The Power of Post-Stay Emails: Top Tips for Independent Hoteliers

Nowadays, most lodging operators send confirmation emails to customers upon booking. Many properties also capitalize on their customers’ growing anticipation of their stay by sending pre-arrival emails… But how about after the guest checks out? As a lodging operator, are you sending post-stay emails to your guests?

Many of our WebRezPro customers have found that sending post-stay emails generates engagement with previous guests, whether it’s a quick reply directly to the hotel, a review, or a new Facebook fan.

Post-stay emails are an effective tool for keeping your hotel top of your guest’s mind; properties that aren’t sending post-stay emails are missing out on a great opportunity for turning customers into repeat guests and brand ambassadors.

It’s not hard to do, especially with a property management system that offers automated guest email functionality. Here are our tips for a successful post-stay email campaign.

Get Their Email Address!

You’re thinking, thank you, Captain Obvious, aren’t you? But this is just a wee reminder that if for some reason you didn’t get the guest’s email address at the time of booking — perhaps they booked through an OTA — don’t hesitate to politely ask them for it upon check-out. Telling them you would like to email them a coupon code for a discount on their next stay, or for a friend, is an offer most guests can’t refuse.

The Thank-You / Feedback-Request Email

Send a timely thank-you email to your guest, ideally within three days of the guest’s departure, saying that you enjoyed having them stay and that you hope they had a great time. Inject some personality into the message so that it doesn’t sound canned.

In the same email, mention that you would love to hear their feedback on their stay experience and invite them to write an online review. Make it easy and quick for them to do so by including a direct link to your TripAdvisor review page, for example.

In case a guest did not have a good experience, ask them to contact you directly with any negative feedback so that you can attend to it immediately, and provide a specific (eg. manager@yourhotel.com) rather than generic (eg. info@yourhotel.com) email address, if possible.

Some properties use an automated post-stay survey tool like that from Revinate, which makes collecting feedback a breeze. Revinate offers some great tips on writing post-stay surveys.

You can also encourage guests to share their photos on social media, and let them know your social media handles or any hashtags for tagging. Or simply invite them to follow you on social media for opportunities to access special offers.

If you have a loyalty program, invite customers to join by including a link to your loyalty program information page.

Maintaining the Relationship

A successful post-stay email campaign doesn’t end after the thank-you / feedback-request email. As time goes on, targeted post-stay marketing emails are key to reminding your guests of the great experience they had at your property. However, there are some very important tips to consider if you don’t want your customers to hit “unsubscribe.”

Offer real value. Keep customers engaged by offering something of value, be it a discount for a future stay, informing them of current or upcoming promotions or events that may be of interest, sharing a recipe from your restaurant, or reminding them of their experience with a webcam shot of the fresh powder on the slopes outside your door.

Target your offers. Targeting the right offers to the right customers is key to offering real value. The information that you collect about a guest in order to personalize their experience — from the moment they make a booking and throughout their stay — should also be used to target your email campaigns. Even simple segmentation, like targeting corporate offers to business travellers, romantic packages to couples, and kids’ activities to families, results in more effective campaigns. A property management system like WebRezPro also offers the ability to set up customized email templates tied to certain rates and room types.

The data in your property management system is the foundation of personalized service and targeted communications, and can be integrated with your CRM or email marketing system to automate highly targeted email campaigns.

Time it right. There are no set rules when it comes to timing future post-stay emails; it may take some time to figure out what works best for your property. While you don’t want to annoy customers (and lose subscribers) by emailing too often, you don’t want them to forget about you either.

As a start, one or two months after check-out, you could send guests a discount code for a future stay. You could even promote different seasonal experiences by highlighting your location’s best winter attributes and packages to guests who stayed in summer, and vice versa.

Six months post-stay, you might want to check in with them again, to make sure your property remains top of mind as they plan future getaways. Remind them of their previous stay (and offer value) with a cocktail recipe from your bar, or a photo of a stunning sunset from your ocean-view pool deck. Offer that discount code again or let them know of any relevant special deals. Tell them you’d love to see them again.

A few weeks before the guest’s booking anniversary, trigger another email reminding them of their last stay and inviting them back with a special discount or free upgrade.

General Tips

Personalize. As mentioned above (and mentioned here again because it’s very important), inject your brand’s personality into your emails. If you want to engage your customers, make the message personal and friendly; canned or generic emails are a big turn off.

Address the guest by name, rather than “Dear Guest.” This process can be automated through your property management system by using template keywords. Sign off from an actual staff member.

Optimize for mobile. With more than half of all emails opened on mobile devices, it’s now more important than ever before to make sure all of your email communications are mobile friendly. Constant Contact offers some good tips for creating mobile-friendly emails, like keeping it simple, using easy-to-read text, and limiting images. If you use an email marketing service like Guestfolio or Constant Contact, you’re in great hands.

