Personalization is a hot topic in hospitality and it’s important the industry keeps talking about it. The quest to personalize the guest experience not only inspires better customer service, but better hotel technology too; the kind of technology that improves guest satisfaction, operational efficiency and a property’s bottom line.
As technology empowers travel businesses to target their customers more effectively, travelers have come to expect more personalized service. As always, hotels must strive to meet and exceed guest expectations and, in today’s increasingly competitive landscape, that means personalizing every guest’s stay in order to stand out and build guest loyalty.
Unfortunately, operators of small, independent lodgings can feel left out of the conversation, thinking that personalizing the guest experience is a trend that requires complicated, expensive systems and loyalty programs that the budget won’t accommodate.
But personalization is no longer a trend—it’s an expectation. And it isn’t complicated or expensive to put into practice. In fact, small, independent lodgings are perfectly positioned to personalize the guest experience. Here are seven simple ways to do it.
1. Build Guest Profiles
A truly customized guest experience starts with guest data. If your property uses an automated property management system (PMS)—and most independent properties do these days—all the data you need should already be at your fingertips.
Your PMS should allow you to collect and store guest information, automatically recording stay history and contact details in guest profiles so that you can identify repeat guests and treat them extra special. You should also be able to save additional information to guest profiles, such as birthdays, anniversaries, preferences and interests. Staff learn a lot about guests during interactions throughout the stay cycle and this valuable data should be recorded and used to personalize the guest experience by anticipating needs and surprising and delighting.
2. Send Pre- and Post-Stay Emails
Email is still one of the most effective customer engagement tools, with hotel pre-arrival emails boasting an average open rate of over 50 percent. Modern PMS and CRM systems for independent properties make sending personalized pre- and post-stay emails effortless. By setting up email templates that pull reservation information, personalized emails can be automatically triggered by stay or booking dates and other parameters like room and rate codes.
Pre-arrival emails provide the perfect opportunity to start tailoring the guest experience through pre-stay surveys designed to find out more about guest needs and preferences (for example, dietary and transportation requirements, reason for travel, etc.). You can also offer ways to enhance the guest’s stay through room upgrades and added extras, giving your guest the opportunity to customize their experience, while your property benefits from the opportunity to boost ancillary revenue. Even a simple invitation for the guest to let you know of any special requirements or how you can make their stay exceptional makes customers feel valued.
After a guest’s stay, post-stay emails can help grow loyalty and provide properties with valuable feedback that can be used to improve and personalize future stays. Send an email to every guest thanking them for their visit and asking for feedback on their stay experience.
Whenever a guest communicates special requests or feedback, be sure to record any relevant notes in their profile.
Down the track, simple, personalized marketing communications can be triggered automatically (by booking or check-in dates) inviting the guest back. Tell them you miss them, ask if they miss you, invite them back with a discount code.
3. Tailor Packages and Add-ons
Packages and ancillary services that are relevant to your guests add value to their stay and enhance their experience. So design packages and offer special extras that appeal to your property’s guest segments. Consider partnering with local businesses like activity providers to offer your guests memorable experiences.
Think about your guests, the amenities they enjoy and their reasons for visiting. For example, families traveling with young children appreciate options like babysitting, activity bookings and playpens, while couples are partial to romantic touches like chocolate-covered strawberries and wine.
Your PMS should provide flexible rate and package management tools that allow you to set up discounts and package add-ons, sell them online, and limit package access to certain customers.
WebRezPro PMS also includes a Booking Options feature, which allows complimentary or paid products and services to be added to reservations at the time of booking (online or through the front desk). Booking options are a convenient and effective way to allow guests to customize their stay experience, and can also be used to gather more information about a guest’s stay, for example, expected time of arrival, whether they are bringing a pet, or need a child’s cot.
4. Welcome Guests with Paperless Check-in
With a mobile-accessible cloud PMS, independent properties are equipped to deliver a much more personable welcome than the traditional check-in desk experience.
WebRezPro’s paperless check-in feature allows guests to sign check-in receipts electronically on a tablet or smartphone. Imagine greeting your guest at the door, helping them with their bags, inviting them to take a seat, offering them a refreshing beverage, and then continuing to check them in and showing them to their room. Doesn’t that sound like a much more hospitable welcome than across a front desk?
5. Use Guests’ Names
Using the guest’s name (first or last name as appropriate) is the simplest and one of the most effective ways to personalize the guest experience. It shows your guest they are important to your business and are not just a number.
Whether communicating in person, on the phone or by email/text message, use the guest’s name whenever possible. Mobile-optimized PMS make this easier, allowing staff to access guest folios on the go when they might, for example, bump into a guest in the corridor who stops to make a special request.
6. Leave Handwritten Notes
A handwritten note waiting in the guest’s room upon arrival is a small personal touch that can make a big impression on guests. A simple note welcoming a repeat guest back, or inviting a new guest to let you know if they need anything is a genuine gesture that is always appreciated.
Guest profiles can help staff personalize notes at an even higher level. For example, asking a returning guest to let you know if they’d like you to make reservations at that restaurant they liked last time, or letting them know you left extra pool towels in their bathroom.
If your budget allows, complimentary in-room surprises make guests feel extra special. Consider leaving wine for guests celebrating a special occasion, or a welcome-back treat for repeat guests.
7. Share Insider Tips
Recent research from Amadeus and IHG found 70 percent of travelers would like hotels to offer more advice about unique things to do during their stay. Travelers are looking for local experiences beyond the main attractions in town.
Sharing your local knowledge with your guests not only enhances their stay, but it also provides an opportunity for staff to connect with guests on a personal level as they share their own experiences and recommendations and get to know your guests (recording relevant information about guest interests in the PMS, of course). It’s real human interactions like these that enrich the guest experience.
At the core of hospitality, personalized service makes guests feel valued and inspires loyalty, and should be incorporated into every property’s mission statement. It isn’t complicated or expensive to provide personalized guest service; with a modern PMS for independent hotels and lodgings, accommodation providers are already well-equipped to tailor the guest experience in simple, practical ways. And remember, while technology plays an important role in personalizing the guest experience, the human element is still just as important as ever.