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Asking guests to recall their experiences in their own words is an important first step towards boosting satisfaction, loyalty and revenues

[HALLANDALE BEACH, FL- FEBRUARY 24, 2015] - When it comes to customer feedback, it's time that hoteliers STOP doing the guesswork on what their guests want. The smarter move is to let travelers do the talking. ZDirect, hospitality's leading provider of above-property marketing solutions, says hotels can greatly improve their guests' experiences simply by listening to what their customers are saying; and experts agree. 

A January 2015 Forbes Insights study titled "Customer Engagement: Best of the Best" reports that "Marketers know what it takes to succeed today: Stop talking at customers and engage with them. By making customers feel listened to and 'known,' marketers can capture their loyalty." ZDirect works closely with its customers to develop customer engagement strategies that are relevant, timely and engaging. The most important first step to start the conversation is to ask for feedback. 

"Communication has, and always will be, the key to any lasting and loyal relationship," said Shallana Edwards, ZDirect Director of Marketing. "Guests nowadays are communicating more than ever, whether it's through social media, travel review sites or on their mobile devices. It's important that hotels drive actionable results with the Big Data they've collected. A targeted email with engaging content offering golf tips is a great way to connect with guests who mentioned they like to golf. Likewise, surprising a family at check-in by blocking a room near the pool increases their satisfaction and shows that you understand their preferences because they gave their last stay high scores based on that factor alone. At ZDirect, we work with hotels to develop strategies that not only improve guest engagement, but use engagement to increase revenues and loyalty. It starts by letting travelers share their experiences in their own words."  

ZDirect offers 5 Techniques to Improving Guest Engagement, Revenues and Loyalty: 

1. Survey Your Guests

The easiest and most effective way to obtain customer feedback - good and bad -  is via surveys. Providing the right mix of questions (i.e. customer service, housekeeping, maintenance, room and hotel amenities) will garner the best results for all departments. Along with asking the typical guest related stay questions to improve services and amenities, prompt guests to provide more behavioral questions related to pricing and online shopping behaviors. For example, Revenue Managers will benefit from producing surveys related to the value of their stay to help with pricing strategies. Click here for more details. Marketing teams can improve their advertising and marketing spend by understanding how guests are finding their brand online whether it's through online travel agencies, banner ad, review sites, etc.  

In addition, having a variety of reports available is key, such as Sentiment Analysis that includes social media feeds. Sentiment Analysis, also known as opinion mining, uses an algorithm that identifies certain keywords or sentiments in guest comment cards that are either positive, negative or neutral, and filters these results. This makes it easy for managers to identify issues that are trending based on guest responses. Adding social media feedback to Sentiment Analysis reporting provides a broader view of what your guests are sharing on Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor and more. 

2. Collect Data to Understand Purchase Behaviors

When guests make a reservation or sign up to receive an eNewsletter, gather more than just the basic contact data. Ask about travel preferences; what types of offers they are interested in; do they mainly travel for business, leisure or with their family? These questions provide valuable insight into guests' purchasing decisions to help guide marketers in tailoring an offer that will generate the highest returns and conversions.  

Target the right guest with the right message at the right time by segmenting collected data. For example, all guests that say they travel mainly with family can be segmented into "family travel". This ensures that all communications to those guests are relevant to family travel and activities. 

"There are a number of places that hotels can add survey questions to learn more about guest preferences and purchase behaviors," Edwards said. "Many of our customers place newsletter sign-up forms on their websites or on Facebook as a way to collect guest data. Some send pre-arrival surveys or create contests and sweepstakes to engage with guests prior to arrival. Others place preference forms/update profiles in every email."

3. Add a Personal Touch to Emails

In the age of the Internet, email and mobile phones, more and more customers are buying and researching travel on their own, skipping the personal relationship they had with an agent. Now hoteliers are faced with the challenge of not only taking extra measures to learn more about their guests, but also providing that personalized experience through electronic engagement. 

Instead of sending a generic offer to your database, send a personalized message to your past guests with their name and stay history in the email. 

A welcome email that is triggered automatically after a guest checks in will also go a long way.  Similar to the welcome call at the front desk, this subtle engagement strategy can help improve and build a relationship with guests the moment they arrive. Make sure the welcome email includes an instant feedback survey and a direct line to the management team to prevent major issues from happening and limit the amount of negative feedback they share on social media. 

4. Add Local Events

Guests are always looking for fun things to do at the hotel or in the area they are visiting, so promote events on the website, in emails, social media and in front desk signage. Events can range from a Happy Hour Special at your restaurant, a Golf workshop at your course or a Family Bingo night if your location caters to families.

The easiest way to promote events is by creating an event calendar on the website and linking to it in your social media posts and email broadcasts.  Marketers can also promote events in their emails with data pulled from event listing vendors such as Eventful. These dynamically populated events are automatically generated based on day of arrival so you're always keeping your guest posted with events that are relevant to their stay. Check with your website and email service provider to find out what listing vendors they work with. Adding events at the property or nearby is a great way to increase ancillary revenues and traffic to your concierge desk. 

5. Anticipate Guest Needs by Reviewing Guest Profiles

If your property has an eCRM, review guest profiles of all arriving guests and anticipate their needs. If your eCRM enables you to run an arrivals report, review the data to see what each guest booked in the past and how they commented during their last stay. If a guest enjoyed a particular room on their last stay, block that room again before arrival. If a guest gave a low score because their room from a previous stay was too far from the pool for their kids, block a room closer to the pool. Anticipating guest's needs brings back the personal touch and drives loyalty. Who doesn't want to stay at a hotel that remembers the names of your children or have the latest edition of the Wall Street Journal waiting for them at check in? Train your staff to input important data that guests share at check-out for each guest profile to build a more thorough history.

"A personal touch can get lost in the digital age, if hoteliers aren't careful," Edwards said. "Flip the script and use technology to better engage with guests and enhance their experiences. Like the Forbes study reports, '[customers] have a desire for the genuine, unscripted service.' Customer engagement strategies that are thoughtful, personal and reliable will win back your guests every time -- or keep them from ever leaving in the first place."

For more information on how to improve guest engagement, read: "Using Feedback to Exceed Guests' Great Expectations." For more information on how ZDirect can help grow your improve guest engagement, visit www.ZDirect.com or call (888) 962-4548.

About ZDirect

Based in Hallandale Beach, Florida, ZDirect is pioneering Hotel Marketing Automation for the Hospitality Industry building upon its Enterprise Email Service Provider (ESP), ZMail eMarketing system, and eCRM database. The maintenance of a single guest profile is essential for an effective eCRM strategy. With the Dynamic Content Engine and PMS integration, ZMail® automatically sends intelligent and personalized confirmations, pre-arrival emails and post-departure emails with guest satisfaction surveys via email, mobile communication, SMS, social networks and more. Learn about the real people behind every reservation. Let ZDirect help you convert your prospects to customers and your customers to loyal customers. Real People. Real Profiles. Real Results.

Contact: Barb Worcester - PRpro

barbw@prproconsulting.com / (440) 930-5770

Contact: Shallana Edwards - ZDirect Inc.

shallana@zdirect.com / (480) 347-9173

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