Social media buttons. Social media buttons that link directly to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages make it easy for your customers to connect with and follow your property on social channels. They should be included in every email template.

“Unsubscribe” option. Always include an “unsubscribe” link in all emails. This is required by spam law.

Automate. It’s just not possible for busy hoteliers to take the time to personally write to each and every guest. That’s why property management systems like WebRezPro offer customizable email templates and automated delivery.  While standard template wording is included, we recommend you take the time to word your own emails to reflect the personality of your brand, as mentioned above.

Property management systems can also be integrated with CRM and email marketing programs that take your email campaigns to the next level through automation of email list management, targeting based on guest data, and scheduling, as well as professionally designed and fully customizable templates, and results tracking.

To sum it all up, post-stay emails are a powerful customer retention tool — as long as they are relevant to the customer. To be relevant, they should be targeted to your guest and offer something of value. Remind your guests why they love your property and they’ll come back for more.

Inn at Middletown

The Inn at Middletown is a beautiful 100-room hotel in historic downtownMiddletown, Connecticut, and close to Wesleyan University. The hotel offers a wide range of amenities including meeting and banquet space, onsite dining, a swimming pool, a fitness center, free WiFi and valet parking. The Inn at Middletown has just started using 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!

2016 Online Marketing Checklist for Independent Hoteliers

The holiday rush is almost upon us, so now’s a good time to get a head start on strategizing for success in the New Year — after all, 2016 is just around the corner! With US adults spending an average of six hours a day on digital media, your digital marketing strategy is one thing you want to get right.

Here’s our digital marketing checklist for a successful year ahead for lodging operators:

Mobile-Friendly Website & Mobile Bookings

Did you know that 69 percent of travelers begin their search online via a mobile device? Mobile is no longer a trend, it’s a way of life — especially in the world of travel. With Google’s major mobile-friendly algorithm update implemented earlier this year, businesses can no longer afford not to have a mobile-friendly website.

If your website isn’t already mobile friendly, there’s a good chance it’s due for an update anyway. When it’s time for a redesign, consider a responsive website that automatically detects and adapts to the screens of all devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops).

According to eMarketer’s latest estimates (based on research to date), 51.8 percent of travelers who book trips online in 2016 will do so using a mobile device, up from 43.8 percent this year. So it’s also crucial to offer a mobile-friendly (and user-friendly) booking engine on your website.

SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves various techniques and can be confusing to the layperson, but if you keep in mind that search engines are designed to provide the most useful results to users and you follow suit with your own website, you are already on the right path. This means your website should be mobile-friendly (as mentioned above) and should feature fresh, local content relevant to your guests, in addition to using traditional SEO techniques like appropriate use of keywords and SEO-friendly design.

With the rise of mobile search, Google has been improving local search results — in other words, tailoring results to the user’s local area — so make sure your property’s website is easy to find for travelers booking accommodation on the day. To do this, include NAP (name, address, phone number) details on every page of your website, verify your business on Google My Business to ensure that your website appears on Google Maps, verify your business with Bing and Yahoo! too, and make sure your business is listed in popular local directories.

As for paid search/SEM (search engine marketing), HeBS Digital just published some great tips for maximizing revenue from SEM campaigns in 2016, including tailoring your ads to key customer segments,  optimizing campaigns for your property’s seasonality needs, creating a dedicated paid search campaign for each multichannel promotion, and utilizing advanced targeting methods like Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA).

Data-Driven (Targeted) Marketing

Sending customer segments targeted offers that are relevant to their needs and interests is more effective than sending generic campaigns to everyone. For example, if you segment your customer base into business travelers and leisure travelers, you can deliver offers for adventure packages and corporate packages to the right customers. You can target your marketing even further by segmenting your leisure guests into family travelers and couples.

Such simple segmentation has the power to significantly boost revenue — 75 percent of hotels in a recent case study agree.

Review the data in your property management system (PMS) to get to know your guests (who comprises your most important customer segments?) and use that information to offer your guests more value through targeted marketing. Consider integrating your PMS with your CRM to automate your targeted email marketing efforts.

Mobile-Friendly Email Marketing

According to Litmus, more than half of all emails are now opened on a mobile device. Whether you are sending a booking confirmation email, special offer, post-stay thank you or survey, your customer email communications should be optimized for mobile so that they look great on a desktop or smartphone.

