Most hoteliers, regardless of the size of their business, agree on this: creating a memorable guest experience is key.
But how can you do that for every single traveler? Running with a small team, not being able to reach out to guests directly or simply not knowing their preferences can make it impossible for you to provide your best service for each and every guest.
New tech solutions in hospitality provide valuable tools to address these challenges head-on and turn them into valuable opportunities.
Unfortunately, objections to tech and automation are widespread in the industry. Like many hoteliers, you may worry that embracing more automation will make you lose touch with your guests. That’s a valid concern in a fast-moving age where it often feels like personal contacts are on the decline and day-to-day life is full of anonymous interactions already.
But what if it didn’t have to be like that? What if new tech solutions could help you build a bridge between your hotel and your guests to connect in a deeper and more meaningful way? And what if this was possible with minimal investments of time and effort?
This is crucial because being present, getting to know your guests on a personal level, and seeing them as individuals, allows you to go above and beyond their expectations.
The ability to do this efficiently and at scale will make the difference between success and failure in the future.
Today, a friendly welcome and a clean room aren’t enough to wow travelers. But hyper-personalized service that makes your guests feel seen and fulfills their every wish will leave people raving about their experience with you.
However, there’s only one way you’ll be able to offer that and it’s high time you found out how to apply it at your hotel!
Part 1: Creating a great guest experience and a lasting connection
You’ll probably agree that connecting with your guests on a personal level has always been an important part of running a hotel. Unfortunately, Covid-19 made that significantly more difficult due to necessary social distancing and other safety measures.
But there’s good news. You can leverage technology to build a virtual bridge and create a personal connection with travellers, even if you’re not interacting in person. The best thing is that you can do this at all stages of the guest journey – before, during and after their stay. Here are two ways to do it:
1. Take charge of the relationship with your guest
Everyone wants a piece of the pie. OTAs charge high commissions and travel agents ask for steep discounts. Both prefer keeping the guest details, so they can own the connection with the guest. There’s a good reason for that. The closer they can be to the guests, the higher their chance to get future business from them.
However, it’s in your own interest and the traveler’s interest to build a direct connection between your hotel and your guests. Immediately start looking for ways to skip over as many middlemen as possible and always keep the door wide open in the future. The first step to doing this is making easy, hassle-free direct communication possible at all times.
That’s only the first step though. Waiting for guests to reach out to you is not enough. Be proactive and show that you care. Get in touch with them at various points throughout the guest journey. That’s the best way to build a real relationship with them and close the gap between traveller and hotel.
Don’t let other players take this task (and opportunity) out of your hands. That would be like agreeing to a lukewarm long-distance relationship instead of going after a passionate romance. Instead, use every chance you get to nurture your relationship with your guests. This is a fantastic way to get to know them, provide perfectly tailored service and create new revenue streams along the way.
Keep in mind though, that not all travelers are keen on getting messages with information and service pitches. Accommodate these individual preferences and always allow them to opt out, but remain approachable if they decide to get in touch.
2. See your guests as the individuals they are
Yes, everyone in your target market has similar ideas of a great hotel stay. But the people booking rooms at your property are still individuals with different needs and desires. The only way to go from viewing travellers as an anonymous marketing persona to seeing them as the unique people they are, is to communicate directly with them and get to know them. As a result, you’ll be able to serve guests in a whole new way and make them feel seen at a time when more and more people feel overlooked and part of an anonymous crowd.
Take initiative and reach out to them via their favorite channel, be it website chat, direct messaging, SMS or email. Ask questions, offer assistance and advice before their arrival and during their stay. Use the power of digitalisation to personalize this communication and tailor it to each guest individually. The idea is to always have an open ear and show that you’re dedicated to being there for them and making their stay unforgettable.
Reaching out and connecting with your guests doesn’t mean you should always be promoting a paid service. Simple things like offering a wake-up call on the day of check-out or suggesting an amazing lesser-known restaurant can make a difference. Think of it as being their helpful local friend with the best tips on what to do during their trip.
