How can the guest experience strengthen guest loyalty?
Loyalty is central to all companies, regardless of industry. In the hotel industry, loyalty consists of several factors which, ultimately, have an impact on key performance indicators such as guest satisfaction, occupancy rate and revenue in its different forms (ADR, RevPar…). But it’s important to remember that loyalty comes at the end of a long process. First, you need to show a good understanding of your guests’ needs and create a relationship based on trust. To succeed, it’s vital to take the guest experience, so often left to OTAs, into your own hands.
The guest experience can be defined as being with the guest at every stage of their stay (before, during and after) and optimising interaction with them to achieve an ideal level of satisfaction.
Recap of the stages of the guest journey
With the advent of OTAs and review portals, the guest journey has become increasingly complex. We can break it down simply into before, during and after the stay, but these stages have now developed to create an overall experience.
Before the stay
We don’t need to cite figures or studies to state that the internet has become a crucial element in booking a trip or, more specifically, a hotel room. However, Expedia, in a study from 2015, stated that travellers visit an average of 38 different sites when planning a trip. Thinking about all of these site visits, it’s likely that potential guests will visit your own website. We could almost say, then, that the pre-stay experience starts right here. If you have a complete site which has guest reviews, you’re making the task easier for users and increasing your chance of securing a direct booking. That’s when things get serious.
By starting a dialogue with the guest, perhaps through a personalised email, you have the opportunity to give them a considerable amount of information relevant to their stay. It’s also a chance to make additional sales. You’ll get a better idea of the guest’s expectations before they arrive, and be able to offer them a personalised experience.
During the stay
Keeping the conversation flowing – via several channels – once the guest is at your hotel is becoming increasingly important, given the various needs guests may have. Of course, your employees are trained to respond to your guests’ expectations to make sure they enjoy their experience. But, to optimise your operations, it’s now necessary to make this process automated by making the information available as quickly as possible. This also allows you to gather feedback and improve your services, virtually in real time.
After the stay
As we often state in our articles, post-stay communication demands all your attention because it determines your long-term relationship with the guest. Again, collecting guest feedback (and responding to it) gives you an opportunity to gain their loyalty, improve your operations and increase your visibility on the major platforms like TripAdvisor and Google. The loyalty aspect comes through in the fact that you have the privilege of being able to continue the conversation with the guest, particularly by email, by occasionally sending them promotions and offers, thus ensuring you secure direct bookings.
So, those are the different stages in the guest journey. Let’s now take a closer look at personalising the guest experience, and the opportunities available to you.
Offer a tailor-made guest experience…
As we’ve just seen, the guest experience client can be broken down into different stages of the stay. But how can you offer a unique guest experience that will strengthen your guests’ loyalty in the long term?
Anticipate your guests’ needs
A good guest experience lies partly in the element of surprise, or the “wow factor”. It’s important to know how to create an emotion in your guest, rather than just offering them your services to use. Understanding and anticipating your guests’ needs is the first step. You need to think about your guests’ main expectations before they arrive, and what makes your hotel unique.
Your guests, according to their booking and the category they come under (business or pleasure), may be looking for somewhere to eat. It’s time to be proactive. Recommend places to eat, while showcasing your own restaurant; this represents the first step to creating a guest experience. This personal touch will have an impact on your guests’ loyalty. Supporting this idea, a study conducted by GBTA states that 57% of business travellers want to receive restaurant recommendations, while 50% are interested in recommendations linked to transport and 40% also like to receive suggestions for activities.
On top of the dialogue started at these different stages, it can be very useful to analyse the feedback gathered from previous guests, especially if any topics crop up frequently. This allows you to better anticipate future demands and adapt the guest experience as appropriate.
By implementing a conversational strategy with your guests prior to check-in, you increase the chance of the guest experience being a positive one and open yourself to upselling opportunities. Anticipating demands is important, but meeting them is crucial.
Responding to guests’ needs during the stay
When better to strengthen a guest’s loyalty than when they’re staying in your hotel? Before gauging their satisfaction level after check-out, it’s necessary to take all the steps to make sure the experience your guest receives is a remarkable one.
