Be a Star Online: A 5 Step Guide to Reputation Management

Building a good reputation has always been important for business. Like almost everything else, the internet hasn’t changed that fact; it’s just adjusted how the game is played. Consumers are more empowered to voice their opinion than ever before, and they use it. Depending on how you respond to and manage the online dialogue surrounding your property, the ubiquity of reviews can be a powerful asset or an overwhelming obstacle for your business.  Because the truth is, your online reputation directly affects bookings in a significant way. In fact, a study from Boston University and Microsoft concluded that a 1-star increase online can boost demand by 26%. That’s no small effect. And not at all surprising considering 92% of people use reviews to inform booking decisions when researching hotels.

The things guests are saying about you online matter in a big way. If dealt with correctly, you can not only mitigate the potential damage of reviews but actually make them work for you. Here are five steps for managing your reputation online.

Step 1: Monitor online content

If you want to deal with your online reputation, you need to know what people are saying about you. To this end, you should be regularly monitoring the reviews (and other content) that are being posted across the web. The internet is a big place, so this probably sounds daunting.  But, thankfully, there a number of tech options out there to bear the bulk of that burden. Setting up a simple Google Alert (for free!) can send you updates whenever posts are made, anywhere on the web, using the term of your choosing (your hotel’s name is a good place to start). You can also choose to partner with providers like Hootsuite or Revinate. These solutions automatically monitor multiple platforms, aggregating and organizing review data so you can analyze and act upon it.

Step 2: Respond appropriately

Now that you have your finger on the pulse of your online mentions, the next step is to respond. Obviously, you shouldn’t reply to every single review, but it’s a good idea to offer a few kind words for the occasional positive review (think “we’re so glad you enjoyed your stay!”) and then prioritize the negative ones. And don’t be hostile or defensive. Express your sincere apologies for their unsatisfactory experience and offer an opportunity for further communication to address their concerns. Remain professional, and you have the power to seriously mitigate the fall-out from a bad review. 87%  of users on TripAdvisor indicated that an appropriate response to a negative review improves their opinion of the business.

Step 3: Leverage good reviews

As previously mentioned, the growing trend of guests sharing their opinions online can be a huge benefit to your business. The experiences of customers are much more trusted than traditional advertising material, making glowing reviews marketing gold. So use them! Whether you choose to include testimonials on your webpage or make a point of liking, sharing, and retweeting positive mentions, make sure you’re not missing out on the potential of quality user-generated content.

Step 4: Learn from bad reviews

You work hard to give your customers the best possible experience, so it definitely hurts to get a bad review. But if you choose to look ‘em in the eye and learn from it, they can make your business stronger. Of course, some guest complaints are isolated incidents (or totally unreasonable) and, in that case, you can politely apologize and move on. But other negative reviews can alert you to real weaknesses that would be wise to address. So keep tabs on the nature of your negative reviews. Are there any illuminating patterns? Once you’ve highlighted areas for improvement, take action. Your business will be the better for it.

Step 5: Encourage feedback

The final step to building a strong reputation online is to generate more content. The more reviews published online, the more legitimate and trustworthy your business appears (assuming you’re responding appropriately). So do what you can to encourage guests to post about their time at your property. This can be done in a number of ways, but you should certainly be inviting feedback in your post-stay emails.

 

A good reputation is critical to the success of any business. And in this day and age, the majority of that battle is being fought online. Follow these five steps to keep gaining ground. Good luck!

 

Hoping For Happy Customers? Start With Happy Employees

For anyone in the hospitality industry, customer satisfaction is priority number one. Happy guests become loyal guests whose engagement and advocacy help spread your marketing reach. So how do you ensure customer satisfaction? Of course, quality facilities and amenities are a must, but a quick scan of Trip Advisor proves that exceptional staff play a critical role in impressing guests. Online reviews for top-rated properties are brimming with references to friendly and knowledgeable staff going out of their way to accommodate and delight. That’s why it’s so important to have engaged employees that are happy and motivated to do their best. Not only will they be more productive and efficient performing their duties, but they’ll also go above and beyond to ensure every guest feels welcome and appreciated. Here are a few tips for nurturing happy and engaged employees:

Create a culture of learning

Ongoing training helps create an engaging and positive environment for staff. Working in hospitality can be stressful but being familiar and comfortable with the protocol for high-stress situations (like receiving a customer complaint, or responding to an overbooking) alleviates a lot of anxiety. Make sure to provide frequent opportunities for your employees to brush up on skills and procedures—perhaps even practicing with role-playing scenarios—in order to ensure they feel confident and supported on the job.