If you are interested in communicating with your guests in the best possible way, take a look at this article.
Part 2: Engaging today's tech-savvy travelers
Travelers today are savvier than ever. They handle research and planning themselves and search various online channels for the best deals. While traditional travel agents saw a slight rebound in recent years, the vast majority of travelers today will book their own trips. Pre-pandemic, this meant nearly 350 million travel bookings were made online every year.
This has created a challenge for hotels. Guests are selective and don’t simply accept claims that you’re the best fit for them. You have to earn their trust and prove that you’re worth their booking.
The good news is that tech solutions can help you achieve this at all stages of the guest journey in a new and deeper way than before. Here’s what you can do in each of the four phases to bridge the gap between guests and your hotel and foster a strong relationship with travelers.
1 – Planning and booking
Offer detailed information on your website about how you’ll cater to your guests needs and make their stay amazing. Go beyond simply listing the features and focus on the benefits and experiences you offer. This will transform your hotel into a destination in your guests’ eyes, making them more eager to book with you.
For better engagement, make it easy for people to reach out with questions e.g., via a live chat. Use a chatbot to respond immediately to FAQs and free up your team to handle more complex queries. This gives your guests the answers they need in a short time, shows them you care and it can boost your direct bookings. It’s also the best way to forge a connection with your guest in the earliest stages of the booking journey.
2 – Pre-arrival
Use the valuable time between the booking and the arrival date to ask if you can help your guests prepare for their trip. Volunteer useful information about your surroundings or pitch targeted ancillary services that your guests would enjoy. This is another chance to build up your hotel as a destination in and of itself, rather than just a place to sleep. A Cornell University study recently found that anticipating a fun experience creates more happiness and pleasure than waiting to receive a material good. So why not give your guests plenty of things to look forward to?
3 – In-stay
Check on your guests while they’re in-house to ensure their stay is going smoothly. This gives you the chance to correct course if something is amiss. That, in turn, increases your guest’s satisfaction and loyalty and the chance that they’ll leave a positive review despite the hiccup.
Of course, in-stay communication is another great way to offer targeted ancillary services and information that let travelers personalize their trip.
4 – Post-stay
Keep in touch with your guests after check-out for a better chance at repeat bookings. Thank them for their stay and show you value their business. Use this chance to ask for a review as well and invite people to book direct next time they’re in town.
Looking at the points above, you may have already realized something: Airbnb has mastered these steps. Guests and hosts are in personal contact before, during and after the trip. Hosts offer personalized support and travelers love the 1-to-1 contact and attention. They feel taken care of on a personal level and valued as a guest. Create the same experience and wow guests with your customized approach to service.
Part 3: Reap the rewards
Once you’ve set up direct communication options throughout the entire guest journey, you’ll begin seeing many rewards.
First, you’ll get to know your guests more deeply and will be able to fulfill their every wish. This hyper-personalized service is what will get you raving reviews and loyal regulars.
Secondly, it will set you apart from other hotels in a meaningful way and give you an edge even in today’s highly competitive markets.
Direct communication also allows you to upsell and cross-sell more effectively by making offers when people are most receptive and interested. This drives ancillary revenue, increases the average spend per guest and further boosts your guest’s satisfaction since they can customize their stay.
Finally, yes, direct and personal guest communication is time-consuming. Leverage modern hotel technology to forge a connection with your guests the efficient way. In short, allow one receptionist to effortlessly build a relationship with 100 guests.
As you can imagine, the moment to apply these updates at your hotel was yesterday. But now is still the next best time to start. Your guests deserve personalized service and individual attention and you owe your team the support they need to provide this. Get this right and you’ll re-emerge from the crisis stronger and better than ever before, on the road to sustained growth in every area of your business.
How do you plan on deepening the connection with your guests? Book a meeting with our experts to show you how you can get started.