Email marketing experts at Constant Contact offer some simple tips for creating mobile-friendly emails, including concise content (short, sweet and simple!), single-column templates, clear calls to action (buttons are better than links), and larger font.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is great for SEO because fresh, relevant content provides real value to your customers online. Content marketing focuses on content that is engaging, inspiring and helpful to your customers. Needless to say, knowing your target audience is key to providing content that is relevant to them.

High-quality content tells the story of your property or conveys the stay experience while providing helpful information that prospective guests want to know. Tell your story through well-written text, photos and video, and ensure website content is organized in a user-friendly manner.

Maintaining a blog is an effective way to keep your website fresh, share your local expertise and highlight your property’s personality. World Web Technologies Inc. shares some best practices for hotel blogging.

Social Media Marketing

Working hand in hand with your website, social media is key to improving brand awareness and building customer relationships. Search engines like businesses that are active on social media too. And here’s an inspiring Twitter fact: 70 percent of followers have taken action after seeing travel content on Twitter.

Paid social media advertising is not very expensive and can boost the visibility of promotional posts to targeted audiences. Facebook is an effective advertising platform for lodgings with highly visual ads that can be interacted with in a variety of ways (comments, likes, shares and click-throughs).

Engaging with customers organically (unpaid) on social media involves creating posts that tell interesting stories related to your property or location. Highlight local events and happenings, your blog posts and special packages, and share user-generated content about your hotel to humanize your brand and inspire conversation.

Reputation Management

The first step in managing your online reputation is to optimize your online presence. This means having a great website and being present and active on social media channels, OTAs, meta-search sites and review websites. Make sure online content is truly representative of your property (i.e. don’t make empty promises that will only lead to disappointed guests), and ask for and promote guest feedback.

It is very important to monitor social media and review sites for comments and feedback about your property and respond appropriately. Social listening tools like Hootsuite ensure that you don’t miss a mention. Online reputation management systems like Revinate step it up a notch by providing a whole suite of tools to help measure and analyze feedback for actionability.

Remarketing

Remarketing is the process of targeting email or ad campaigns to people who have previously visited your website. Without remarketing, a whopping 92 percent of those visitors will not return.

You know how that jacket you were looking at online but didn’t buy is now following you around the Internet? That’s an example of remarketing.

Remarketing can be implemented via simple code inserted into your website or email marketing campaign that tracks website visitors or subscribers who have opened your email, and subsequently allows you to target display ads to them throughout the Web. It’s an excellent way to build brand awareness and even bring back visitors who abandoned the booking process.

If you’re new to the concept of remarketing, Google is a good place to start. And here’s some information about Facebook remarketing.

Channel Integration

Simplify online distribution management by integrating your PMS with third-party distribution channels (GDS, OTAs, channel managers) for real-time room visibility across the board. Integrating your PMS with online distribution channels not only enables you to more efficiently maximize revenue, but it also allows you to automatically track where your bookings are coming from to help you optimize your distribution strategy.

We all know how important online marketing is in this day and age — especially in the travel industry. While the above strategies work together to comprise a solid online marketing plan for lodgings, properties will find that some strategies work better than others; the right online marketing mix differs from property to property and depends on such factors as seasonality, customer base, business goals and budget. Monitor and analyse the success of your campaigns to find the perfect balance for your property.

5 Ways to Turn OTA Lookers into Direct Bookers

There’s no denying that OTAs pack a powerful punch when it comes to online bookings. OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia have a potent arsenal of cutting-edge technology and massive marketing budgets behind their very successful distribution strategies; they boast online omnipresence with global consumer reach and seamless online bookings. While lodging operators understandably begrudge OTA commissions eating into their bottom line, there are two sides to the coin — the flip side is that hoteliers have an opportunity to take advantage of the increased visibility that OTAs offer.

When I search for accommodation online, I often start my search on an OTA, but before making a decision, I always google the property’s own website. I do this because I want to get a better feel for the property beyond what’s presented in their OTA listing. This is known as the “billboard effect” — where a property’s OTA listing works much like a billboard; increasing a property’s exposure and even driving direct bookings.

But in order for the billboard effect to work, a property’s own website needs to offer customers a smooth path to booking.

#1. A well designed website.

A website that not only looks good but is easy to navigate and functions smoothly is key to impressing prospective guests and luring them to book direct. A property’s own website has the potential to give customers a much more distinctive and genuine online experience than an OTA.

Check out our post about optimizing your website for success, but in a nutshell, it comes down to successfully portraying the special experience of staying at your property through engaging imagery and content that communicates the unique features of your property, from special packages to property features to location.

And make sure your site offers just as good a user experience as the OTAs — with fast load times, intuitive navigation, mobile friendliness and easy online bookings (more on that next).

#2. Simple, secure, mobile-friendly online bookings.