Foster a team-centered environment

Running a successful lodging operation requires exceptional staff coordination. Everyone from the front desk and back office staff to maintenance and housekeeping needs to be communicating to deliver a seamless customer experience from check-in to check-out. So the importance of teamwork shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Fostering a healthy team dynamic is all about open communication and shared goals. Not only is it necessary to provide frequent feedback (both positive and constructive), but your employees should feel like their input and feedback is valuable as well. Invite staff to share their ideas and then respond. Even if it’s something you ultimately decide not to implement, talk to them about it. Letting your staff know that their voices are heard is critical for fostering a team mentality.

You can also let your employees know they are an important member of the team by sharing with them your company goals. Make it clear how they are contributing to the success of the business.  And then keep them informed. Discussing what’s working and what needs improvement breeds trust and a sense of responsibility—and problem-solving as a team will likely result in more efficient and innovative solutions.

Set staff up for success

We mentioned earlier how important it is to support your staff with adequate training, but that’s not all they need. It’s also paramount that you provide employees with the necessary tools to be successful. Equipment that doesn’t function properly, whether it’s an agonizingly slow computer or a faulty vacuum cleaner, causes major headaches for your staff. And if they are constantly fighting with their equipment, employees will be neither happy nor efficient at their jobs.

It can be hard to know when a new purchase is worth it, but that’s precisely why communication is so important. Listen to your staff. They’ll know what is needed the most.

 

No matter how much technology advances, hospitality has and always will be about people. Warm smiles and authentic connections are still what leave lasting impressions for guests. And that makes your staff your most valuable asset. You want them to go above and beyond for your customers, so make sure you’re going above and beyond for them.

Summer is Coming! How Hoteliers Can Start Preparing Now

The temperature is rising here in the Northern Hemisphere, and summertime is finally in our sights. Hoteliers far and wide are heading into their busiest season as people look forward to enjoying the great weather, longer days, and their children’s time off school. It’s an exciting time for any business, but there are also greater pressures that accompany increased occupancy. Make sure your peak season is smooth and successful by starting to prepare for it now.

Review data

Looking at last year’s data is extremely important for seasonal planning. Understanding historical occupancy and revenue will help you determine how to price inventory and restrict lengths of stay in order to maximize profit. And a breakdown of bookings from each distribution channel can help you determine how to allocate inventory for the season.

Spruce up your property

Peak season is the best time to land new returning guests and generate positive word of mouth—as long as you make a good impression of course. Put your best foot forward by making the little touch-ups to your property that you’ve been putting off. Guests notice the little things. Are the curtains showing some wear and tear? Do the bathtubs need re-grouting? Do the walls need a new coat of paint? These small improvements can make a world of difference in the eyes of your guests and can be the difference between lukewarm reception and a rave review.

On top of minor touch-ups, hoteliers can also impress their guests with a few seasonal additions to their property. Potted flowers add a fresh splash of color (and may even reap the benefits of biophilic design). And creating useful outdoor spaces (think picnic tables, patios, volleyball courts, etc.) will make your property the perfect place for guests to enjoy the season. Have an on-site restaurant? You can give your menu a summery spruce as well. Fresh salads, fruity drinks, grilled meats, and seafood are excellent seasonal options to include.

Know what’s happening in your community

Summertime is prime season for festivals and other community events. Whether it’s a July 4th celebration, an annual musical festival, or a car show, there is always something going on around town. And knowing what events are happening in your community can not only help you determine the best yield management strategies but the best marketing strategies as well. Consider creating packages catered to guests interested in these local events and activities and include information about them on your various online platforms.

Plan events and activities

Consider going a step further and planning your own events and activities. While you probably won’t be organizing something as extravagant as a music festival, there are many simple things you can do to make your property stand out from the competition. Pool parties, barbecues, garden yoga classes, and outdoor movie nights are a few relatively inexpensive and easy to pull off ideas that add value for customers.

