As the holiday rush gears down, it’s time to focus on your strategy for getting your guests to come back. For many properties, the holiday season brings in a lot of new customers and the increased traffic presents a prime opportunity for building lasting customer relationships.
In hospitality (or any business), the key to customer loyalty is customer satisfaction — and the key to customer satisfaction is great customer service. When operations run smoothly and guests receive the kind of personalized attention that today’s guests expect, satisfied, loyal customers are the result.
Modern property management systems (PMS) support the kind of customer service that results in satisfied guests by automating processes to increase operational efficiency and by managing guest profile data to help personalize the guest experience — pre-, during and post-stay. In this blog post we’ll highlight some specific features of a modern cloud PMS that work to build customer loyalty throughout the guest cycle and help bring guests back again and again.
Guest Folio Features
From booking to post-departure, all parts of the guest cycle present valuable opportunities for winning guest loyalty, but the most crucial moment is the actual stay experience itself.
A personalized guest experience is powered by guest data. Modern cloud PMS equip lodging operators with comprehensive guest folios that allow them to manage guest reservation and profile data to personalize the guest’s stay.
In addition to notes and comments about a guest, such as allergies and room preferences, which can be saved in a guest’s profile to facilitate personalized service during future stays, guest folios can offer other guest management features designed to help property staff enhance service in the moment.
Reservation alarms and pop-up reminders can be set to alert staff of any special guest requirements on the day of the guest’s arrival before they check in, upon guest check-in or whenever the guest’s folio is opened. VIP flagging is another simple but effective way for hotel staff to identify guests that require extra special attention immediately via the guest folio.
When guest data can be accessed on the go, rather than locked behind the front desk, guest service can be taken to the next level. Cloud PMS that are optimized for mobile devices allow hotel staff to access data from the palm of their hand while interacting with guests anywhere on the property.
During busy times, guests can be checked in more efficiently by iPad-touting staff members while comfortably seated in the lounge or lobby, rather than queuing at the front desk. On-the-go access to reservation folio data and room availability allows hotel staff to log guest requests on the spot and resolve any issues in a timelier manner. Behind the scenes, mobile maintenance and housekeeping reports contribute to a more satisfying and seamless guest experience too, helping to ensure rooms are always ready for guests and that any housekeeping requests or maintenance work orders are completed promptly.
One of the major advantages of cloud-based hotel technology is the ability to integrate with other systems in order to automate cross-system processes and consolidate data, which has a direct impact on guest service.
For example, your PMS can be integrated with your payment gateway so that credit card payments can be processed directly through your PMS. Integration with GDS and OTA channels allows GDS/OTA inventory and rates to be controlled from the PMS, and GDS/OTA reservations to be sent automatically to the PMS. Integrating your point-of-sale system with your PMS automates the process of posting restaurant charges to guest folios. When your PMS shares data with CRM or guest engagement platforms, it enhances and automates the process of sending personalized guest communications.
Integrating your core hotel systems streamlines operations and makes data more accessible (and accurate), resulting in smoother operations and customer service throughout the guest cycle.
Mobile-Friendly Direct Online Bookings
With mobile now mainstream, it’s critical to ensure your property’s online experience is optimized for mobile devices. In addition to a responsive website that looks and works great on both desktops and smartphones (and everything in between), it’s important to offer your customers easy access to direct online bookings on any device.
Just like a smooth, satisfying stay experience, a simple, secure, user-friendly booking experience will also be remembered by customers (as will a complicated or frustrating one) when they are planning future trips. And with features like access codes for loyalty members or special rates for repeat bookings, a mobile-friendly online booking engine can help secure long-lasting customer relationships.
Automated Pre- and Post-Stay Emails
As you know, your business’ relationship with a guest begins well before they set foot on your property. From the moment of booking (or even an initial enquiry), every customer should receive exceptional service.
A pre- and post-stay email campaign is a powerful tool for engaging and retaining customers. A modern cloud PMS should feature the ability to send automated pre- and post-stay emails to guests, triggered by parameters such as check-in/check-out dates and room and rate codes. Part of automating this process, email templates based on occasion (for example, booking confirmation, pre-arrival, welcome, departure, post-stay feedback request, return offer, etc.) can be set and triggered either automatically or manually.
Automated pre- and post-stay email functionality helps lodging operators deliver personalized service and build lasting relationships with customers.
We can’t talk about customer retention tools without mentioning rewards (or loyalty) programs. Cloud PMS that offer this feature provide properties with an obvious avenue through which to incentivize guests to come back. A PMS-based rewards program allows a property to define its own rules — such as points earned per dollar spent, redemption terms and the rewards themselves — which is important as loyalty programs become more flexible, personalized and geared toward instant gratification.
Although happier staff is not technically a feature of a modern cloud PMS, it is a direct result of using one! When your time, energy and patience isn’t drained by inefficient systems, you can focus more time and energy on your guests. Simplifying daily operations and helping properties get to know their guests, modern hotel technology provides lodging operators with the time and tools they need to deliver the kind of service that brings guests back.
To find out how a cloud PMS helps gain new customers, read 3 Ways Cloud Hotel Management Software Attracts New Guests.
Pilot Cove is located in Brevard, North Carolina, at the doorstep of Pisgah National Forest. The property offers 10 cabins and a campground and is a great escape that allows guests to connect with nature. This property has chosen to use our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro’s integrated Web reservation software to take online bookings!