OTAs are so successful with online bookings due to simple, trusted and mobile-friendly booking processes, and properties must follow suit on their own websites to avoid booking abandonment.  The fewer steps it takes to make a reservation, the better. Your online booking engine should reassure customers that the booking process is secure by displaying a secure payment badge when asking for credit card information, and should send automatic email confirmation to customers to assure them that their booking was a success. Your booking engine should also be able to display rates in different currencies.

#3. Best rate guarantee & benefits of booking direct.

While hoteliers can’t publicly advertise lower rates than those on OTAs (due to parity agreements), rates available through a property’s own website should match those offered on OTAs to support a best rate guarantee. Why shop anywhere else when the rate on your site is guaranteed the lowest?

Customers are more likely to book direct when the value of booking direct is apparent. Make sure the advantages of booking direct are advertised on your website — like preferred rooms, free breakfast, a drink at the bar or free parking — perks that are only available when booking direct. Value-added packages might cost more than discounted room rates advertised on OTAs, but the upgraded experience should offer more value than the discount offered through the OTA.

Rates lower than those on OTAs can be offered to limited audiences, like your Facebook fans, Twitter followers or newsletter subscribers, if they book direct. Invite customers to like your Facebook page or sign up to your newsletter to access special deals. Empower staff taking phone reservations to offer a lower rate.

#4. Convert OTA customers into future direct bookers.

Don’t give up on customers who have booked through an OTA — you’ll get ‘em next time. But in order to do so, it’s important to ask for their email address upon check-in or check-out. Tell guests that you would like to share special discounts for future stays or to pass to a friend. Alternatively, you could offer departing guests coupons for a 10 percent discount if they book direct next time.

If your property offers a loyalty program, invite guests to join to access points or perks when booking direct.

#5. Optimize your OTA listings.

While it might seem counterintuitive, it’s important to ensure your listings on OTAs are complete and high quality. Excluding quality content from OTA listings will not drive customers to your website; instead, customers are likely to skip the listing entirely to consider properties with more appealing listings.

Listings with great photos, complete descriptions and amenity lists, and competitive rates are much more likely to motivate a shopper to take note of your property and search for your website… which is where all the above tips come into play for turning that OTA looker into a direct booker!

A Smile Will Never Be Obsolete: How to Maximize Positive Employee-Guest Interactions

The latest J.D. Power North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study (2015) revealed that guest satisfaction has risen to a record high, driven by a significant drop in the number of guests who experienced a problem during their stay. The study found that staff interactions with guests have a huge impact on mitigating problems; there is a 50 percent reduction in the average number of problems experienced when staff members greet guests with a smile “all the time,” compared to when guests are only greeted with a smile “sometimes.”

Despite all the technology available to us today and the digitization of customer care, face-to-face service is still key to great hospitality.

Here’s how to maximize positive employee-guest interaction for maximum guest satisfaction.

Find the Right People. 

It only makes sense that people working in hospitality should be hospitable themselves, but I’m sure we’ve all experienced interactions with hotel or restaurant staff that we hoped were just having a bad day!

Take time to find the right people for your business. In hospitality that typically means friendly, empathetic personalities with the ability to remain calm under pressure and anticipate guests’ needs. You want staff who are willing to go above and beyond for your guests, earn their loyalty, and turn them into advocates for your property.

Cross-Train & Empower Your Staff. 

Opening this winter, Arrive Palm Springs is a next-generation hotel that aims to make guest service as smooth and simple as possible by doing away with many traditional hotel formalities like the front desk. To fulfil such a mission, the hotel has adopted an “anyone can help” attitude; recruiting employees that are willing and happy to perform tasks outside of their job description, and cross-training staff to help each other out.

We like how Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, puts it: “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”

Cross-training your staff empowers them to take responsibility of various situations, helping to ensure that customer requests and complaints are dealt with quickly and according to policy, increasing not only guest satisfaction but employee job satisfaction too.

Engage Your Employees. 

“Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.” — Timothy R. Clark in The 5 Ways That Highly Engaged Employees are Different.

A while ago we shared some tips on how to increase staff engagement, which included fostering a learning culture with ongoing training and frequent feedback, sharing company goals and numbers with your employees to give them a sense of ownership, recognizing and rewarding high performance, and creating a strong team environment to ensure that all departments run together like a well-oiled machine.

Equip Your Employees with the Right Tools.

From training to software, strive to provide your staff with the tools that empower them to perform their tasks excellently — not just adequately. Take, for example, your front desk software: an efficient check-in process is crucial, but imagine the enhanced level of service that can be achieved with a system that allows reservation-specific notes and pop-ups to be set for service personalization purposes, like congratulating the happy couple checking in for their honeymoon. As another example, mobile property management systems free your staff from the front desk, allowing them to tend to guests promptly from anywhere on your property.

