Engaged guests are more likely to enjoy their experience, feel a real connection with your hotel, and ultimately pay a return visit. So how can you take steps to increase and enhance your guest engagement strategy?
INFORM YOUR STAFF
Your staff are the main link between your business and its customers – they welcome guests to your hotel, check them in, serve them food and much more besides. Ensure that your staff have the answers to guests’ questions beyond the norm. One guest might like to know the provenance of the day’s special, another might look for recommendations for family-friendly activities in the locality. Having staff who are informed and encouraged to answer such questions is important in enhancing the hotel-customer relationship.
“Staff problems are management problems – the best don’t leave food to chefs or tickets to the concierge,” travel writer Pól Ó Conghaile wrote in the Irish Independent recently. “They have staff taste their menus, learn their ethos, explore their locality… making them feel invested. Think of anyone who interfaces with a customer as an ambassador.”
Alongside being entertained, guests like to feel in control in their rooms. In-room tablets could allow guests to make reservations in the restaurant, book transport, ask questions, or control aspects of the room including lights, the television or room temperature. It’s something that was recently introduced in Adare Manor following an extensive renovation and restoration programme, operating everything from lighting to the blinds in the bathroom.
Across the pond, Hilton’s Connected Room technology will allow guests to control their stay from their smart device via the Hilton Honors app, ranging from window coverings to the TV. The longer-term view is a connected experience where guests will be able to use voice commands to control their room. “The technology we put in hotel rooms has to be intuitive, simple and quick to pick up because guests typically spend a limited amount of time in their rooms and we want them to spend that time enjoying the experience instead of adapting to new technology,” said Joshua Sloser, Senior Vice President of Digital Product with Hilton.
Maintaining an active presence on social media is important for any hotel in raising their profile and attracting new guests, but it can also prove useful in engaging guests and increasing return stays. According to a 2016 study by Local Measure – a customer experience platform based in the US – digitally engaged guests are 40 per cent more likely to return to your hotel. There are many ways you can engage with guests (and potential customers) online. Encourage them to share photos from their stay on Facebook and Instagram and tag the hotel, with one photo every week chosen as a ‘featured photo’ on social media channels and your official website. Always like the pictures you are tagged in and appreciate people who say nice things about your brand. Questions or complaints should always get a speedy response – the latter represent an opportunity to show you listen and are capable of fixing any problems that may arise.
Competitions are of course a great way to encourage interaction – you could ask guests to upload a photo of one of their favourite moments from their stay and allow users to vote on the choices for a chance to win a prize. You could also run promotions that offer discounts to return customers or create a branded hashtag or poll that allows people to have a say in changes regarding the hotel. Even something as small as choosing a new piece of furniture can help make them feel part of the experience. It doesn’t have to be a post-stay experience – Sol Wave House in Mallorca was the first ever ‘Twitter experience hotel’ back in 2013, and guests can order a drink using the hashtag #poolbarorder.
Take it seriously, but allow your hotel’s personality to shine through!
A lot of in-room entertainment is the same these days – a Wi-Fi connection and a television with a handful of channels offering little choice. Thankfully, technology is on-hand to make for a more interesting and engaging experience, particularly for those visitors who prefer to relax and unwind in the hotel rather than head out and explore. You could provide a Chromecast in every room, allowing guests to stream their own content on the TV screen (Staycast is another option). Smart TVs can allow guests to directly watch content from their Netflix accounts. Access to TV services from providers like Sky is another differentiator, given that a generation has grown up with paid TV at home.
Take Hilton hotels – as part of its roll-out of Connected Room technology in the US this year, guests can enjoy complimentary access to Showtime on demand without the need for a subscription or credentials. Don’t forget to include charging cables for a variety of devices; USB wall sockets are another handy option, particularly for travellers who have forgotten to pack a travel adapter for their phone.
Modern hotel management software allows businesses to track information about guest preferences. While it does depend on at least one repeat visit, the next time a particular guest arrives you can surprise them with their favourite brand of coffee waiting in their hotel room, a personalised minibar, or a list of nearby activities they might find enjoyable. “Using hotel tech and software, you can keep track of everything from what kind of pillows they like to their food and music preferences,” business software directory Capterra noted in a recent blog post. “It’s an opportunity to let your guests know that they are valued, and not simply just another entry in the booking ledger.”
Top tip: small, simple but important steps can help make your guests feel welcome. That might include flexibility on the menu (particularly with children), addressing people by name, or leaving small tokens in guest rooms such as a sample of local produce.