Running a hotel has never been a simple affair. Back in the pre-computer age when everything was done via ledgers and meticulous bookkeeping, a significant chunk of time went toward managing the ins and outs of your guests. Booking engines and software came with the promise to take that off of your plate. Many hoteliers have found that the free time that they were promised is simply taken up with the demands of a new, technologically savvy customer base.
Today’s customers expect you to be available and interacting anywhere they might find you: over the phone and on your website, of course, but also on social media. While this sounds like a whole lot of extra hassle, the decision to engage with your guests where they live pays dividends. The hotel industry buzzword “guest engagement” is more than just a flashy phrase to justify consultant fees; it’s a real way to drive revenue to your property.
How does it work? The simple way goes something like this: if you regularly interact with customers and potential customers on the platforms that they consider a friendly space, they are more likely to have positive connotations of your brand (and therefore more likely to spend money). Furthermore, engaged guests spend more when they do decide to make a purchase. Gallup found that fully engaged guests “spend 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests spend.”
Hotel trend watchers have also found a marked increase in mobile-first interactions with the hotel industry from customers. A recent study from HEBs Digital found that “nearly 28% of bookings, 25% of room nights, and 24% of revenue came from mobile devices.” That number jumps to over a third if you include over-the-phone bookings that began with a visit to a property’s mobile website.
In short, you need to meet your customers where they are coming from or risk being left behind as they move toward brands more willing to put the work into their mobile-facing business.
You no doubt have questions, so here are some answers to a few common ones.
How Do I Engage?
Guest engagement is a multi-stage process that runs from pre-booking to post check-out. Your first order of business in guest engagement is having a visually pleasing online footprint for potential guests to look at. This includes platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Investing in high-quality photographs and potentially social media professionals to help get your rooms in front of the eyeballs of scrolling guests is critical.
After the booking, you should make an effort to reach out to the guest before their stay. The pre-arrival email (or even text!) is coming to be seen as a common part of the hotel experience, particularly as guests split their time between traditional hotels and by-owner rentals like Airbnb.
You want to keep everything contained to the platforms that your guests already understand, Providing a mobile check-in option sidesteps the possibility of guest hang-ups as they attempt to check-in on a system they might not get. Simple, clean interfaces and intuitive mobile check-in technology —the sort of service offered by companies like StayNTouch— allows guests to get into their rooms with a minimum of hassle and frees up your staff to focus on other parts of the guest experience.
While the guest is on the property, consider giving them a way to continue to interact with your company over their mobile devices. A quick response to a text or a message will go a long way toward building brand loyalty while your guests are staying with you. Modern hotel property management systems make it easier than ever for your staff to handle requests and provide timely responses.
After a guest has left, you still need to be thinking about engagement. Where before it was time to relax once the bill was paid up, today’s guests can be coaxed back with a bit of post-check-out engagement. Sending an email, liking a post or asking for feedback at the end of a stay could mean the difference between a one-time and a repeat customer. Plus, it’s bound to have an impact on your reviews, which have a significant effect on the number of bookings your property will receive
In short, guest engagement has come to be expected from an always-on generation of guests. You should be leveraging every possible opportunity to interact with guests on the platforms where they spend their lives. By utilizing email, texts and social media posts, engagement runs from before the guest decides to make a booking to after they have packed their bags and left. And rather than looking at it as yet another hassle, smart hoteliers should know that it can very quickly turn into a source of increased revenue provided that they are willing to put in the work.