Prepare your staff

Preparation for peak season should always include a formal briefing with staff. Not only is it a good idea to go over what’s new for the season (both on-property and in the community), but it’s beneficial to include a quick refresher of local attractions and activities as well. The recommendations staff make to guests should be up-to-date and seasonally relevant. Customers looking for a restaurant in the summertime will likely be more interested in a venue with a patio than a cozy atmosphere. And families in search of to-do suggestions might be more excited by walking trails than an art museum.

It is also essential to iron out operational wrinkles now.  Any inefficiencies or uncertainties felt by your staff should be addressed long before peak season, when the ramifications will be maximally felt.

 

The peak season is an exciting (but stressful!) time. It offers incredible potential to maximize profit and earn loyal guests. Ensure a successful summer season by beginning preparations now.

Be the Jazz Musician: Improvise Your Way to a Higher ADR

The Average Daily Rate (ADR) is one of the key metrics to measure the performance of a hotel. Because rooms are priced differently depending on their size, location, and amenities, the ADR (room revenue divided by the rooms sold) helps you understand how much rent is generated by each room on average. Your ADR will fluctuate over time due to holidays, special events, and day of the week (depending on whether you cater to tourist or corporate guests), and can be measured against historical performance or compared to competitors.

While room prices are based on many factors, monitoring and analyzing your ADR can help you identify trends so that you can make better decisions about when to add value by offering attractive package deals, when to increase room rates because of demand, and when to consider a rate increase because the price your guests are willing to pay has surged. The latter is every hotelier’s goal, and it can be as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Strengthen Your Online Reputation
  2. Personalize the Guest Experience
  3. Hire the Right People

 

It may seem like these are three separate solutions, but they depend on each other. One of the best ways to increase your ADR is to strengthen your online reputation, one of the best ways to strengthen your online reputation is to personalize the guest experience, and one of the best ways to personalize the guest experience is to hire the right people.

The Personalized Experience

From baby boomers to millennials, modern travelers are seeking personal experiences and authentic connections. According to a 2016 Report from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, a significant factor in delivering personalized experiences and raising a guest’s overall satisfaction is to improvise. It does seem contrary to a hotel’s mandate to offer consistent, reliable, and efficient service. After all, you’ve taken the time to establish strong policies of service, and rightly so. But, as this report explains, while “guests do appreciate consistent services in hospitality operations, an increasing body of evidence suggests that guests concurrently crave a sense of authenticity, empathy, and spontaneity.” In other words, your service policies and practices would be augmented by improvisation. The report likens the customer service representative to that of a musician. Most musicians play every note as it’s written, but a jazz musician uses the written music merely as a starting point from which they can ad lib to create something original. Allowing employees the freedom to be the jazz musician of customer service enables them to conceive creative solutions to problems and to carry out spontaneous acts of care for your guests.

The Trained Employee

You can’t just sit your service staff down and tell them to “Be spontaneous!” Creativity doesn’t work that way. What you can do, however, is hire the right people. Your employees should be passionate about the hospitality industry. They should also possess the knowledge to initiate effective improvisation.

Like the professional jazz musician, the best customer service representatives are trained and experienced. It’s no surprise that, as the Cornell report states, “higher-tier hotels report higher levels of creativity in their interaction with guests.” This, they claim, is because high-end hotels have more services to offer, which makes sense; the larger the pool of services and amenities on offer, the easier it is to think of a fit for a guest’s request or need. However, high-end hotels are also more likely to hire professional customer service representatives (ones who have made hospitality their career), which means they have a depth of experience to draw from when searching for creative ways to care for guests. But, whether you are a 2-, 3-, 4-, or 5-star hotel, you can provide your staff with strong training and the opportunity to grow their knowledge and education of hotel hospitality. Improvisation starts with strong policies and training.

The Cornell report names three elements of improvisation: creativity, spontaneity, and bricolage (creation through whatever is at hand). By embracing the idea of bricolage, they explain, an employee can “rearrange available resources in crafting a solution to guests’ problems.” Arm your employees with knowledge and then give them the freedom to draw on and combine policies, practices, information, and their own history of experience in creative and spontaneous ways.