“Never underestimate the power of the human element. Whether it’s assisting a guest with a special request or a friendly greeting from staff members in the hallway, the people aspect plays a key role in guest satisfaction and loyalty.” — Ramez Faza, Sr. Account Manager at J.D. Power and Associates.

Pre-Arrival Email Tips for Independent Hotels

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.

Confirmation Email

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.

Pre-Arrival 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

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.

Personalize

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.

PMS and POS Integration for Smoother Sales & Happier Guests

Integration of core hotel systems is key to streamlining operations property-wide. In the past, integrating legacy hotel systems was a complicated, lengthy and expensive process, but these days, through open APIs, common Web standards and rapid innovation, cloud technology is paving the way to easier, faster and more effective system integration, empowering hotels to improve efficiency and share data across departments for a deeper understanding of guests and the market.

For lodging operators, on-property points of sale like a restaurant, gift shop or spa add another layer of complexity to daily operations, but a simple interface between the property management system (PMS) and point-of-sale (POS) system can save hoteliers significant time and increase billing accuracy for more satisfied guests and improved revenue.

Better Billing Management

PMS–POS integration streamlines the process of charging restaurant sales and other incidental charges to a guest’s room.

When PMS and POS systems are not integrated, restaurant bills and other incidental sales and services charged to a guest’s room must be communicated to the front desk and added to the guest’s folio manually. But, as is the nature of the hospitality industry, busy staff are often sidetracked by more pressing tasks. Come check-out time, even the most organised front desk can face billing discrepancies, resulting in annoyed guests arguing charges on their bill, or a loss of revenue where charges have inadvertently been left off a guest’s folio. By automating the process of posting incidental charges to guest reservation folios, PMS–POS integration eliminates these types of manual errors.

How does it work? It’s quite simple: through the interface, the POS system queries the PMS in real time to verify guest status and room number, and then automatically posts the charge to the relevant folio within the PMS — giving staff more time to focus on guest service, and eliminating billing inaccuracies due to human error, such as misplaced tickets and typos.

Better Guest Service

It goes without saying that billing errors are normally a source of frustration for guests. By eliminating errors via automation, hoteliers can help to ensure a pleasant guest experience upon check-out.

In fact, a PMS–POS integration improves the guest experience throughout the stay. Guests looking for a hassle-free stay generally appreciate the convenience of not having to get their wallet out every time they dine onsite or make other on-property purchases. The ability to charge purchases to guestrooms is perceived by guests as a thoughtful touch designed for their comfort and convenience; automating the process ensures billing accuracy, reducing disputes and increasing guest satisfaction.

Improving billing efficiency and accuracy for the convenience of your staff and guests, PMS–POS integration just makes sense.  So it’s unsurprising that a recent survey by hotel management software research company Software Advice found that hoteliers are increasingly seeking PMS with POS integration.

WebRezPro PMS integrates with a number of leading POS systems. If you don’t see your POS provider on the list, contact us to find out if integration is possible.

Want to learn how integrating your PMS with other hotel systems (such as GDS and OTA providers, in-room entertainment systems, payment gateways, digital marketing software, voice mail systems and more) can help you improve efficiency and guest service? Check out our Quick Guide to PMS Integration.

Fresh Fall Marketing Ideas to Spice Up Your Shoulder Season

During this past week I’ve noticed mornings are becoming chillier, the leaves are slowly beginning to turn, and as I write this, rain is steadily falling from a stone-gray morning sky. Fall is coming. This may bring a sigh of relief from lodging operators coming out of a crazy busy summer, but the end of the peak travel season is bittersweet; while fall offers a bit of a breather, it also spells a decline in occupancy. The upside is that quieter times present the opportunity to do those important things you didn’t get the chance to do over summer — to reflect on, assess and improve operations and revitalize your fall marketing campaigns to boost business during the shoulder season.

If your fall marketing is getting a little stale, now’s a good time to look for some inspiration. Start with thinking about who your guests are during the fall season. With kids back in school, are you seeing mostly baby boomers and young millennials? Business travelers? What about families traveling from nearby for weekend trips? Tailor your marketing efforts to your fall customers for maximum conversion. With that in mind, here are some ideas to work with…

>> Review Feedback

Read through all those reviews you amassed over summer to find out why guests chose your property, what they liked about it and what they didn’t. Analysing guest feedback is one of the best ways to identify areas for improvement in both operations and marketing.

Reviews can shine a light on gaps between guest expectation and experience and, therefore, areas in your marketing that may be misleading. Align your marketing more closely with the positive aspects of your guests’ actual experience and reap the rewards of more satisfied guests and positive reviews. Guest feedback can also reveal unique selling points that you have not considered before, offering you a fresh perspective to promote. For example, you might be focusing your marketing efforts on your trendy boutique décor while your customers are actually more appreciative of your historic location.

