'Customer retention' is pretty up there in a hotelier's goals. It's no good getting someone to the door if they don't come in - and it happens. 81% of travel website visitors reportedly leave before completing their booking. With over 700 million people booking their hotel rooms online by 2023, it's crucial for hotels to not only understand why guests may not actually book, but also to find ways that end up encouraging higher conversion rates among potential guests.
According to Phocuswire research, 39% of respondents abandoned travel purchases because they were just looking and had more research to do
There are many factors involved, but it's interesting to note from recent research conducted by STR, that guests showed a preference for full service hotels and small hotels with less than 50 bedrooms.
There are a multitude of things you as a hotelier can do to increase your customer retention rates, or in other words - keep people coming back. Implement practises from before, during and after your guests' hotel experience for optimum results.
1. Direct first
While OTAs of course play a part in your overall selling strategy, they must always only be a part of the puzzle - and not the biggest part by any means. The first step in creating a strong retention strategy is ensuring you are doing everything in your power to prioritise direct bookings. That includes getting your website right, having the perfect booking engine that is mobile optimised, making sure your marketing efforts are not going to waste (are you targeting the right people with the right content?)
How to choose the right booking engine provider
2. Reward people
It makes sense - to get people back, you need to give them something in return! And not just anything. Do a bit of research into your guests and find out what kind of rewards they'd appreciate the most. Is it a room upgrade, a discount, a free breakfast? Think about who you are targeting, consider what would make sense for them, ask around and discuss with your team too. The more thought you put into this, the better. No use throwing out a half baked attempt at rewarding customers if it's not done the right way.
Is it worth independent hotels having a loyalty program?
3. Get personal
As we've said many times, personalisation is not just a buzzword for us to touch on briefly now and then. It's becoming increasingly important for brands to provide an experience that is a lot less traditionally 'brand' like in recent years. Customers are hounded minute by minute with brands vying for their attention - online and off. In order to catch their eye, and keep it, you must try to personalise their experience as much as possible. This can start via email marketing and continue throughout their journey at your hotel. The little touches will stick in their memory! This is also (perhaps even moreso) very relevant when it comes to dealing with customer complaints. Dealing with them in an attentive and non-generic manner will ensure the best-case scenario for later when they are leaving an online review.
4. Facilitate memorable experiences
The era of Covid was all about staycations, and with staycations came an emphasis on experiences - enjoying the little things, gleaning joy from nature, food, comfort, great company. That need hasn't gone away. Hotels should continue to think how they can use personalisation while devising experiences, but also how they can create something unique while catering to many guests' concerns and awareness of the environment and need to champion all things local. How can you partner with businesses in your area in a creative way? What kind of day trips can you suggest? Are there any small events you can put together? The opportunities really are endless and will go a long way when it comes to customer enjoyment and retention.
5. Always prioritise quality
With a renewed focus on taking pleasure from the little things, room quality has never been more important than it is now. Quality encapsulates everything from comfort to resources within the room (think about what remote workers need for example) to the toiletries and refreshments available, to the tech included.
This impressive hotel in Orlando has rooms fitted out with 'artificial intelligence-optimized Restorative Beds - a smart bed adjusted to meet each individual's optimal sleep condition by controlling temperature and automatically rebalancing to eliminate pressure points, reducing the number of times you wake up during the night'.
While you don't need to go that far, it's no harm looking around at the globally best in class to get an idea of what's out there!
When it comes to technology, just remember to try and implement whatever you can that will make your guests' experience easier. Think online check-in, smart TVs, high performing wi-fi (of course!) maybe even drapes that open on their own - the opportunities are once again, endless.
6. Keep talking
Once your guest leaves, it's time to begin trying to build on that blossoming and potentially long-lasting relationship. Follow up with a warm email. Encourage them to follow your social channels and leave a review. Think of how you can engage them down the line with an offer or a discount to come back and use. Is their birthday coming up? Use the opportunity to send them a promotion code.
7. Always put your best foot forward
Whether you sometimes forget it or not, we live in a time where everything is out in the open, including the compliments and the grievances. It is par the course as a hotelier that you will absolutely receive negative reviews, that's not necessarily the issue - it's how you deal with and respond to them.
Never lose your cool - always respond with warmth, politeness and a willingness to listen. Take the feedback onboard and consider how you can turn it into something productive.