Technology’s Role

Technology is another tool that allows for spontaneity. Use your Property Management System (PMS) to store guest information, including special requests, prior accommodations and preferences, birthdays, anniversaries, number of children or grandchildren, names of pets, whatever personal details you think could build a pool of knowledge that could be drawn on to offer a more personalized experience during a guest’s stay or for future stays. Inter-hotel communication through your PMS also enables the members of your staff to access the knowledge they need to ensure a guest is well cared for.

 

Your ADR is a practical and important measure of the trends and performance of your hotel, but it relies on the overall satisfaction of your customers. A hotel that hires and trains the right staff is better equipped to offer creative (and effective) improvised service; a guest who leaves a hotel delighted with the level of personalized service is more likely to write a glowing online review; a culmination of these reviews will help strengthen your online (and offline) reputation; and when guest satisfaction levels are higher, you can consider raising room rates, thus increasing your ADR for the best possible reason: customers are willing to pay more for your level of service.

It’s Time to Get Personal: Delighting Guests with Individualized Experiences

Ever since the introduction of Big Data, individualized experiences have become the new status quo. Advertisements online highlight products we’ve previously shown interest in, video streaming services suggest content catered to our tastes and preferences, and google searches return results that reflect our location and online history. Personalization is no longer a perk; It’s a convenience we’ve come to expect. And in the hospitality world, there’s nothing more important than meeting (and exceeding!) the expectations of your guests. Make sure you’re doing what you can to personalize the guest experience at your property and win guest loyalty.

Gather Information

The first step in creating a personalized experience is knowing your guest. And to do that, you need data. PMSs and CRMs allow you to create detailed profiles for every guest. So use them. Any information you learn (whether it’s their profession, preferences, or interests) should be added to the system in order to be leveraged later. How do you get that information? A lot about your guests can be learnt from the following sources:

Special Requests >> Giving customers a chance to make special requests for a booking is standard practice and one of the best opportunities to learn valuable information about your guest. Whether it’s a room preference or a dietary restriction, any special requests should be preserved in the guest profile so needs can be anticipated for future stays.

Ancillary Services >> The services they use, and the products they purchase can tell you a lot about a guest. Do they buy a tea and bagel every morning? Spend most of their time at the spa? Taking note of their habits and preferences gives you a lot to work with when it’s time to surprise and delight a guest.

Personal Accounts >> With everyone documenting their lives and engaging with friends and brands on the internet, social media accounts are treasure troves of data. It’s common to get a customer’s email at the time of booking. Why not their social media handle as well? Not only can you connect with guests online, but it’s easy to get a feel for their likes and dislikes. Do they obsess over coffee? Have a bag of local beans waiting in the room. Are they huge sports fans? Let them know what games are going on during their stay.

Surprise and Delight

Now that you’ve gathered information, it’s time to put those meticulous profiles to use. Wow your guests with unexpected gestures that show you care. They don’t need to be big. A hot chocolate on arrival for the guest with a sweet tooth, waived WiFi fees for the business traveler, restaurant recommendations for the foodie. It’s the little, personal touches that stand out in our memories. They are also the details that will likely be documented on social media and shared with friends—ensuring you’ve not only earned guest loyalty but expanded your marketing reach as well.

Keep in Touch

A personalized guest experience isn’t restricted to on-site interactions. With a customer’s email (or social media handles) you can continue the relationship long after they’ve checked out. If you’ve noted a guest’s birthday, why not send them a quick message wishing them a happy day? If you know a customer loves live music, let them know about an event in town that might interest them. People like to be remembered, and in return, they’re sure to remember you.

Hospitality is a hard industry to stay on top of. Competition and guest expectations continue to grow, and you need to keep up. Focus on creating a memorable, personalized experience for all your guests in order to win their hearts and loyalty.

Start the New Year Right: Hospitality Trends for 2018

And just like that, 2017 has passed! We hope you had a wonderful (and profitable!) holiday season, and are excited about the year to come. January is a month for resolutions—an opportunity to reflect on the past year and think of ways to improve in the next. This is just as true for businesses as it is for individuals. We all have room for improvement. So if you’re looking to make some changes at your lodging operation, and are in need of inspiration, here are the top hospitality trends in design, technology, and operations, for 2018.