First, you can test the water with regard to satisfaction during the stay. Sending the guest a quick message or email asking them about any needs they might have can create the best possible conditions for what comes next. Your guests might have specific requests that you can fulfil easily (extra pillows or duvets, booking a taxi or resolving a technical problem in their room…). Some guests don’t dare make any requests, while others are already determined to complain about the slightest thing. By sending a quick but relevant questionnaire, you have the opportunity to foresee any demands and meet them almost instantly. To get to know your guests, you need to ask them questions and interact with them.
You can meet your guests’ basic needs by anticipating and by automating your processes to create a fluid, optimal experience. You then have all the time you need to dedicate to operations and to finding ways to enrich this experience through extra services. Let’s continue to follow the guest journey by taking a look at the end of the stay.
Build a long-term relationship
You make every effort to offer a tailor-made guest experience. You ask questions, anticipate, make suggestions and respond to your guests’ expectations.
You now need to show that you see the guest experience as important in its entirety by asking your guests for feedback. Whether in a personalised questionnaire or directly on an external portal (TripAdvisor, Google…), grasp this opportunity to continue the conversation. This digital guest experience continues naturally and is likely to lead to increased loyalty. The guest experience is constructed at each stage of the stay and continues over the long term, and this is what lies at the heart of a hotel owner’s job.
If the guest experience proves successful and you have a loyalty scheme in place in your hotel or company, maintain contact in the long term by regularly communicating with your guests by email and offering them benefits. But perhaps you’ve received more mixed feedback. Even with the effort you’ve put into communication and your attention to detail, there’s always room for a constructive dialogue with a dissatisfied guest. In fact, guests who weren’t asked about their needs and expectations during their stay are more likely to complain more vehemently.
Now, let’s take a look at how to strengthen guest loyalty.
Strengthening guest loyalty
The guest experience is arguably our governing principle, for one simple reason. Loyalty schemes are no longer an obligation if you wish to bring guests back to your establishment on multiple occasions. Four Seasons, for example, does not have a loyalty scheme, but we would still all agree that the company is known for the quality of its services and its guest experience in particular. This is where the strength of your hotel lies: improve the guest experience to strengthen guest loyalty.
A study by PWC examining the factors that influence loyalty shows that 40% of business travellers and 27% of those who travel for pleasure state that a personalised guest experience makes them more likely to return to an establishment or a particular brand. Another key factor is the benefits linked to the loyalty scheme (price, added value…). A study conducted by Expedia supports these conclusions, finding that the guest experience is the response to loyalty schemes which are becoming gradually less innovative. It also found that experiences which meet guests’ expectations and offer a diverse range of quality services and products lead to long-term loyalty. To consolidate this loyalty, you need to know your guests, and this needs to be achieved through segmentation. Each group has different expectations and needs, and to satisfy each one and offer them a tailor-made guest experience, you need to increase your interactions at each stage during the stay.
A well-managed guest experience = greater loyalty
In this article, we’ve already run through the different points of interaction between a guest and a hotel.
It’s crucial to get to grips with these to avoid other sources, such as OTAs, doing it for you, at least for pre- and post-stay communication. Satisfaction and the quality of the guest experience go hand in hand and can be expressed at every stage. Satisfaction will be even greater if you go to special efforts for your guests based on the interactions you’ve had with them during their stay. As we’ve seen, gathering information, collecting feedback and offering opportunities for additional sales are also factors which demonstrate your attention to detail and, therefore, the uniqueness of your hotel.
New technology offers solutions linked to this. Customer Alliance and its new Guest Experience Management aim to give you better control of your guest experience by enabling you to showcase everything that’s great about your establishment. To do this, it’s also important to be aware of your guests’ needs by group in order to be able to offer a personalised experience. Guest satisfaction is now measured based on the quality of these experiences and no longer simply comes down to whether the hotel room was comfortable or the food in the restaurant was good.
By taking these factors into consideration and implementing a strategy that focuses meticulously on the guest experience, you’re giving yourself the best chance of strengthening guest loyalty. Now, guests value the experience more than the benefits that might come with a loyalty scheme, such as discounts. There’s no doubt, for example, that a guest will attach greater importance to the quality of a massage in your spa than to a discount they received, especially if the treatment they received at a discounted rate was not satisfactory.
Ask for a personalised demonstration from one of our experts today and take (back) control of your online reputation by offering a tailor-made guest experience!