Why are people loyal to a product? Is it because the product is just that good, familiar or worth it? Or, are we getting customers to be loyal to our hotels because of the time and money we invest to make them love us?
While I personally think that it is probably a combination of all factors, I do believe that “influencing” people to buy your product can be effective. It can be anything from a likable spokesperson to a company culture. People buy from people they know and like and are loyal for the same reasons. Are your hotel and staff likeable?
How many of you look at your guest comment scores and are underwhelmed by the numbers you get in rewards member recognition categories? You know your guests are loyal to your brand, and they have proven it over and over again by coming back to your hotel/brand, yet they score you low on how you appreciate or recognize them and their loyalty. Are they truly disillusioned with your hotel/brand, are they looking for gifts? Or, are they just bored with every GSR and every hotel they visit simply stating at check-in, “Thank you for being a silver rewards member. We appreciate your loyalty”, give them a bottle of water and tell them to go to their room! If I was a road warrior and checked into hotels often, I might be underwhelmed at this level of recognition too.
So what do we do for our brand loyal rewards members to let them know we want their business and will work hard to earn it? How do we stand out from the hotel next door or across the street? How do we build a loyal client base (without breaking the bank)?
Here are a few ideas…. some will require a lot of work and some will require a little work:
- Look at your arrivals list. Check the rewards profiles. Note preferences and make sure you have honored them. Make a note in the notes section of the check-in screen that states, “Mr. Jones prefers to have a room on a higher floor away from the elevator. He prefers foam pillows.” Make sure the GSR acknowledges this at check-in, “Mr. Jones. We have noted and honored your preferred room location and have assigned you a king on the 4th floor at the end of the hall. We have placed 2 additional foam pillows for you in the room.”
- Now, can you take building loyalty to the next level? Prepare welcome bags. Don’t go crazy with a lot of unnecessary stuff. Do a couple of different types of bags – sweet, savory, male, female, or child-oriented, local flavor, business, leisure, etc. Make sure your GSR gives one bag to the rewards member and acknowledges the gift by saying, “In addition to the preferences you have noted in your profile, we have prepared a little treat bag with local flavor. My favorite is the pumpkin chocolate bar from our local chocolate shop (My Town Sweet Shop). If we can be of further service, please don’t hesitate to call us. Enjoy your stay in (your town).”
- Get out from behind the desk! We designed our front desks to be pods or kiosks so we can provide more personal service without barriers. Bring the key packet and gift bag to the front of the desk!
- Is there a next level? What about a personal welcome call or note? When I was a GM, we pre-checked in our most loyal guests. GSRs would give me a list of pre-checks and I would call each room and leave a personal welcome voicemail on their phone. Another (easier) option is to have GMs or any department heads do personal welcome notes for the room/bag. Standard would be a GM writing a note welcoming a guest. “We are delighted that you have chosen the XYZ hotel as your base of operations for the next 3 days. I think you will find the unseasonably warm weather that is predicted this week favorable and hope you can spend a little time in our newly refurbished downtown area. Enjoy your stay!” Salespersons should also take a turn writing notes appropriate to their business and adding a personal touch by assuring that they are there for all their business travel needs. Let your Housekeeping Manager take a turn writing notes. Nothing says welcome like a note assuring our guest that “We hope you find your room clean and welcoming. Our goal is to make sure each and every guest is comfortable.” Lastly, let your Chief Engineer write a few notes. “We have recently cleaned and serviced your HVAC unit and encourage you to set the heat to the temperature of your choice for a warm and cozy stay.” (FOM/FOS can write about hotel facts and schedules, Breakfast Attendants can talk about entrees or food….. you catch my drift!) The point here is that every associate can be involved in making guests loyal AND take the daily burden off the GM while simultaneously giving variety to your notes!
- Be unique. Be seasonal. Be culture-driven. For example, it is Fairfield Inn & Suites’ 30th birthday this month. As a brand, they are asked to celebrate this birthday all month lending brand awareness to all guests. Look at the brand history. It started as a horse farm. All hotels must have the Mr. Marriott on a Horse picture in the lobby. So, why not purchase inexpensive horse bags from a vendor like Oriental Trading Post and use this decorative bag for your water/cookies? Add a little note that says, “We wish Fairfield Inns a happy birthday. Did you know we started out as a horse farm? Take a look at the picture of Mr. Marriott displayed in our lobby. Enjoy your stay!” Simple, but different. Look to your brand culture. Look to the season. Look at the unique holiday’s list and do something unexpected.
- Wake up calls: Do you have the ability to record a message on your wake up call? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a wake up call with a message like, “Good Morning! It’s a beautiful day in (your city). Today’s weather is predicted at 80 degrees with sunshine all day. Breakfast is from 6 am – 10 am this morning. Enjoy your day.” Just one more thing to make your hotel stand out and breed loyal customers.
Every person has their favorite brand. Understanding why you are loyal to a brand is personal. I like Dunkin’ better than Starbucks. I prefer Coke over Pepsi. I gravitate to BMW versus Ford. I wear LuLaRoe versus Leggings Depot or the Viv Collection. It is all personal preference. But is it really? Am I more loyal to brands who market to me, treat me special, and make me feel like a person rather than a number?
Things that make you go hmmmm…..
Happy creating loyalty!