>> Highlight User-Generated Content (UGC)

Now with a little more time on your hands, search out guests’ positive tweets and photos about your property on social media that you may have missed over summer, and share them on your own social media pages. Add comments like, “What a great summer! Thanks for spending some time with us, [insert guest name here]! Hope to see you again next year!” Be sure to tag or credit the guest.

By building trust and providing prospective customers with social proof, positive UGC can be one of your most powerful marketing tools. For more tips on making the most of user-generated content our recent blog post on the subject might help.

>> Celebrate Fall Holidays

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! There’s lots to celebrate in fall — Halloween, Thanksgiving and Oktoberfest are the big events. If you haven’t taken advantage of these holidays in your marketing efforts before, or you do the same thing year over year, it might be time to spice things up with a big celebration or something subtle yet novel.

Some ideas for on-property events include costume parties, cooking classes and wine tastings, or how about running a pumpkin carving workshop with an expert pumpkin carver? If you offer dining on site, consider creating a special menu to celebrate the holidays, or simply create a signature holiday cocktail.

If you google “unusual holidays” you’ll discover that September is Classical Music Month and Better Breakfast Month, and September 22nd is Elephant Appreciation Day. In October we have Seafood Month, National Golf Day (October 4th) and Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day (October 11th), and November brings National Sleep Comfort Month and Go for a Ride Day (November 22nd). There are literally hundreds of bizarre and wonderful little-known yet official holidays waiting to be celebrated. Can you feel those creative juices flowing in your mind already?

Whether a special dining package in celebration of Thanksgiving, or complimentary teddy bears for business guests to mark Take Your Teddy Bear To Work Day, market your holiday festivities on your website, on social media and in your newsletter. User-generated content will do the rest!

>> Promote Seasonal Activities & Local Events

From leaf peeping to winery or brewery tours, and Halloween festivals to football games, lodging operators can help drum up excitement about local activities and events to attract visitors to the area and, thereby, their property.

Consider developing relationships with tour operators and event organizers to offer guests packages that include activities or event tickets, or discounts. Seasonal events and activities can also inspire fun social media campaigns, for example, asking guests to share photos of their prettiest fall colours or scariest Halloween face. Or simply add value by providing your customers with helpful tips about seasonal things to do in your area across your digital channels — on your website, blog and social media.

>> Create a Local Fall Guide

Most hotels offer recommendations for local activities, attractions and restaurants year round via concierge services, their website and printed in-room guides. Why not create a special local fall guide highlighting suggestions especially for fall visitors? A fall guide could feature the best spots for viewing fall foliage, restaurants offering special fall menus, where to experience popular fall activities such as golf, wine tasting and hiking, and community events like Halloween festivals, corn mazes and pumpkin patches.

Add your fall guide to your website, concierge app, and provide printed copies in your lobby and guestrooms. Include the website link to your fall guide in reservation confirmation and pre-arrival emails for fall stays, and in related social media posts.

>> Rev Up Your Fall Social Media Campaigns

As mentioned above, fall fun provides plenty of inspiration for social media campaigns. In addition to sparking conversations about local events and activities, you can really get creative with your seasonal social media engagement efforts. Consider those unusual fall holidays we talked about above… Let’s take National Seafood Month in October as an example — if your property runs fishing charters, or a lot of your guests enjoy fishing while staying with you, ask them to share photos of their catch on Facebook or Twitter to win a prize. Or simply ask guests to tweet about their favourite fish dish on your menu to win a free meal.

 

We hope these ideas generate some inspiration for fresh fall marketing efforts that you and your guests can get excited about!

 

 

Tips for Attracting Business Travelers to Your Independent Hotel

With fall around the corner, the hospitality industry is getting ready to welcome more corporate travelers as the peak business travel season heats up. The business travel market is a lucrative one; business travel spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $302.7 billion by the end of the year — an increase of 4.9 percent from last year. Even Airbnb is directing more attention toward business travelers, recently announcing a new product suite for its Business Travel program, which has enjoyed a 700 percent growth since it was launched a year ago.

If your hotel is busy on weekends but quiet during the week, business travelers could be your ticket to improved occupancy and ADR. But just how can you attract them to stay at your property?

Just like leisure travelers, those traveling on business are looking for a comfortable and convenient stay. But, unlike leisure travelers, business travelers are also looking for an office-away-from-the-office (as well as a home-away-from-home). Your business guests want amenities and services that help them work efficiently, and perks that lessen the burden of a corporate life on the road.

