Customer service is the name of the game in the hotel industry, but it starts well before the guest checks in. The days leading up to check-in are an exciting time for your guests. Anticipation builds as travelers start dreaming about and researching destinations, choose a place to stay, then count down the days until they get there.
A recent study from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration found that savoring an upcoming experience heightens the enjoyment of the actual experience when it happens and when it’s remembered.
In the quest to deliver a high level of customer service to guests on site, the pre-arrival experience is often overlooked, but it’s an important part of the guest journey. The pre-arrival stage offers lodging operators a prime opportunity for increasing guest engagement, personalizing the guest experience, boosting ancillary revenue and improving guest satisfaction.
Upgrading the pre-arrival experience isn’t hard to do and is well worth the effort!
Start with Your Website
Inspire prospective guests in the dreaming stage of their journey with an engaging website design that reflects your property in its best light. Promote not only your property’s features, amenities, location and what makes it special, but also your local destination from an insider’s perspective. Portraying your property as an experience, rather than just a place to stay, will appeal to your customers’ sense of discovery and fuel their excitement.
Simple design, big, beautiful images, intuitive navigation, mobile friendliness and easy online bookings are some key elements of a hotel website that converts lookers into bookers.
Social media networks like Facebook and Instagram are ideal platforms for inspiring travel plans and building excitement. Approximately 30% of U.S. travelers turn to social media to find travel inspiration. Once a trip is booked, consumers turn to social media to feed their excitement, with 52% liking pages related to their vacation and 59% posting a status update about their upcoming trip.
Sharing positive user-generated content and posts about special experiences at your property and local destination will help build anticipation and encourage pre-arrival engagement, whether in the form of a like, a follow, a comment, or contacting your property directly to find out more.
Once the booking is made, direct communications by email (mobile-friendly) and mobile messaging are the best way to build guest excitement, promote upgrades and upsells, and gather valuable guest data for personalizing the guest experience. Pre-arrival emails have an average open rate of 57% according to Revinate. There’s an audience you don’t want to miss!
Many properties send a booking confirmation email and then stop there. But the time between booking and check-in is ripe with opportunities for boosting engagement and revenue. We recommend reaching out to future guests three or four times before they arrive.
>> Booking Confirmation – Your booking confirmation email should thank the guest for their booking and contain details of the guest’s reservation as well as helpful information about your property and amenities too. Your property management system (PMS) should recognize repeat guests and trigger booking confirmation that acknowledges their loyalty.
Invite guests to let you know in advance of any special requirements, and offer ways to enhance their stay through upgrades and add-on services.
>> Pre-arrival / Upgrade Offers – About one week before arrival, reach out again to take advantage of the guest’s growing anticipation. Remind them of the details of their stay, invite them to ask questions and make requests, and offer ways to upgrade their experience—through room upgrades, add-ons, restaurant bookings, early check-in, etc. as appropriate.
Help build excitement by letting future guests know about relevant events happening around town while they are visiting, what the weather is like, what to bring, and that you are looking forward to seeing them!
If you are comfortable with it, consider sending another similar (yet briefer) message approximately three days prior to check-in to give guests another opportunity to ask any questions they may have or let you know of any special requests.
A pre-arrival questionnaire provides an easy way for guests to convey their needs and preferences, and can cover questions like, “Are you traveling with kids?” “Do you have any special dietary requirements?” “Are you interested in activity bookings?” “Do you need a ride from the airport?” etc. that will help you personalize their stay.
>> Check-in Day – On check-in day, reach out again to let your guest know you are looking forward to their arrival and to offer any helpful check-in information, like self-check-in options, where to park and when their room is ready.
Some guest engagement platforms like Guestfolio and Zenya enable hotels to send pre-arrival messages that link guests to pre-arrival surveys and/or a personal mobile concierge, allowing guests to personalize their upcoming stay. But even without such technology, your pre-arrival communications should always invite future guests to let you know how you can make their stay perfect.
Any guest information garnered from pre-arrival communications should be added to the guest’s profile and used to personalize their experience going forward.
PMS + CRM & Mobile Messaging Integration
Through customizable templates, personalized pre-arrival communications can be automated through your PMS, CRM or mobile messaging platform, greatly reducing the burden on staff (we’ve yet to meet a lodging operator with the time to personally write to each and every guest!).
But the real magic happens when you integrate your PMS with a CRM or mobile messaging solution. Direct integration allows your PMS to send live reservation data to your CRM or messaging platform, eliminating the need for staff to input that information manually, and resulting in fully automated, highly targeted communications that boost your brand and guest engagement.
Upgrading the pre-arrival experience is something you can achieve today, so don’t hesitate to get your guests excited about their stay and reap the benefits of higher guest engagement, richer guest data, more incremental revenue and more satisfied guests!