Design

Biophilic design >> Based on the idea that humans have an innate desire to be surrounded by nature, biophilic design is the newest trend in architecture and interior decor. It’s an aesthetic that—through the incorporation of natural elements—seeks to alleviate stress and improve wellness. As the hospitality industry is forever endeavoring to enhance the guest experience, it’s not a surprise that biophilic design is beginning to garner the interest of hoteliers across the globe. And to good effect; a study conducted by Terrapin Bright Green found that 36% more guests spend time in a lobby with biophilic design features. So what makes a space biophilic? Anything that creates a direct or indirect experience of nature. That includes the incorporation of plant and water features, maximizing natural lighting and using natural colors and materials (just to name a few).

Public spaces >> An emphasis on shared space is the current trend in hotel design. Inspired by the preferences of millenials who spend less time in their rooms and seek out places where they can socialize and collaborate—properties have shifted the focus from in-room amenities to curating comfortable and inviting shared spaces. Many are ditching the front-desk for living-room style lobbies where staff (equipped with iPads) can engage with customers more authentically, and guests can spend time working, reading and socializing.

Technology

Smart rooms >> From phones to socks, it seems like everything we use these days is getting a smart iteration. As the ubiquity of these devices grows, the technology is naturally finding its way into the hospitality industry. This means equipping rooms with things like smart TVs (so customers can stream their favorite content) to personalized climate and lighting control. Guests expect properties to have the same comforts and conveniences they’ve grown accustomed to at home.

Personalization >>Guest loyalty is won by hoteliers that go above and beyond. Now more than ever that means personalization like free wi-fi for the frequent business traveler or cafe recommendations for the coffee lover. Hotels today are using technological solutions to track customer habits and preferences in order to surprise and delight.

Operations

Community connections >>Another characteristic of millennials that is changing the hospitality game? The prioritization of experience over things. Travelers these days are highly motivated to engage with the communities they travel to. For hoteliers, this means it’s a good idea to do the same. Showcasing local artwork, collaborating with local businesses and ensuring staff is knowledgeable about local experiences will create the authentic experience these guests are looking for.

Going green >> Most people these days are concerned for the environment. And in addition to making changes to go green at home, travelers are prioritizing eco-friendly accommodation when on the road. There’s a lot hoteliers can do to fit this bill. Whether the changes are simple (like using more efficient light bulbs) or extensive (like installing a grey-water recycling system), environmentally conscious guests (and the earth!) will appreciate the effort.

 

It’s the beginning of a new year; the perfect time to consider new ways to improve your business. And if you’re in need of inspiration, why not start with these ideas for design, tech, and operations in hospitality. They’re a few of the biggest trends for 2018.

 

Choosing a Loyalty Program that Works for Independent Hotels

In an effort to land repeat customers (and increase direct bookings), loyalty programs are one of the most effective strategies out there. A study by Cornell University found that guests book 50% more rooms each year when they are involved in a loyalty program. That’s a lot of extra revenue!

Traditionally, these programs were the exclusive territory of chain hotels—which had the resources to create complex rewards systems and enough ubiquity around the world for frequent travelers to accrue and use points. But it’s 2017, and we don’t have to settle for outdated concepts. There are some excellent options for independent hoteliers to offer their own rewards programs and reap the benefits of improved guest loyalty.

It’s important to set up a program that considers your clientele and company culture. Think about the type of program that would best suit your business. Are you interested in a more traditional points-earned system? The new trend of instant rewards? Or maybe you want to come up with a creative blend of both!

Points-Earned

The classic loyalty program is, of course, a points-based system. Customers earn points in proportion to how much they spend using a simple mathematical formula. When guests have earned enough points, they can be redeemed for free nights, discounts, etc. On their own, independent hotels have trouble effectively using this system because guests struggle to earn enough points to be worthwhile. Group schemes, such as Stash Rewards and Preferred Patron, mitigate this problem by creating a network of independent properties that benefit from a shared rewards system. In addition to providing your property with a loyalty program, group schemes can also expose your business to a wider audience.

