To find ideas to improve customer engagement, we first must come to terms with what it is that get your hotel guest’s attention and holds their interest. That is something called “customer value.” Everybody wants something valuable – it’s human nature.
As a business you can easily give away value, but it runs contrary to your core mandate – which is to make money. So it is important to remember that customers will recognize value if their perceived gain from an engagement is greater than their perceived loss.
To manage customer engagement, we want to trade something that is low cost to you for something that is of high value to your guest. The result will be greater customer engagement, which will translate into more revenue per guest. So what do your guests perceive as valuable? Address the following four areas and the quality and effectiveness of your customer engagement will skyrocket:
- Give Control While Reducing Effort
Controlling something while experiencing less effort seems contradictory at first. But in today’s hotel service environment, control is a luxury. Being able to by-pass lines or conversations or sales pitches and do something yourself is something we all value in today’s crowded, busy world. We do this daily by shopping online, checking in at the airport and even checking ourselves out at the grocery story. Self-service has become a real value-add for most consumers. So, in your hotel, allows guests to check-in or out via their mobile devices, or like the airports, provide a kiosk in your lobby. Guests don’t want to wait in line or speak to someone after a long day’s journey, so they will gravitate to these self-service options. The reason it works for you is the ROI. Your labor costs are reduced and your customer scores will improve. It’s a great value trade.
- Generate Time and Convenience
Related to the above, but slightly different is the concept of giving time. Of course time itself cannot be generated, but it can be repurposed. For example, that time in the taxi from the airport when you are texting or playing Candy Crush could be used better by checking into your hotel so that you can expedite your arrival-to-room transition and therefor have more free time when you get there.
Convenience means making something easier. Like checking out of a hotel. It is easier to get your bill on your phone and check out while packing up your bags than to have to go downstairs and wait for a front desk clerk to print something out for you. Again, in both cases, the hotel reduces labor (and paper!) costs by providing a relatively low cost digital service that people love.
- Present Monetary Value Opportunities
Many of us have partner or spouse that loves a bargain. They will come home with a purchase that could be considered unnecessary only to proclaim, “It was on sale!” Hoteliers can leverage this common human response, but not by simply creating a discount. Sometimes, presenting a product at the right time in the right context conveys a value opportunity for the guest even though it is not discounted. Take late check-out. If you present three late check-out options that get more expensive as the check-out time gets later, the guest will feel that the earliest late check-out option is a good value. Meanwhile you have now generated income from where there was none.
The same holds true for upgrades. Present upgrades in your mobile check out process as being for just a few dollars more, and your guests will perceive value. When purchasing online, they probably just wanted to get the cheapest room rate they could. But in the self-service check-in process, they are more apt to indulge themselves if they see a smaller dollar amount attached.
- Grant Attention
We’ve talked a lot about self-service, but that is not to say that some people won’t choose to speak to someone in-person if given the option. Plus there are many situations where a guest may have a unique question or need that require a conversation. Those are customer engagement opportunities too. The problem is that many hotels still prefer a big granite front desk between them and the customer, and are required to stare down at a PMS screen that the guest can’t even see.
That situation is the opposite of customer engagement. Smart hotels are using a property management system that can be used on a tablet. That makes staff mobile, which means they can come out from behind the desk and greet the guest anywhere. A property management system on a tablet means that the screen can be shared – which makes selling upgrades more compelling when the room differences can be graphically presented and browsed by the guest. The staff member is now able to stand beside the guest and look them in the eyes as the share in the checking-in activity. This new kind of guest/staff interaction makes the guest feel like they are getting special attention – because they are. But the cost to the hotel is no more for labor of the staff and is probably less for the PMS.
In conclusion, the trick to managing customer engagement is providing value in the form of a trade. The hotel gives something of perceived value that, in fact, costs them very little. Mobile interaction points make this easy – they are a true win/win for hotel and guest.