Consolidate relationships with consumers: the need of the moment in the hotel industry
Every industry in the world is undergoing many changes and the hotel industry is not immune to them. Continuous technological innovation plays an essential role, since it allows consumers to access information about any service or establishment in a matter of minutes. Then there are social media, which not only permeates all industries, but also has the power to change trends and shape the future.
It’s no wonder, then, that consumer expectations have also risen. Gone are the days when advertising was taken at face value. We no longer have to resort to outdated practices designed to collect only leads, inquiries, or visits. Today, the focus is on customer retention and loyalty.
The hospitality industry, especially, thrives on this approach. After all, isn’t customer service everything here? Reputation depends on popular perception, goodwill, and word of mouth. The hotel experience can be irreparably tarnished if you miss the smallest detail about your guests, who are not averse to using social media to express their grudges.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is based on the belief that building a consistent and sustainable user base is far more valuable to the business than engaging in fickle marketing practices. It also takes into account three key elements in its fullest form: people, process, and technology. As the industry thrives on segmentation and uniqueness, the hotel’s ‘personality’ can only be as distinct as its relationships with consumers allow it to be.
This becomes even more relevant when you consider the cutthroat competition in the hotel industry. Unless you put the customer relationship at the center of all your planning and strategy, you will find that your audience removes your brand from their list. Then there are other factors, such as increased customer acquisition costs, increased customer expectations, price-sensitive travelers, more sophisticated customers, an uncertain market, and declining brand loyalty. , all of which make consumer relations an area of focus.
Good CRM and strong identity
To improve customer relationships, you must first start working on the foundation, which is your brand identity. If your brand seems vague or undefined, your consumers are unlikely to hear what you have to say in the first place. Your identity must be partly timeless (core values, long-term mission, etc.), but it must also be adapted according to context.
For example, millennials are looking for a brand that effectively uses current trends in its advertising, or a brand that is socially aware and takes steps in that direction when its services are used. They look for services that are enabled by technology and a wide range of interfaces. In this setting, if you appear traditional and dated, you may not be meeting their expectations.
Identifying your primary demographic is paramount. Then you need to create a story and tonality for the brand itself so that you can shape a specific identity. This should align with your core values and company culture, because the way you treat your own employees is largely reflected in the type of service they provide to consumers. From there, creating a healthy buzz about your brand on social media, keeping your audience updated on the latest in your hotel, encouraging reviewers, and addressing their concerns will be easier.
Happy employees and work culture
The hospitality industry must emphasize the happiness of employees to improve relationships with consumers. If your staff and other employees treat hospitality as a chore, or are driven only by fear and authority, they will hardly treat guests with warmth and exuberance.
Hotels are also engaging in trait-based hiring, rather than simply relying on technical skills. What this means is that you need to seek out people who find immense value in being hospitable to others. Personalities are more difficult to acquire, technical skills not so much.
For example, take the entire registration process. The “service” aspect is quite simple. The guest enters, is asked for their identification and then the keys are given. Now, in this scenario, the receptionist can recite all those written lines that she has learned during the training, but their behavior, mannerism, the sincerity with which they interact with the guest is very important. This is where their innate trait of being warm and friendly shines through.
An employee unhappy with a script can be detrimental. Consumers are extremely smart and savvy these days and can smell fake hospitality from a mile away. If your staff only provide a scripted service, your guests will be put off. To differentiate yourself from other establishments, train your employees to understand the value of emotion, warmth, and caring.
But this cannot be achieved if they themselves are working in a suffocating work environment. So, don’t forget to care for your employees with the same warmth and consideration that you would like them to provide to hotel guests.
Fostering a good relationship with your consumers means that you will meet and exceed consumer expectations at all times. Matching expectations is significantly easier for brands that have a strong presence with an established standard of service, but that’s no longer enough. Consumers are actively looking for better experiences, and as we said before, the same old-fashioned offers and amenities are of no value to them.
So how can consumer behavior be targeted? By implementing the right tools and technologies, of course. Analysis software is especially powerful in this regard. Analytics can help you determine the following things and more:
Guest responses to specific services
Consumer interests in the current context
This means that you can identify exactly what guests like and customize your services accordingly. In fact, personalization is THE key to differentiation in an already flooded market. Marketing campaigns are also successful if they are highly segmented and targeted. Even pricing strategies can be manipulated, as the Marriott has been doing. They used customer feedback and analysis to rearrange their rooms according to the type of traveler who would be staying there (leisure, business, or even families) where more storage space was provided. They also armed their reception with smartphones and tablets so they could know what to expect from customers along with their requirements.
Relationships with consumers are also consolidated with the help of loyalty programs. However, most hotels do not offer programs that are tailored to guest requirements, because they do not know what will increase retention in particular. With analytics, you can do all of this and more, so definitely consider including it in your marketing strategy.
Another thing to look at is split testing – you can use a litter box to test your potential campaigns and determine their effectiveness before rolling them out on a large scale. It is always useful to have foresight so that you do not control the damage later; On forums like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, even one mistake could seriously damage your reputation.
Contact and foreign elements
Any interpersonal relationship requires open and transparent communication. More importantly, it must be consistent. This also applies to your customers, especially in a heavy service industry like hospitality.
When you talk about communication, you must talk about mobile, because mobile is the most predominant channel in use today. According to WOW Local Marketing, 52% of customers are less likely to interact with the business due to a bad mobile experience. That’s more than half of them, who are probably spreading the word about their ineptitude. Additionally, 55% of customers focus on their website experience to formulate their opinions, so scalability for both mobile and web is important.
Customers also want more transparent channels to communicate and will appreciate the least possible redirection. Remember that time you had to go through at least five representatives to solve a simple query? And do you remember that you got frustrated, but had to push yourself and endure it anyway? Well, don’t make your clients go through a similar experience, because you don’t want them to take negative memories of their stay with you.
Empowering your employees with decision-making power is something I want to emphasize particularly here. The more capable they are at solving guest problems without having to redirect them or ask their bosses for permission, the more secure the guest will be, and will surely return, due to the efficiency of their employees.
Communication channels should also be extended to collect reviews and address concerns on the go. The guest or consumer can provide critical comments, which should be addressed immediately. If you think your opinions and inquiries are disappearing into the void, well … that’s exactly where your business could be heading, too.
Lastly, take a look at your activities in the local community. By participating in activities that address social issues and give back to the community, your brand image is greatly enhanced. The guest will not only see your brand from a utilitarian perspective, they will also feel better because they chose you, and not another dispassionate establishment that shows no responsibility towards society at all.
In the end, we all know that strengthening customer relationships is not an overnight activity. It requires patience, timed responses, improvisation, and an accurate reading of the industry to be effective. However, if done right, it can take your brand well beyond the mainstream players in the hospitality industry.