One of the most valuable assets every business can have is a vigorous customer database, which can keep track of customers’ information, help nurture client relationships and guarantee guest loyalty over time and make a business more profitable. However, since one of the main purposes of the hospitality industry businesses is using guest data to drive direct bookings, a database of loyal guests is twice as important.
Although OTAs contribute a great deal to keeping visibility and occupancy rates as high as possible, hoteliers and accommodation providers in general still prefer direct bookings and returning guests, reduced commissions paid to intermediaries and less dependency on online booking websites such as Booking.com, Airbnb, and Expedia.
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Who Is a Loyal Customer?
Loyal customers are committed to a brand and choose a particular product or service over other available options and are not easily influenced by competitive offers. They prefer to continue with the same brand they are familiar with and love because they have made close-knit bonds with the value and benefit they have received before. These customers are highly valuable for a business because they have higher conversion rates, and retaining them is cheaper than acquiring new guests.
First-time guests don’t easily trust because they don’t have any experience with you as a vacation rental provider, so retaining the repeat guests is a must for all vacation rental managers in the highly competitive hospitality market. Loyal guests are also volunteered promoters who recommend a rental to their friends and family and are likely to book directly in future.
If you are a host who manages multiple properties across multiple cities or countries, you can count on your loyal guests to promote other properties of yours in other locations.
How to Build Guest Loyalty
Customer satisfaction is a key factor to fostering lifelong guests, yet not sufficient alone. We all know that two groups of customers exist: 1. satisfied but disloyal customers, and 2. unsatisfied but loyal customers. Therefore, every property manager needs to implement effective marketing strategies to improve their business relationships and build stronger bonds with their guests in order to turn first-time guests to repeat guests and earn customer loyalty.
Enhance Guest Experience
Get to know your customers better before, during and after their stay, and see how you can meet their needs with more tailored solutions. Your guests’ experience begins with the booking process. Whatever check-in type you might have, make sure that your guests go through a smooth process to boost your customers’ satisfaction level right in the very beginning. If you have a meet and greet check-in type, make sure that your well-trained and sociable staff welcome your guests warmly in person, give them a tour of your property, and give suggestions of things to do nearby to make them feel at home.
If you have an automated check-in type, ensure that your staff give quick and friendly answers via online chats or email correspondence. Collect customer information and contact details, but do not bombard your prospect guests with forms to fill and keep the process hassle-free. If possible, have flexible check-in times and provide your guests with complete check-in instructions. Use triggered emails to deliver an excellent experience to your guests before their arrival and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Ask for Feedback
Reach out to your guests after their check-out, communicate regularly and engage with them to create a sense of community. Encourage customers to leave rates and feedback, and let them know that you value their comments and use them to identify the areas in your business to improve. Listen to your guests’ suggestions and address their concerns to build a long-term relationship with your loyal customers.
A well-handled check-in can enhance your guest experience, leading to more positive reviews. Turn your lookers into bookers and then to dedicated repeat bookers by collecting 5-star reviews. Today people count on reviews and testimonials from real people more than ever to trust a new business.
Adopt Effective Guest Loyalty Strategies
Be creative! There are boundless ways to use the CRM data to promote your brand; here are just some to begin with:
Customer Loyalty Programs
Use the data in your CRM to make effective marketing plans and provide personalised offers to attract less engaged customers to interact more with your brand. Reward your loyal customers with VIP and premiere promotions, seasonal and event-based discounts, flexible payment plans and vouchers to keep them coming back.
Frequently communicate with customers through email campaigns. Send tailored, personalised emails, reminders, recommendations, or monthly newsletters to keep customers engaged. In addition, promote your unique selling points (USPs) and customer retention programs to generate more bookings at a lower cost.
A ‘refer a friend program’ can help you employ the word-of-mouth marketing to boost your sales. Customers can get rewarded, earn points or get exclusive discounts for recommending your brand to other people.
Record Customer Information and Build Your Guest CRM
All of the strategies mentioned above cannot be taken into account without adequate data of your guests and a robust CRM. With multiple vacation rental’s or serviced apartment’s bookings coming from different OTAs and booking platforms, collecting data from the people who stay at your property and keeping track of your interactions history is not that easy.
Besides, OTAs share as little data of the guests as possible with the hosts by masking their users real email addresses. Done under data protection measures, they protect their customers from joining the direct booking movement. The alias email addresses used by OTAs will be invalidated in a short time after a guest’s check-out making it harder for you to develop long-term relationships with your past guests.
You need to segment guests in your CRM and then use this data to plan, and deliver loyalty marketing campaigns and rewards programs to benefit specific customer segments; nevertheless, you have to ask your guests whether they consent with using their contact information for promotional activities like email marketing campaigns and make sure that your data processing and promotional programs are GDPR-compliant, and that you have a secure data privacy management in place.
A key tool available to help you manage all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers is a Guest CRM. When property managers are considering building a guest CRM to capture contact details, bookings, and personal preferences of their guests with the purpose of running loyalty initiatives, they often look for setting up an external CRM system to accompany their current channel manager or property management system; however, a PMS that provides you with a flexible built-in guest CRM, automates email address collection, and builds a GDPR-compliant database for you goes a long way towards effective customer loyalty programs.
Check our blog post ‘What Is Behind OTAs’ Anonymous Email Addresses?’ to learn how to overcome the OTA’s alias emails policy and collect guests’ data from different channels.