Guest engagement and tech

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Stand out from the crowd to increase bookings and retain guests.

By Nimesh Dinubhai

I think at some point, every hotel owner, or any business owner for that matter, asks themselves a hundred times over, “What does the customer want now?!” More is never enough; you have to be different, you have to change again and again, you have to be a customer to know what the customer wants. It’s not enough to be cheaper, or to be newer or even to be cleaner – you have to be all of the above and be tech-trendy all at the same time.

Today’s customer, young and old, wants to travel from the palm of their hand. We want to search, book, plan, compliment and even complain… all from the technology we hold in our hands. We want to walk into a hotel and see high-def flat screen TVs; we want touch screen platforms with directions on how to get here and what to do there; we want to text the front desk agent to see what time breakfast ends and for a few extra towels. Today’s traveling customer wants to be pampered a whole heck of a lot; and they know if you won’t do it, someone else will.

These rules are no longer for the full-service properties, but for all levels of travel from the casual “too tired to drive on” guest, to the corporate big wigs. So, the question is, what can you do that is different and trendy to increase bookings and retain guests at your hotel?

Text it up
Come on, you know we ALL text. It’s fast, easy and simply put, we all do it; especially the ever-growing millennial travelers. Integrate a texting service with your website so guests can text questions 24/7. You can give a great first impression of your property before the guest even books a room. A friendly text reply that is catered to not only answer a question, but to go above and beyond to help guests prepare for travel in your city, is priceless.

As the world becomes more tech friendly, customer service tends to fly out the window. It’s not one or the other; customers want it all! They want to be up to date at check in, and they want you to smile and act like you are truly happy to see them.

Is email marketing still relevant?
Absolutely! Think about it, how many times do you check your email from your mobile phone? Personally, for me, it’s too many times for me to ever count. Imagine if you trained your staff to learn something personal from every guest that checks in. After they checkout, you email them with a personal message. Perhaps about their visit, their family, their business – anything. Reminding them that you are there, that you remember them, that you will do whatever it takes to have them stay again. Then every month, send a email to all guests, a quote, something funny, promotional rates, events in town, anything to remind guests that you are there.

New content and fresh photos go a long way
Change up your site at least twice a year or quarterly with new content and fresh photos. You can announce or post updates on social media platforms, in your marketing emails and even personally when guests walk in. Engage with your guests, and encourage them to visit your site. Use perks if you have to. You always want to keep your property fresh in the minds to remind them to book directly with you. Post pictures with guests laughing with their kids, or smiling couples, even a company meeting with guests laughing in the lobby. These are everyday pictures that guests like to see, and if these pictures are taken with a member of the hotel staff, it lets guests know that you are committed to a personal guest experience.

Take these marketing ideas to the next level
Remember, it’s not enough to get a customer in the door; you want to keep them coming back. You want them to feel at home with you and your staff. Thinking outside the box is a cliché saying, but it is a saying worth remembering. Ask your web designer to help you integrate tools like these onto your website.

The marketing ideas here are not new, but how you take them to the next level is what differentiates you from the hotel next door. A guest is never a stranger, he is family; and if he feels like family, he will visit you.          ■

Nimesh Dinubhai, a lifetime member and ambassador for AAHOA, founded Websrefresh in 2003, a provider for hotel website design, development and all related internet services. He has a BA in Computer Information Systems from Devry University and owns two Arizona hotels, one of which earned the Historical Hotel Award in 2014. Dinubhai lives in Phoenix with his wife and two children. To learn more, visit www.websrefresh.com.

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