We all know why hoteliers use OTAs. They are there to help you out, keep revenue up and room occupancy levels as high as possible. But over time, OTAs have become hoteliers’ back brace during quiet times and now, a convenience for guests. Guests are used to an easy booking process with OTAs, limited search time when looking for a destination or hotel, and over all of that, the ability to see immediate price comparisons. Instead of mulling over numerous ways to try and fight this, why not capitalize on it? As long as you’re getting more guests coming through the doors, having a good relationship with an OTA can actually be used to your advantage.
By all means, continue to optimize your website, manage your SEO and maintain omni-channel marketing to keep those direct bookings still coming in. However, below are some suggestions of effective ways of turning these unknown guests into loyal brand advocates and net promoters who will recommend your hotel to their friends and family and likely book directly with you again in the future.
1. Capture their email address at any point possible
It sounds like an obvious one, but this can easily slip through the net. The best opportunity to capture guests’ email address is at check-in and attach it to their profile. Create a field on the guest registration form and invite them to share their email address. Use incentives if they are reluctant. For example, offer access to an online guest request portal, an online survey at check-out, or direct notifications about events and activities in the local area during their stay. If that tactic fails, there’s always the opportunity to ask them for their email address when accessing your Wi-Fi network. It’s simple, but effective at capturing what you need.
2. Invest in face-to-face time and memorable experiences for your guests
While your guests are at the property, maximise the opportunity to showcase all that you have to offer. Provide a personal and memorable experience that will encourage them to not only share a glowing review following their stay, but also recommend the experience to a friend or family member. For example, it may be a surprise personalised gift for them in the room, one they may Tweet or share on Facebook with their friends. This is a difficult one to measure, but one that, we’ve seen work time and time again. Remember, a personal experience can go way beyond remembering everyone in the family’s name…even the dog!
3. Use their profile information to tailor their experience
By keeping the guest profile at the heart of your CRM or marketing platform, hoteliers can use this information to tailor what emails their guests see, what type of events are shared with them or what type of activities might be relevant for them. It can even be used to allow the hoteliers to remember and learn a little bit more about their guests’ preferences (type of pillow, favourite wine or food allergies). Using this type of technology to put this tailored information at their fingertips before and during their stay is extremely powerful and will be remembered after the guest leaves.
4. Capture their feedback and respond right away
Understanding and listening to your guests is the best way to turn a bad experience into a positive memory. If a guest has a negative experience but is greeted with a personalised, timely email (or TripAdvisor response) regarding the issue, it will immediately turn their negative emotions into something positive. We’re all human – mistakes happen and people have bad experiences. What’s important is acknowledging the issue and using that experience to learn and move on.
You may be thinking, how will this help drive our direct bookings? All these elements contribute to learning more about your guests – understanding who they are and what their needs are. This in turn creates loyal customers who will, when asked, come directly to you to book again, or even recommend your property to their friends and family because of their memorable experience.
5. Don’t forget about them after they’ve left
Once the guest has left, this is where all the hard work you put in pays off! Using the email address you obtained at check-in, the profile information built up before and during their stay, the unforgettable memories that have stayed with the guest after they left and the data learnt from their survey/review feedback, you now have the tools to win them back. Segmentation by preference, experience, date and type of reservation enables you to tailor an invite back to your guests after a certain period of time. First, capture their attention by personalising the email – make it relevant to them and their needs – then, share an offer or incentive for them to come back if they book with you directly.
The best practices highlighted above are, of course, bread and butter to most hoteliers. But now by using technology to tie them all together, hoteliers are enabled to deliver a clear measurable strategy to help target and drive more direct bookings.
About the author
Nicki Graham is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Guestfolio, a guest engagement and marketing platform hat helps hoteliers engage, convert and retain guests. The company’s goal is to personalize the travel experience for guests and provide insights and tools that build lasting brand loyalty for its hotel customers.