Every company’s ultimate goal is to achieve consumer loyalty. After all, it is 5 times cheaper to retain existing customers then to find new ones. However, with constantly evolving consumer habits it seems that gaining a consumer’s total loyalty in 2018 is an almost impossible goal to achieve. Recently, consumers have become more aware of the effect their consumption behaviour is having – how it reflects who they are and the impact it is having upon our environment. Added to this is saturation within markets, stiff price competition and price savvy consumers. Thus, for a company to earn a consumer’s trust and loyalty, they must first prove themselves to be credible.
Those brands who cannot meet consumer’s demands are showing that they are not credible and therefore, not worth their customer’s continued loyalty. And it appears that no company – big or small – is immune to this change. Just look at brands like Starbucks, Volkswagon and Facebook. These brands once held a large majority of the market share in their respective industries. But scandals – which have varied from their environmental impact to data protection breaches to accusations of racism from staff – have left the brands with the challenge of re-building their reputation to re-gain the loyalty they once enjoyed so easily.
So, as a hotel, what steps must you take to prove you are credible?
Quality is the most important factor in building a credible brand. If people are not satisfied with your product or service, then it is unlikely that they will make a repeat purchase. This is not to say that every hotel across Ireland and the UK must offer the exact same service or else risk being viewed as subpar. But every hotel must – at the very least – meet a guest’s basic expectations. Whether a guest is staying in a 4-Star Manor House in Co. Kerry or small hotel in the heart of Dublin City, they will expect a warm, clean room, helpful staff and tasty food. As the price increases so will the guests’ expectations.
Thus, to be credible you must manage the consumer’s expectations prior to arrival at the hotel. The hotel’s website is the perfect tool for doing so. Detailed pages outlining what the hotel has to offer, room descriptions and lots of pictures mean the guest will know exactly what awaits them upon arrival and avoids setting guests up for disappointment.
People are loyal to brands because they know they can rely on them to perform to their specific needs. Changing to a different brand means a consumer has to risk feeling unsatisfied with their purchase and wasting both their time and money in the process.
The question is, how do you get someone who has never stayed in your hotel to trust that they will have a fantastic experience? Consumers are aware that they cannot always trust what a company says about their own brand but they know they can trust what other consumers say. This is where Testimonial and Review pages on your website become effective in building trust and encouraging website visitors to make a purchase. It is also important to monitor platforms such as TripAdvisor to manage what is being said about your brand. Any negative reviews should be handled professionally and within a reasonable time period to minimise the damage to your hotel’s credibility and overall brand image.
CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz once stated that ‘if people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the Brand’. Hence, it is important that your brand’s ethos is built around strong values that your consumers are happy to endorse by engaging with your brand. Brand Values that are important to modern consumers include Sustainability, Trust, Honesty, Efficiency and Innovation.
It is not enough to simply say you have these values, consumers need to be able to see them in effect throughout your operation. For example, if you want to be viewed as a sustainable hotel, it is not enough to simply say you are sustainable. Guests need to be able to see that this brand value is in effect throughout the hotel. In the bedroom this could be by encouraging guests not to request their sheets and towels be changed every day. In the bar it could be using paper straws instead of plastic and in the restaurant, sourcing food from local suppliers.
Being credible is not just about offering a high quality product or service. It is about selling something that consumers are happy to support, stand behind and let represent them to the world. Consumers need to know that you are worth their continued investment of time and money. It is about listening to what your consumers want and value and responding appropriately. Get your brand’s credibility right and you will find that loyalty quickly follows.