Using Web and mobile technology to enhance a guest’s onsite experience and to enrich a guest’s relationship with a hotel is becoming a salient way to achieve loyalty and loftier occupancy numbers. Everyone knows this. The question is how do you accomplish this?
Or more precisely, what additives features and design elements are effective in this pursuit?
First, let’s look at this flow chart:
Initial Booking > Arrival >Departure >Planning Next Trip
Each arrowhead shows where social media and other online business-to-customer communication channels can hope to improve loyalty and brand “word of mouse” (the buzz phrase to describe digital word of mouth). It’s a simple pathway, but well worth highlighting because it’s all too easy to forget that it’s the moments between moments where relationships are formed.
Don’t wait until a customer reaches your property to start the rapport building. Pounce on the opportunity the second they book with you or engage you on one of your electronic channels. Then expand that connection digitally until the point of their arrival when you can shift into the more appropriate person-to-person level of communication. This intermission space is where new platforms thrive – one in particular being the GuestDriven Portal system. What does this new breed of software bring to the table? Let’s find out:
You can never underestimate the importance of simplicity and fluidity of design. Just look at Apple’s products and their sales numbers. The layout should include colors, textures and shading that matches the brand’s theme. It should also employ colorful photography of onsite features, amenities and regional attractions. Having a picture-centric design helps with interactivity and memory retention as well as increasing online exposure through an augmented chance of social media sharing.
2. Data capture
Often, we overlook how important it is to really know your customers and record their preferences to refine their experiences. In the beginning (and by that I mean 20 years ago), this meant relying almost entirely on past guest histories while new guests were technically blank slates. Now, with social media footprints and big data, it is possible to know all your customers quite well before you ever even have the opportunity of meeting them.
3. Open CMS with big data aggregation
A content management system is the back-end editor and is important for any website. A good CMS puts the power back in the hands of hoteliers, helping to reduce costs, increase the speed of updates and allow for more frequent updates.
4. Direct communication
Stemming from a flexible CMS interface, each guest becomes something akin to an open file where every subsequent interaction is marked. For instance, as deduced from guests’ Facebook interests and hobbies, managers can direct efforts to better customize onsite experiences. For example, if it was inferred from a traveler’s digital profile that he is a food critic and a blogger, an email asking if he’d like to eat with the food-and-beverage director is a simple, beyond-the-call touch that can go a long way to building a hotel’s fan base.
5. Wish list
Taking a design cue from Amazon and nearly every online retail store out there, the wish-list feature allows guests to add certain attractions to a personal bulletin as a reminder for when they are on property. This also translates into more data capture on the back end, allowing for concierges, social media managers and any other team member using the system to engage such guests in a dialogue about their wish lists as well as help them plan excursions and the like.
6. City guide
It’s also smart to deliver picture-heavy profiles of neighborhood attractions, restaurants, museums, cultural events, nightlife and anything else that’s relevant. To develop and curate this catalog requires heavy research as well as constant communication between the onsite staff and the software’s account managers to portray the attractions that best represent the brand. Advanced systems are becoming adept at coalescing past guest research as well as data capture specific to each user to exhibit individualized guides that predict what a certain guest would find most interesting.
Now that it’s 2013, games and traditional information-centric websites are merging, all underscoring the principle that interactivity heightens emotional involvement, which includes brand awareness, social media sharing, onsite spending and return visits. Some software allows guests to increase their score via social shares about the hotel (tweets, Facebook likes, etc.) and once certain benchmarks are reached, they can qualify for rewards such as onsite perks or vouchers at the hotel.
8. Call to action
What good is an uber-advanced interactive portal system if there’s no impetus for guests to access it? It’s crucial to hype such an interface through your first line of communication with incoming guests: email reservation confirmations, websites, social media, electronic promotions or even personal recommendations. The bottom line is that you have to get your hotel’s portal for guests out there for them to actually use it.
(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky on Hotel News Now on June 27, 2013)