Instant Rewards

While many still love point-programs, it seems a lot of today’s travelers find more value in unique and immediate rewards. Instead of making customers wait until they’ve accrued enough points for a free room or discount, these programs offer smaller rewards (think free WiFi, room service vouchers or a box of artisanal chocolates) for simple tasks like booking direct, sharing on social media and so on. This sort of instant gratification goes a long way with guests and is easier to manage as an independent property. If you’re interested in an instant-rewards program but uncomfortable managing it independently, look into partnering with a company like Stay Wanderful.

An Innovative Combination

Don’t feel limited by the two options mentioned above. With a powerful CRM (and a bit of creativity), you can design a program custom-fit for you.

The ‘Friends of the Brand’ program, offered by Kimpton Hotels, is a great example of an innovative alternative which blends a points-based system with personalized rewards. By using invisible credits, they award points to guests for a variety of actions (like positive reviews, sharing on social media and booking direct) as they see fit. The guests never know how many points they have, but at any time an employee can use them to surprise and delight guests with instant, personalized rewards.

Final tips

Make it Accessible >> If you’re offering a points-based system, ensure that members can access and use their points easily. Consider using a mobile hotel app or online dashboard.

Communicate and engage >> Make sure to send emails, and engage with members on social media, so they don’t forget about your loyalty program.  Send updates on their status in the program, suggestions for earning more points and ways to redeem rewards.

Know your customers >> Consider what it is your guests want. A personalized, thoughtful reward can be more appreciated and memorable than a generic offering of higher cost. Unique perks are what can set you apart from the competition.

 

Building customer loyalty is critical for survival in the hospitality industry. Think about adding a rewards program to win repeat customers and boost direct bookings.

A Hoteliers Guide to Targeting Millennials

People have a lot to say about Millennials—some of it flattering, some of it less so. But whatever your opinion about Generation Y (born in the ’80s and ’90s) they’re one that cannot be ignored by marketers in any industry. Now outnumbering baby boomers, and aging into financial independence, Millennials have become a powerful cohort in the consumer landscape. In fact, it is projected they will collectively spend 1.4 trillion dollars every year, by 2020. Considering Millennials have a greater desire to travel than any other generation, you can bet a significant chunk of that spending will find its way into the hospitality industry. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to start thinking about ways you can begin targeting what has been dubbed the ‘Wanderlust Generation,’ to capitalize on this powerful demographic.

What Millennials Want

So what are Millennials looking for in a vacation? When it comes to trip-planning, this generation prioritizes authentic experiences, unique spaces and a social atmosphere. Luckily for you, this places independent and boutique hotels at a distinct advantage!

Authenticity >> Studies show that more than anything else, traveling Millennials are in pursuit of an immersive cultural experience. This generation wants to eat authentic cuisine, explore colorful neighborhoods and enjoy new activities. Cater to this appetite for authenticity by highlighting your community’s character and offering suggestions for the unique local businesses that will stand out in your guests’ memories (and on their social media feeds).

Unique Spaces >> In the past, chain hotels were frequented by guests for their consistency. It was a comfort to know exactly what to expect from a property regardless of location.  Now that potential guests have access to so much information online (including user reviews and virtual tours) it’s much easier to ensure quality. As a result, Millennials are able to focus on seeking out unique properties instead. Make sure to emphasize your hotel’s individuality on your website and OTA profiles in order to appeal to this generation.

Social Atmosphere >> Another significant change from previous generations is a desire for communal areas and social events.  Millennials are spending less time in their rooms and looking for shared spaces to work, relax and socialize. Hotels are forgoing traditional lobbies for an aesthetic more closely resembling a living room or your favorite coffee shop. Consider creating spaces at your property where guests can work on their laptops, read books and play board games.

Marketing to Millennials

As an independent hotel, you have a lot to offer to the Millennial generation. But that doesn’t mean much if you’re not marketing to them effectively. Generation Y interacts with brands and businesses in a very different way than previous generations. To maximize Millennial clientele, make sure your marketing is mobile-friendly, social media heavy, and emphasizes engagement over selling.

Mobile >> 49% of Millennials use their smartphones to plan and book vacations, and most don’t bother trying to navigate a site that isn’t designed for mobile devices. We’ve been talking about the importance of mobile-friendly sites and booking engines for ages.  With Millennials beginning to dominate the consumer market, this advice is only becoming more relevant and necessary. If you haven’t made this change yet, it’s officially time.