Here we are — 2017 — the whole year ahead of us! Ready to make it a good one? Perhaps you have already made some New Year’s resolutions, some of which might revolve around increasing the success of your business. For hoteliers and other lodging operators, technology is making operations more efficient and successful with every passing year. Here are the hospitality technology trends we feel are most important to put into action in the year ahead.
System Integration (and Data Consolidation)
Integrating core systems further automates processes and is key to maximizing efficiency and consolidating data.
At the heart of operations, your property management system (PMS) can be connected to other core systems such as CRM, online distribution channels, revenue management software, point-of-sale systems, payment processing software, and phone and entertainment systems, to greatly speed up tasks such as managing distribution, guest check-in and check-out, managing reservation folios, building rich guest profiles and sending targeted guest communications.
When core systems share relevant data automatically, the need to manually duplicate data across systems is eliminated, significantly cutting administrative workload and improving data accuracy and timeliness.
What’s more, integrating your PMS with other hotel systems helps bring the right data together at the right time, making information more accessible and actionable.
For example, integrating the PMS with guest engagement tools such as CRM software, guest marketing platforms, loyalty programs and mobile apps empowers lodging operators with enhanced guest insight to personalize the guest experience. When these systems talk to each other, rich guest profiles are automatically created, using data collated across systems that goes beyond simple stay history to include guest requests, preferences, travel motivations, receptiveness to promotions, feedback, etc. Armed with this kind of intelligence, lodging operators have to power to personalize service and target communications much more seamlessly and effectively.
Among other advantages, system integration is a significant motivation behind the shift from on-premise to cloud software in the hospitality industry. Built on common Web standards and open APIs, cloud software is designed with cross-application communication in mind, making integrating your core hotel systems easier and cheaper than it’s ever been.
The ability to access data on-the-go via a mobile device is another driving force behind the move to cloud hospitality software.
A mobile PMS can have a significant impact on the guest experience; with guest and reservation data at their fingertips via a tablet or smartphone, hotel staff are freed from the physical constraints of the front desk to provide more prompt and personalized service to guests wherever they may be — in the lobby, the hallway, by the pool or in the dining room.
Increasingly in demand, paperless check-in with electronic signature capture allows guests to sign registration cards or check-in receipts on a tablet or smartphone screen. Paperless check-in means arriving guests don’t have to queue at the front desk; they can instead be greeted in a more welcoming way in the lobby or lounge. And the savings in paper not only helps a hotel’s bottom line, but the planet too.
Another much-appreciated feature of a mobile PMS is mobile access to housekeeping reports. This simple feature greatly improves productivity by allowing housekeeping staff to update room housekeeping status directly to the housekeeping report via their mobile device in real time as they work.
While OTAs dominate the online hotel booking scene, hoteliers are becoming more focused on the quest to increase direct bookings. There are a variety of tools available to help lodging operators improve direct conversions and, as the year unfolds, we imagine more and more properties will be engaging them.
First, there are the aforementioned guest engagement and CRM tools such as Guestfolio, Constant Contact, Revinate and Twilio. Such platforms help properties collect and make sense of comprehensive guest data to deliver highly targeted guest communications that help turn customers into loyal direct bookers.
Revenue management software (RMS) is becoming more critical as pricing rooms becomes even more complicated. Finding the right price hinges on numerous factors; in addition to seasonal fluctuations, market demand and room type features, rates are increasingly based on more fluid variables such as channel, weather, events, competitors and even guest data and loyalty. Dynamic and personalized pricing is becoming a powerful strategy in winning direct business and more and more lodging operators will recognize the enormous value in automating this process to ensure they remain competitive in an increasingly competitive market.
Properties that are slow to adopt a mobile-friendly direct booking engine will find it hard to keep ignoring this must-have feature in the year ahead. The way we shop has forever changed as consumers look to the Internet to research and buy whatever and whenever they want. We make decisions based on a series of spontaneous yet intent-rich micro-moments, enabled by mobile devices. Therefore, providing a consistent and seamless user experience across devices (desktop and mobile) is a must for all businesses wanting to attract, convert and retain customers.
Going back to our first point, integrating certain key systems goes a long way in boosting direct bookings; your PMS, RMS and CRM make a powerful team.
Last year we heard about the success big brands were having with mobile messaging to communicate with customers, and this year we think more and more independent properties will follow suit.
From simple SMS text messaging to social media apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, mobile messaging is fast becoming the preferred quick communication method of our time. Hotels are finding that mobile messaging, when managed correctly, enhances customer service and boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty.
With a focus on service rather than marketing, mobile messaging can be used to confirm reservations, welcome guests to the property and let them know their room is ready, support concierge services, promote relevant ancillary services, receive special requests and to thank guests after check-out.
A variety of messaging platforms are available to hotels, from the aforementioned SMS text messaging and social media apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc.) to dedicated hotel mobile applications such as Twilio, Alice and Checkmate.
While we don’t think independent properties need to go as far as trialing voice-controlled guestrooms (as Starwood’s Aloft brand is doing) just yet, it is important to ensure your guestrooms are equipped with current technology your guests expect.
Cable TV just doesn’t cut it anymore; today’s guests are looking to stream their favourite shows to (high-definition flat-screen) TVs from streaming services such as Netflix via smart TV technology or casting devices. But in order to pull this off successfully, properties must equip guestrooms with reliable high-speed Internet access. These days most hotels already offer in-room Wi-Fi, so the focus now is on making it as fast as the guest’s connection at home.
Keeping your property’s technology current is key to remaining competitive. If your property’s systems are hindering rather than helping guest service, productivity or revenue, make this the year to upgrade.