Many independent properties email booking confirmations to customers that book direct, but are they taking full advantage of this crucial point of contact? For a soon-to-be guest, the pre-arrival stage is one filled with anticipation and a desire to make sure their upcoming stay meets their expectations, so confirmation and pre-stay emails typically have high open rates. This means that pre-arrival emails offer great potential for building a relationship with the customer and driving incremental revenue before the guest even sets foot through the door.
If you’re a lodging operator and want to make the most of your pre-arrival email campaign, consider the following tips.
Reservation confirmation emails are important for a number of reasons, perhaps the most important of which is to reassure the customer that the reservation was successful. I recently made a telephone booking with a small hotel in a tiny town. Because of my accent I had to repeat myself a few times and wondered if my details were recorded correctly. The hotel manages reservations manually on paper and did not email me a reservation confirmation, so I was a little nervous that I would arrive at the property and find myself without a room. To my relief, my reservation was intact upon check-in (although, my name was wrong) and I had a great stay, but a simple confirmation email would have alleviated that niggling worry leading up to my trip.
Confirmation emails are also a great opportunity to:
>> Thank the customer for choosing to stay at your property. This shows that you value and appreciate their business.
>> Find out more about the customer. Finding out more about customer preferences or special requests before arrival will help you to personalize their stay. While you don’t want to bombard them with questions, simply inviting them to contact your property directly with any questions or requests is often all the encouragement a future guest needs to get in touch. If your property makes use of pre-stay surveys or a mobile concierge like that provided by Guestfolio CRM, you can invite customers to start personalizing their stay by linking to these platforms directly from the confirmation email.
The stage between booking and arrival is one of the best times to reach out to your customers, catching them when they are excited about their trip and particularly receptive to opportunities for enhancing it. Pre-arrival emails are typically most effective a week or two before a leisure guest’s arrival, while corporate guests tend to appreciate pre-arrival information and options closer to their check-in date. Determine the right timing for your property and guests.
>> Remind guests about their upcoming stay (not that they’re likely to have forgotten!) by letting them know that you are looking forward to welcoming them to your property. You can include helpful details about their stay, such as dates, check-in time, room type and directions.
>> Upsell. Including relevant upsell options in your pre-arrival email is a great way to enhance the customer’s stay and boost incremental revenue. In addition to room upgrades, you can upsell amenities like spa services, in-room extras and transportation (consider offering discounts for services booked before arrival), or offer to make restaurant reservations. The more targeted the offer, the better. Include a strong call to action that invites customers to contact the hotel directly to make their request, or links to a portal on your website or digital concierge for adding extras to their stay.
>> Be helpful. Inform guests about onsite amenities they might find useful, and local events and attractions. Again, the more targeted, the better; business travelers would likely appreciate knowing that you have a small meeting room available by the hour, while those traveling with kids would no doubt like to know about family-friendly local attractions. Link back to specific information on your website, like the business amenities page, or your blog post about local family attractions. Take the opportunity to again invite the customer to get in touch with any questions or special requests they may have.
Optimize for Mobile
Now more than half of all emails opened are opened on mobile. Most of us have experienced the annoyance of trying to read non-mobile-friendly emails or websites on a smartphone — we wouldn’t want to do that to our customers, right? Design email templates for the small screens of mobile devices and the variety of email clients your guests are likely using; in other words, keep it simple. Images are great for branding, but if your templates aren’t responsive, it’s best to keep images to a minimum — perhaps just your logo. Email marketing services like Guestfolio and Constant Contact provide beautiful, customizable mobile-friendly email designs that take email communications to the next level.
Automate your email campaigns to save time and ensure that no guest is missed. A property management system (PMS) like WebRezPro allows you to create various email templates and set them to send automatically, depending on arrival date and other parameters like room and rate codes. Setting parameters like room codes allows you to target relevant offers such as room upgrades to the right guests and to tailor communications to different customer segments like group reservations and corporate customers.
If you are working with an email marketing service like Guestfolio or Constant Contact, integration between your PMS and email marketing program makes professionally designed email campaigns that are automatically timed, targeted and tracked even more effortless.
The main purpose of a pre-arrival email campaign is to start building a relationship with the customer, which is bound to be more successful if you use their name. It’s the first step to personalizing the guest experience. Automated email programs will allow you to personalize emails by inserting keywords into template text that are replaced with information from the guest’s reservation, for example, the guest name, stay dates, room type and so on. Be sure to also make it clear who the email is from, preferably signing off as an actual person — and use a relevant, official reply-to email address.
Targeting email content and offers to customer segments by setting parameters or conditions based on reservation data (as mentioned above) takes personalization to the next level.
Include Social Media Buttons
It’s a good idea to include social media buttons that link back to your social pages on all email communications with customers. This gives customers an easy way to connect with your property on social channels, opening up more opportunities for you to build a loyal relationship.
Aim to take full advantage of your pre-arrival email campaign to get a head start on engaging your customers. And don’t forget: customer responses to pre-arrival emails — from questions about your property to upgrade requests — should be recorded in guest profiles and used to personalize the guest experience and future offers.
Editorial note: we have published a new, updated article about this topic.