Social Media >> Millennials are known for their avid use of social media. If you want to get their attention you need to be targeting them where they are, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even Snapchat. Your strategy for these platforms should include plans for your own content (like choosing images that evoke #travelinspo) as well as campaigns to encourage guests to share their own experiences. Consider partnering with social media ‘influencers’ (whom Millennials trust significantly over traditional advertising) by offering complimentary stays or perks for sharing their experience online.

Engagement  >> The use of social media has changed the way Millennials expect to interact with businesses. Marketing campaigns that feel too corporate will completely miss their mark. This generation wants personalized interaction and two-way communication with their favorite brands. It’s a good idea to share, comment and engage with guests regularly on all your social media platforms and inspire loyalty with promotional campaigns and insider info.

The Millennial generation has become an exceedingly important group of consumers. Due to their size and growing spending power, Generation Y has changed the way brands do business across all industries. Start thinking about ways your property can target Millennials and capitalize on this generation of travelers.

Improve Guest Experience with Automated Emails

With new online platforms popping up all the time, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new marketing and communications opportunities. While it’s important to keep up with current trends like Instagram and Twitter, don’t forget to give a little TLC to a tried and true strategy in your communication toolbox: email.

You’ve probably been using email to interact with your customers for many years, but while the medium has stayed the same, the expectation of how it can and should be used has evolved. Today’s consumers are used to constant connection. They are open to (and expect) email attention from their favorite businesses as long as they are personalized and specific to their needs (we are long past the time of a simple confirmation email!). This is great news because a well-curated collection of automated emails can improve guest relationships, upsell products and services, and generate sales (email conversion is still three times that of social media).

Make the most of this affordable communication tool by setting up a schedule of pre-stay, on-site and post-stay automated emails.

Pre-Stay

The emails you send before the guest arrives are critical. They offer a taste of your property’s culture, are an opportunity to upsell and are the first step in inspiring guest loyalty. Consider including the following emails in your pre-arrival email strategy.

At time of booking 

  • Confirmation – The confirmation email assures the customer that their booking has gone through correctly. Be sure to include a heartfelt thank you message for booking with your property, a summary of the booking details, and an invitation to contact your property should they have any questions or requests.

 

Three weeks before stay 

  • Experience Planning – Send a pre-arrival email that helps your guest plan their stay. This email can include schedules for any on-site activities, options to upgrade or add packages to their booking, information about local events and an opportunity to make any special requests.

 

One week before stay 

  • Travel Information – Closer to the date of arrival, send an email with helpful travel information. Include things like directions to get to your property and the weather forecast for their stay.

On-Site

People have come to rely more and more on their mobile devices. As a result, on-site communication with guests is no longer strictly in-person (with the front-desk staff and concierge). Make sure to adapt to this new climate by creating a collection of personalized emails for guests while they are at your property.

At Check-in 

  • Welcome – It’s important to welcome guests to your property once they arrive (especially if you offer mobile check-in). Use this opportunity to provide them with relevant information such as WiFi passwords, facility hours, and a means to contact staff if they have any questions or problems.

 

Throughout stay 

  • Special offers – Inform guests about specials for on-site services and amenities. This is an opportunity to upsell that you really shouldn’t miss out on.
  • Reminders – If a guest has signed up for any activities, or your property is hosting an event, be sure to send a reminder, so they don’t miss out.
  • Social Media Invitations – It’s important to engage with your customers over social media (especially Millennials!). Invite guests to share their experiences at your property (and then make sure to comment, like, or share to show you care).

 

Post-Stay

The relationship you have with your guests shouldn’t end at checkout. By following up, and sending out personalized emails throughout the year, you can nurture customer loyalty and hopefully score a returning guest.

At Checkout 

  • Thank you – Let your guests know how much you appreciate their patronage by thanking them upon checkout. This is also an excellent opportunity to invite them to join any loyalty programs you offer.

 

Three days after stay

  • Satisfaction survey – Make your customers feel heard (and get helpful feedback) by inviting them to participate in a satisfaction survey about their stay at your property.

 

Throughout the year 

  • Birthday wishes – An easy way to show guests you care is to send them a short email wishing them a happy birthday.
  • Insider Info – Keep your customers up-to-date by letting them know about any upcoming special events or offers at your property.

