Typically, consumers prefer to book via an OTA, and there is a number of reasons that explains that trend. Searching via an OTA makes sense, as one gets familiarized to a location and its accommodation options, not to mention easy navigation and filtering. But that’s far from the full story. According to research, 37% of the customers will book via an OTA because “they trust this brand” (Phocuswright’s search: The new digital funnel, June 2015).
Now, getting beaten by online travel agents is fair enough, only if it happens once! There are small and bigger things a hotelier can make to retain customers and build a relationship with them. Don’t forget, small changes can have a big impact! Let’s take a look at some of these:
· Retain guest information and recognize repeaters
Make sure returning guests don’t have to go through a check in process, giving in details that are already in your system. Have all the information typed in, and just go for the signature. Greeting by name is crucial. Also, having a personal welcome note in the room, and making sure any preference, that was mentioned on the previous stay, is being taken care of, will certainly give a satisfying experience to your loyal customer
· Give allocation priority
In other words, let them choose their room for the next visit. Imagine the Front Office Manager, while getting a feedback from the guest, saying “in case of future booking, please contact me to secure the same room for you, or would you like to try something new next time?”
· Give flexible cancellation policy
Large chains, such as Hyatt and Marriott International, give a more flexible cancellation policy to their loyal members, as of 2017, and I see no reason why not to. It’s an easy, effortless, costless way to show your gratitude to your guests, and make sure they book their next booking directly.
· Engage on Social Media
Even if you don’t have the budget to invest in building your online reputation management, it’s really, really, really bad for your business to leave comments and tags of your guests, on social media, without a response! Reward each photo uploaded from your hotel, respond to all comments and reviews. There is discussion of your hotel taking place, no matter if you participate or not
· Keep in touch (Be careful of GDPR!)
I am not a fan of sending persistent emails and newsletters, but dropping an email, or two, to give recognition to a previous guest, can build a relationship. For instance, an email that doesn’t necessarily conclude to a “Book Now” button, can be a nice surprise!
And don’t forget, always ask for feedback!