For some tips on how to attract business travelers to your independent property, read on.

A Mobile-Optimized Website – A mobile-optimized hotel website gives busy businesspeople easy access to your property information on the go and is more likely to rank higher in mobile searches than non-mobile sites. For the business traveler or travel planner, make sure your website features your property’s location (pinpointing major companies and conference venues nearby) and amenities clearly, and no more than a single tap or click away. Consider a dedicated Business Travel page that highlights all relevant amenities, services and packages geared toward business travelers — this is not only helpful to prospective corporate customers, but is a great way to boost SEO.

Online Bookings – Businesspeople are busy, efficient types, and they demand convenient services that save time. Hello, online bookings. A smooth, simple online booking process that provides access to corporate rates (via access codes) is much appreciated by those organizing business trips.

Targeted Communications – Generic emails that promote amenities, services and local attractions geared toward your leisure guests are irrelevant and unhelpful to business travelers. Pre-arrival communications with your business guests should offer assistance and highlight services that will help make their stay productive and efficient; Would they like to reserve the meeting room? Do they need restaurant reservations? An airport pick-up?… Likewise, post-stay communications with corporate clients should target their specific needs by offering them special business packages and discounts, and informing them of any new amenities or services that will improve future stays.

Speedy Check-in & Check-out – Time is precious to us all, but business travelers tend to have even less tolerance for inefficiency. Start off on the right foot with your business guests by ensuring your check-in (and check-out) process is a swift one. Some cloud property management systems (PMS) like WebRezPro offer paperless check-in via mobile device, allowing front desk staff to check guests in and out on the go for maximum efficiency — without sacrificing personal service with a smile. Self-service check-in and -out via hotel app or kiosk is also increasingly in demand, especially by millennial travelers.

Flexible Check-in and Check-out Times – Speaking of check-in and check-out, a recent MainStreet article revealed that a number of hotels are becoming more flexible in regard to check-in and check-out times as part of their service personalization efforts. Some properties charge an extra fee for this request, and some offer it to loyalty members for free. Flexible check-in and check-out times couldn’t be more relevant to corporate travelers, who often arrive to their destination in the morning, needing to freshen up before their 1 o’clock meeting, or don’t fly out until later in the afternoon. While offering early check-in and late check-out can complicate housekeeping and room allocation, modern property management systems provide the departmental integration and transparency that helps to keep operations running smoothly. And the convenience to your guests will go far in earning their loyalty.

CONNECTIVITY – Notice it’s typed in CAPS? That’s how important it is. In fact, perhaps no other amenity is more important to business travelers than reliable Wi-Fi and 49 percent of business travelers consider free Wi-Fi a deciding factor when it comes to their choice of hotel.

Well-Equipped Business Spaces – If your property features a business center, but the technology (computers, fax machine, printer) has seen better days, it’s worth investing in some new hardware if you want to increase (or maintain) your corporate clientele. Remember, time-saving technology and services are very important to the business guest and if your temperamental printer gives them a hard time, you’ll likely never see them again.

Properties that don’t have a dedicated business center can entice corporate guests to utilize communal areas, like lounges and bars, by offering comfortable spaces for guests to work informally in a social setting, if desired. That means providing comfortable seating, plenty of power outlets and access to Wi-Fi, of course. Offer access to a printer, too, whether you set up a printing station in a quiet corner, or allow guests to utilize the front desk’s.

In-Room Conveniences – Are your guestrooms conducive to office work? Do they offer ergonomic desks and chairs, good lighting, reliable Wi-Fi and easy access to all power outlets? Other in-room amenities that business guests typically find handy are hair dryers, ironing boards and irons, coffee makers and full-length mirrors. You can really impress with thoughtful extras like the ability to easily sync their devices to the TV, pillow menus and black-out curtains. Needless to say, quality bedding for a good night’s sleep is crucial.

If outfitting all your guestrooms with work-conducive amenities is a bit of a stretch to your budget, consider offering a limited number of “business suites.”

Wellness – Because business travelers are on the road a lot, staying healthy while traveling is important to them. If your property offers onsite dining, review your menu for healthy options. Do you provide gluten-free and vegan meals for guests with food allergies and intolerances?

Whether your property features a restaurant or not, both business and leisure guests will appreciate the availability of healthy snacks (how about a lobby fruit bowl?) and breakfast — it doesn’t have to be a cooked one; think fast, healthy and convenient, like self-serve toast, cereal, yogurt and fruit.

When it comes to fitness, consider partnering with a nearby gym to offer guests complimentary or discounted passes, if you don’t have fitness facilities on site. Some properties are even offering in-room fitness kits comprising the likes of yoga mats and resistance bands. Or how about offering a Corporate De-Stresser Package that includes a relaxing spa treatment?