 

Email remains an exceedingly useful (not to mention affordable!) communication and marketing tool for the hospitality industry. Make sure you are using it to your full advantage by creating a schedule of automated emails for the entire guest life cycle.

 

Ancillary Sales: Maximizing Total Hotel Revenue

While the rooms department is the dominant revenue driver in most hotels, and selling more rooms is central to growing hotel revenue, many lodging operators are now taking a more holistic approach to revenue management.

Today, a hotel stay is much more than a clean room and a comfortable bed. In such a competitive space as the hospitality industry, offering unique and personalized experiences is key to a healthy bottom line. Part and parcel of a complete stay experience, ancillary products and services — like F&B, retail and activities — can be strong revenue drivers.

With increased focus on maximizing business from existing customers, hotels are shifting toward a total revenue management culture that embraces the potential of ancillary services to generate revenue, personalize the guest experience and help a property stand out.

Here are some ideas for making the most of ancillary revenue opportunities as part of your own total revenue management strategy.

Create Packages

Packaging your property’s ancillary services and products with stays is an effective way to boost ancillary revenue.

Additional services such as breakfast, restaurant meals, in-room extras (like champagne and chocolates), spa treatments, attraction tickets and activities can be bundled with stays to create themed packages such as romance, adventure or family packages or to simply offer guests more value for money. If your property doesn’t have an onsite restaurant or spa or run its own activities, consider partnering with local providers that complement your brand.

Hotel management software that provides flexible rate and package management functionality, including the ability to sell packages online and to track package components to different revenue accounts, is key to a successful total revenue strategy.

Offer Extras

Ancillary products and services can also be offered on demand, i.e. sold separately from the room. Many guests like having the option of purchasing extras spontaneously during their stay, or choosing from a selection of add-ons during booking.

Premium Internet, early check-in / late check-out, meeting spaces and equipment, tours and activities, grab-and-go food and beverages, and in-room extras like yoga kits, cots, and wine and chocolates are examples of ancillary products and services that guests can purchase at any time.

Make sure your PMS offers point-of-sale functionality and the ability to sell add-ons during the booking process (with direct online bookings too).

Welcome Pets

If you don’t already, consider allowing pets at your property to tap into a growing revenue opportunity. Pets are part of the family in approximately 65 percent of homes in the U.S. and more and more pet owners are traveling with their four-legged companions.

In addition to charging nightly pet fees and/or a pet room-cleaning fee, pet-friendly properties can profit from providing ancillary products and services especially for precious pooches. Pet-specific extras such as dog biscuits and treats, toys, bedding and pet-sitting services are much appreciated by pet-pampering travelers and can be provided on demand or included in pet-friendly stay packages.

Make the Most of Extra Space

There are many ways underused spaces can be transformed into revenue-generating spaces — both indoors and out.

Think about your main customer segments and how spaces can be used to best serve their needs and preferences. Does a “storage” room offer potential as a meeting room that can be rented by the hour to business guests? Or perhaps it could be transformed into a meditation or yoga room that could be rented to local instructors (who could hold drop-in classes open to your guests)? Could that spacious, well-lit corner be used for displaying local arts and crafts that your guests would love to purchase as a souvenir of their travels? Expansive outdoor areas might be well-suited for hosting events like summer parties, weddings and craft fairs.

Think creatively (yet relevantly) about how extra space on your property can be used more profitably.

Target the Right Customers

The key to maximizing total revenue lies in targeting — selling the right products and services to the right customers at the right time — and successful targeting depends on having access to the right customer data.

Guest profiles are crucial to effective targeting strategies. When a property management system is integrated with other core hotel systems, including POS, CRM and RMS, deep insights into customer spend, preferences and booking trends are gained and can be used to target guests with highly customized offers and services.

Supported by modern, integrated systems and good training, hotel staff can become sale makers rather than order takers, mining guest information that can be used to enhance the customer experience and maximize customer spend through the delivery of personalized service and skillful upselling.

 

With a strong understanding of their customers and their property, lodging operators can take advantage of ancillary sales to drive significant streams of income as part of their total revenue strategy — all while enhancing the guest experience.