Guests are the core of every hotel's business. Repeat booking guests are the most profitable guests. According to the world-renowned business coach Caroline Cooper, "gaining a new customer costs anywhere from five to eight times more than retaining your existing ones,” which is more than enough reason to make sure you're giving your regulars a reason to keep coming back. However, learning exactly how to do this is a long, and sometimes expensive, task. This is why we’ve compiled the top strategies to keep those guests coming right on back to your hotel, time after time.
1. Keep your service consistent — or improve it
There's never a second chance to make a first impression, but an ongoing impression might be even more valuable, and in the hotel industry, definitely more important to maintain. Your regular guests know what you're capable of delivering, and they'll be the first to notice if your standards of service take a dip. If you’ve always welcomed guests with a warm cookie, offered a ‘bellboy service’, used Egyptian cotton sheets, taken great care to source your ingredients for your hotel restaurant, or if you’ve always gone above and beyond to make your guest feel at home in your establishment, your regulars will notice when you don’t… and they will want to know why.
So, while it may feel like you need to focus your efforts on impressing new or prospective guests, it’s actually your loyal regulars who need that little bit extra care. Failing to maintain your standards of service leaves your regulars disappointed, and as Scott Nadel, COO of DMC Hotels puts it, "After a guest leaves your hotel they will not remember the beds, breakfast, or building, they will remember how you made them feel.”
Improving your standards of service, however, goes above and beyond, and your regulars will leave feeling pleasantly surprised. Not only are they more likely to book with you again, but the added shock will give them a talking point to tell their family and friends, so you could also be securing new customers.
2. Don’t be afraid to get personal
Customer service scripts exist for a good reason. It's always important to make sure every guest gets the same standard of service, and that no important information has been left out. However, the more often a guest interacts with your staff, the hollower those scripts will feel, and the more offended the guest will become if you ‘forget’ their special and personal requests.
Being a loyal customer is like being in a long-term relationship, it hurts if you're not remembered. So don't be afraid to take a warmer and more informal approach with your regulars, or as Paul Johns, CMO of Conversocial puts it, "Help your customers find the answers they need like a trusted friend, not a heartless automaton void of logic or compassion."
Your guest may be vegan, they may be lactose intolerant, they may prefer a south-facing room, they may always check out late. Your books should reflect these behaviours, so you can automatically offer them when your guest arrives. This makes the guest feel important and welcome, two things any good hotel should promote.
There are a few key benefits to building these real, personal relationships with your regular guests. According to Gallup Research, "If employees can create an emotional connection with guests during their initial stay, they'll be more likely to return the next time they need a hotel, even if another brand is offering a better price or a more desirable location." What's more, personal relationships build trust, which encourages honesty from your guests, and when guests feel sure you won't be offended by real feedback, they'll tell you what they really want from a hotel experience. This not only gives you the chance to up your customer service game and deliver, but it also gives you solid areas and ideas to improve your hotel for future guests.
3. Be a problem-solver
According to a 2014 Gallup Research study, having a staff of proactive problem-solvers is one of the key factors that turn one-off guests into engaged, repeat customers: "When employees help guests solve problems, those customers can become more engaged than guests who didn't experience a problem during their stay.” Usually, if something goes wrong during a guest’s stay; there aren't enough towels, there was a mix up with their room, their reservation was lost, it can cause you to lose business. Yet, if your staff are attentive, and go out of their way to solve this problem, you can actually turn the whole situation around, creating repeat customers.
Responsiveness is the key to both converting first-time guests into repeat customers, and to keeping your loyal guests happy. Training your staff to be problem-solvers, and giving them the latitude to use their judgment on the job, turns every issue into a positive chance to reinforce just how much you value your repeat guests and strengthen the relationships you've already built with them.
4. Cultivate and invest in your staff
Ultimately, your staff will be the key factor in keeping your repeat guests coming back. They're the smiling faces at the desk when guests first check-in, the helpful recommenders, the people who remember a guest's usual room service order. They are the first impression and the face of your long-standing relationship with your guests. The appearance and attitude of your staff represent that of the hotel, so cultivating a staff that reflects your hotel’s image and branding is paramount.
Gallup Research’s on-the-ground results are clear; ”guests prefer responsive employees when booking a repeat visit… all hotel segments can benefit from selecting talented employees, creating an engaging work environment, and training employees how to resolve guest problems.”
Build a working culture that allows your staff the flexibility and the authority to go out on a limb and take ownership of a problem, and the training to provide a sincere and responsive service. Furthermore, build a working culture that attracts talented employees and gives them the incentive to stay. If a guest truly enjoyed the service of a particular member of staff, then returns expecting them to be there, only to find they have quit, is a very disappointing and eye-opening experience for a guest. On the other hand, if you build a staff that is solid, and beloved by your guests, each time a guest returns to your establishment, it will feel like coming home.