Transportation – Waiting for taxis, taking public transport or renting a car can all be bothersome for a tired traveler who’s just flown in. On the contrary, an airport pick-up is a convenient, hassle-free welcome to your property. And during the guest’s stay, offer to make arrangements for transport to and from nearby venues and meetings.

Billing Itemization – For expensing purposes, the ability to itemize charges on the same or separate folios makes life for both the traveler and their company’s accounting department much easier. Does your PMS do this?

Loyalty Programs – While companies love loyalty programs that offer free nights and discounted stays, the actual guest appreciates perks that make constant business travel a little less tiresome — like free transportation, complimentary beverages, discounted spa services and more personalized service. A loyalty program is not only a great way to attract corporate clients, but it provides the opportunity to gather guest data that can be used to personalize service and target marketing more effectively.

While not every hotel will be able to implement every idea on this list, any property can cater more effectively to business travelers by focusing on convenience, efficiency and technology. Powerful core systems like cloud PMS and CRM will set you off on the right foot by supporting efficient processes, personalized service and targeted marketing.

It’s also important to note that although you are catering to the business traveler, you are typically marketing to their companies, which are organizing travel on behalf of their employees. Get the word out to business travel bookers by advertising your business-friendly amenities, services and packages on your (mobile-optimized) website, and running targeted ads on OTAs. And be sure to keep corporate clients updated about relevant special offers and new amenities and services through targeted email communications and social media.

How Hotels Can Make the Most of User-Generated Content

Thanks to the mobile Web and social media, travelers are sharing their travel experiences more than ever; in fact, one recent study found that 97 percent of millennials post to social media while traveling. That user-generated content (UGC) — the photos, tweets, posts and reviews travelers share on social media, review websites and blogs — is a marketing goldmine for lodging operators.

We know that online hotel reviews have a big influence on prospective guests and that’s because travelers tend to trust the recommendations of other travelers much more than expensive advertising campaigns. What’s more, owing to social media, UGC has never been more widespread.

It’s not difficult to see that positive UGC can be a powerful tool for increasing guest engagement and sales. Here’s how to make the most of it…

Promote Your Social Media Presence

It goes without saying that to make the most of UGC you must be present and active on social media channels — after all, to engage with guests online you need to frequent the channels they do. But Internetland is a big place, so make sure your customers can find you by promoting your Facebook page and Twitter handle on property (on business cards, signs in the lobby, in-room folders, etc.), on your website and in email communications.

Monitor Social Media Mentions

If a guest tags your property on social media correctly, their photo, tweet or post will appear on your own social media page, but if a guest does not tag your property correctly you won’t be notified and therefore miss the chance to engage with that guest.

To make the most of UGC, it’s important to catch those indirect mentions so that you can alleviate all negative feedback out there and amplify the positive. Social listening tools like those provided by Hootsuite and Revinate can help immensely by automatically scanning the Web — including social media, blogs, review sites and news sites — ensuring you don’t miss any chatter about your hotel. This is a great way to catch guest photos, compliments and even videos where your property was mentioned but not tagged correctly, and which you can then re-share on your own social media pages.

Encourage Guests to Share

Whether you ask them to or not, your guests are probably already generating some content about your property online because travelers love to share their travel experiences. But, the more, the better! Promoting your social media presence as mentioned above will encourage your guests to engage with you on those networks, but there’s even more you can do to motivate guests to share their experiences of your property online.

Special touches such as thoughtful in-room extras like cookies or rubber duckies can surprise guests and inspire them to share their delight on social media. You can be even more direct by setting up a fun “selfie station” with an irresistible backdrop, or run a social media campaign, asking guests to share photos or videos of your hotel. You can (but don’t have to) offer incentives like a free cocktail or appetizer, or a free stay for extra-special content. Create and promote a hashtag for your property, which will enable social media users to tag their posts with an easily searchable keyword that leads right to you.

In terms of online reviews posted to sites like TripAdvisor, never stop asking your guests for them — whether you automate requests for reviews via email or ask guests for reviews upon check-out.

Re-Share the Love

Amplify the reach of UGC by re-sharing, retweeting and liking positive comments, awesome reviews, guest photos and videos on social media (with credit to the creator), incorporating it into your own storytelling efforts.

From TripAdvisor reviews to Tweets to Instagram photos, you can even feature UGC directly on your website by embedding handpicked posts or social media feeds. Social hubs or social walls allow you to aggregate positive social posts using a designated hashtag into a single page on your website — or displayed on a screen in your lobby.

 

Encouraging and promoting UGC creates brand engagement and trust, and provides prospective customers with social proof that will convince them to book a stay.