Customer Loyalty: How to Retain Loyal Guests
With customer loyalty at the top of the hotelier agenda, columnist Caroline Cooper from Zeal Coaching shares her top 10 tips on how to retain loyal guests.
It’s estimated it costs anywhere from 5 to 8 times more to gain a new customer than it does in getting repeat business from your existing ones. When you consider the cost associated with new business – advertising, marketing, sales people, etc. – this becomes obvious.
It’s also estimated that over two thirds of customers will fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is the number one reason businesses lose customers.
So it makes sense that whatever your business be it a hotel, B&B or restaurant, based upon these two statistics, it is obvious your business needs to place as strong an emphasis on keeping existing customers as it does on gaining new ones.
And with a potential spike in business over the summer months (be that related to the Olympics or not) now is the as good a time as any to review what you are doing to retain your valued customers.
Here are my suggestions of ten factors to review. None of these are new or revolutionary, but there may be one or two areas where you may want to make some minor changes to be capitalising on the opportunities.
Top 10 Tips: Retaining Loyal Guests
- Last impressions. What will your guests remember most about their stay with you? What happens in the last few moments of their stay that will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression? Show you appreciate their custom; a sincere thank you in person goes a long way. Give them a little memento to take home with them as a lasting reminder: a box of homemade petit fours, jam or pickles or gift bag of your exclusive toiletries for your leisure guests, or quality logoed accessories for your corporate market. Even something as simple as writing out the recipe of a dish they asked about, or printing out directions for their onward journey. Following this up with a simple personalised thank you note a few days later will not only show your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by, especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. Some think that in this web based age that this is out dated; how would your guests react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?
- Keep in touch. Out of sight is out of mind so even if your guests are only likely to visit you once a year, keep in touch with them for the whole year so that when they are considering a trip or looking for somewhere to eat you are very firmly in their mind. Let them know what other activities you have going on, you never just know, it could just tip the balance in favour of them coming to see you as an extra visit. What are the things that they didn’t’ get a chance to experience on their last visit: something new, something they didn’t have time for – not just at your hotel but locally. Remain on their radar by your presence on social media. Do your homework first and find out the best options to suit your guests. If you’ve make a great impression initially this keeps this going, and makes the referral process much more likely too.
- Reward their loyalty with exclusive deals. Make your loyal guests feel special by putting together packages or deals which are exclusive to them. This again demonstrates your appreciation of their custom, as well as potentially prompting additional bookings. As a loyal guest, the last thing you want to hear about is an offer that’s only available to ‘new’ customers.
- Understand your guests’ needs. The more you get to know your guests the easier it is to anticipate their needs, and deliver what they want on a consistent basis to keep them satisfied. Keep up-to-date with what your guests want from you by listening to them. Get to know your guests and be visible in your hotel, making personal contact with your guests to build rapport and trust. They are then far more likely to tell you what they want and what would encourage them to return. Avoid being so bound by your own rules that you can’t be flexible. If a guest wants a lie in and would like breakfast at 11.30, is this really that big a problem if it means they enjoy their stay and tell their friends?
- Ask for feedback. Never take your regular guests for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve shortfalls quickly. Problems or challenges are often your opportunity to shine and leave a positive lasting impression if dealt with positively. Now’s a chance to exceed expectations. Face to face feedback will always win over a comments form or questionnaire. Ask them what they like and what disappoints them if anything, so you can learn from this and continually improve. Guests will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. So also ask for their feedback on how things can be improved and their recommendations and new ideas. Then keep them up to date with the changes they’ve made to demonstrate that you have been listening. What a great excuse to invite them back again to show them the changes you’ve implemented?
- Remember them. Not only addressing your guests by name (although don’t under estimate the impact when someone remembers your name especially when you aren’t expecting it – and getting the spelling right when you’re writing it down). It’s also about remembering their preferences. Do they have any particular likes and dislikes, what is their favourite room, do they have any particular requirements such as a late check in. Do we know their birthday or any special anniversaries? Remembering such details will always be appreciated. And although you may know this regular guest, do your staff know them too. Record their personal details and any special requirements so whoever is on duty the welcome your guest receives is consistent.
- Get the basics right. Ensure your guests’ second, third, or 30th visit is as good as their first. Have systems in place to ensure you’re able to deliver the same level of service on a consistent basis. Take the customer journey regularly, and see everything from a guest’s perspective. Be sure to under promise and over deliver. With regular guests this means continuous improvement, as they will have set expectations, which we need to strive to exceed on every visit. Simple things delivered well will always be better than trying to be over sophisticated and delivering it badly.
- Train your staff. Your staff need to know the level of service that your guests expect, and have the appropriate training, tools and systems in place in order for them to deliver this. Brief your team so that they too can recognise and remember your loyal guests and empower them to deliver what your guests want and expect. In the unfortunate event that your guests have cause to complain, give your staff the training, confidence and authority to deal with complaints promptly. Your recovery of the situation can in itself earn you brownie points.
- Know your competition. Keep an eye on your competitors, what they are charging, new services they offer, improvements, marketing promotions, etc. Make sure your services are the best value for the money. You do not necessarily have to lower your prices when your competitors do, but make sure your guests know that you are worth the extra money. Stay competitive. I’m not just talking about other hotels; your guests will compare you with anyone else who delivers a service. So as long as you deliver a five-star service you’re going to compare favourably with all your ‘competition’.
- Wow your guest. Think of the things that are of high value to your guests but low cost to you so you can give added value. Give people a reason to talk about you. Always look for an opportunity to go that extra mile to wow your guest to make it really difficult for them to ever contemplate not coming back to you. Always leave them with that open invitation and tempt them to return.
It’s all about giving guests a reason to return.