say for a special birthday or anniversary) and leads to a more personal connection between the hotel and the guest. As for any privacy concerns, according to Sabre and Forrester’s 2015 hotel loyalty survey, more than half of travelers said they “don’t mind when hotels use my personal information to offer me relevant deals, discounts and loyalty points.”
A final email prior to guest arrival, an email containing relevant weather and travel information helps the guest know what they need to pack and most importantly, gets the guest excited about their trip!
The second stage begins when a guest arrives on the property – starting with the check-in. As soon as the guest has checked in, a welcome email that lets them know how much you value their business and provides them information of amenities & services specific to them based on their preferences that you learned from the pre-arrival survey can make a significant impact. These amenities & services can either be free, discounted or available for purchase full-price. Key is you have focused on what they like and handed it to them to avail themselves of it.
During their stay, short but quick emails about activities they are registered for or may be interested in, allow the guests to stay connected with the hotel. Cruises are great at doing this – but hotels are not. When I was on a cruise, each day, we received a short one-page summary of the weather, activities, specials and excursions being offered that day view it now. The connection that short summary created during our stay was irreplaceable by a sign in the lobby or any information we may have received during our arrival. During their stay, encouraging your guests to engage with you on social media also allows for personalization. “What past guests say about your hotel can have a huge impact on whether or not a traveler will want to book with you. By using “user generated content” to show guests the benefit of staying at your hotel.2
Also, guests will continue to take photos and posting it on their social media – and that’s not going to stop. Why not use it to your advantage and create a hashtag that guests at the hotel can post throughout their stay – creating not only a connection with the hotel but also allowing your guests’ family and friends to also know where they stayed. In addition, by seeing what your guests like and take pictures of helps you understand them better. This is a strategy that keeps on giving!
Lastly, encourage your guests to write a review while they are staying with at your hotel. A hotel that I recently stayed at in Miami did this really well – I found the employees were quite responsive and helpful because at the end of each interaction they were encouraged to give the guest a card with their name on it and an opportunity to provide an online review about the employee to receive further discounts or perks at the hotel. This encouraged employee engagement with the guest – because what employee doesn’t want a great review? And it encouraged guests to provide it while they were still a captive audience and had fresh memories of the employee’s service.
Post Stay Stage
The final stage is the post-stay, which is ALL about follow-ups. A thank you email upon check out, a follow-up satisfaction survey, invitations to guest loyalty programs and emails on anniversaries and birthdays – all of this keeps the guest engaged even after the guest is long gone. According to Personalization Becoming a Reality Across the Hospitality Industry, “engaged customers have a higher level of trust and commitment to the property, which strengthens their loyalty and emotionally ties them more closely to the brand.”
If you’re looking at all of these and asking yourself – “this is all too much! Where do I start?” Our recommendation: start with personalization and creating loyalty at the pre-arrival stage. To be given options and to be able to choose the size of your bed, the type of room, the amenities, give the guest CONTROL – which gets things started on the right foot. According to a recent study by Fast Forward and Amadeus, customers want an increasing say, if not total control, over what they expect of their hotel and what they are willing to pay for. More hotel guests will expect their stay to be personalized around a set of choices they make at the time of the brooking or prior to arrival.” It’s also the first thing guest will notice, because it is the first stage of the of the personalization wheel! Happy Personalizing!