3 More Sleeps! How to Upgrade the Pre-Arrival Experience

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

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.

Pre-arrival Communications

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!

Footprints Resort

Footprints Resort is an adults only cottage resort that offers resort cabins and room accommodation near Bancroft, Ontario. This waterfront resort is a perfect romantic lakeside getaway and is also ideal for weddings. An abundance of amenities are available including a hot tub, non motorized boats for guest use, a diving platform in the center of the lake with a waterslide, mountain bike usage, fire pits and so much more. Footprints Resort has chosen to use our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations! Visit their website to plan your next getaway using WebRezPro’s availability calendar and integrated web reservation software!

Data is All Around: How to Harness it for Hotel Success

From check-in to check-out and beyond, every action and interaction in a hotel generates data. But don’t let that daunt you. With the right systems in place, the right data can be harnessed in real time and accessed as needed to improve the guest experience and your property’s bottom line.

What data and what for?

With all that data around, how do you know what’s actually useful? While the needs of every property are different, there are fundamental pieces of information that every property should be using for the good of their business.

Let’s use an example of a typical guest life cycle to identify those valuable nuggets of data at every touchpoint.

>>Research. Our soon-to-be guest, Harriet, is doing some research online to find the best place to stay on her upcoming trip. She’s looking on her favorite OTAs, reading some reviews and checking out websites of the hotels that sound good.

Here is where those first nuggets of data can be found along the guest journey. With the help of a website analytics tool like Google Analytics, your website can tell you how well your promotional efforts are doing and whether your branding and content is hitting the mark, through metrics like traffic figures, acquisition channels, bounce rates and conversions.

Recommended Technology:

> Mobile-optimized website

> Website analytics tool like Google Analytics

>>Booking. Harriet likes what she sees on your website and decides to book online through your user-friendly website booking engine. Reservation data captured at this point includes guest contact information, room selection, payment method and perhaps even add-on services and preferences—and is essential for providing even basic customer service.

Reservation folio data should also be consolidated with guest profiles, building stay history and a record of other valuable information such as preferences, requests, anniversaries, etc. that can be used to enhance the guest experience now and in the future.

Let’s step back and get an even wider view. Through integration with your online booking engine (OBE) and other distribution channels (the GDS, OTAs and channel managers), your property management system (PMS) can give you a clear breakdown of where exactly your bookings are coming from. Knowing your most successful channels is key to optimizing your distribution strategy. Not to mention, integrating your channel partners with your PMS ensures inventory and pricing are automatically up-to-date across all channels.

Reservation data is also vital for compiling hotel statistics and performance metrics, including booking trends, occupancy trends, Average Daily Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR). Your PMS automatically collects this data and generates reports that help lodging operators make informed pricing and operational decisions.

Speaking of pricing (and your wider revenue management strategy), revenue management software (RMS) integration with your PMS greatly simplifies (and improves accuracy of) forecasting, pricing and inventory control, allowing your PMS to push reservation data to your RMS, and your RMS to update accepted pricing in your PMS.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> Website booking engine (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

> Distribution channels (with PMS integration)

> RMS (with PMS integration)

>>Pre-arrival. Harriet is vegan, so she emails your property to ask about menu options at your property’s on-site restaurant. She also wants to know if she can make a dinner reservation ahead of time because she and her husband are celebrating their second wedding anniversary. The information garnered through such correspondence is like gold!

Not only is this a prime opportunity to demonstrate your excellent customer service with prompt assistance, but this personal data (special dietary requirements, anniversary, and interest in your property’s dining facilities) represents an opportunity to offer true personalization of the guest experience and should absolutely be saved in Harriet’s profile for future reference.

Not all guests reach out on their own accord before their stay, but your property can actively seek profile data through automated pre-arrival emails or messaging generated from your PMS or customer relationship management software (CRM). In addition to reminding customers about their upcoming stay and providing helpful information about hotel amenities and local attractions, pre-arrival communications can offer upsells (room upgrades and ancillary services), and invite customers to contact your property with any questions or requests.

Your PMS is key to ensuring Harriet’s room is ready on time too. Housekeeping scheduling relies on check-in and check-out data, and room preparation requirements are determined by folio information such as number of guests and special requests. For maximum efficiency, most PMS automatically share pertinent reservation data with the housekeeping department via a housekeeping report, which also allows cleaning staff to update room status in real time. Harriet, your room is ready!

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

>>Arrival. Harriet and her hubby arrive at your property, a little weary from their travel but happy to be there. While you most likely have Harriet’s main contact details (email address, phone number, address) from when she made the booking, now is the chance to confirm the info you have, and politely garner additional details that could help you provide more personalized service. For example, her preferred payment method and her husband’s name. Would they mind providing you with their mobile number, just in case? Are they interested in a discount coupon for the spa next door?

Front desk staff should be on alert for additional profile-worthy information guests volunteer via questions about the property and local area. Harriet’s husband asks where he can get the best cup of coffee in town and his love of coffee should be noted.

In the case of returning guests, your PMS will ensure they don’t go unrecognized and the information in their profile can help hotels enhance their experience, from a warm “welcome back” to a personalized welcome gift waiting in their room.

A bottle of local wine and a hand-written note congratulating them on their anniversary awaits Harriet and her husband when they get to their room, and they Instagram it immediately!

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

>>Occupancy. During Harriet’s stay, numerous interactions and transactions generate data that can be used to personalize her experience and contribute to a broader view of what your guests want.

Harriet and hubby both order vegetarian items from your restaurant’s menu, cocktails and the vegan dessert to share. In addition to recording transactions for reporting purposes—for example, for menu and inventory management—your POS system has conveniently posted the restaurant charge to Harriet’s reservation folio (through an interface with the PMS) and her F&B preferences and price points can also be noted in her profile.

Later that evening, they call down to the front desk for a couple of extra pillows, which are promptly delivered—and Harriet’s preference for extra pillows recorded in her profile to anticipate her needs for future stays.

The following day, Harriet and her husband stop by the front desk on their way out for the day and ask if you have any recommendations for a quick stroll and a good place to have lunch before they head to the museum to check out a temporary exhibition about whales (turns out Harriet loves nature—another valuable fact to note). Knowing they are celebrating their anniversary, you recommend a particularly romantic stroll along the river that leads to a vegetarian café that also serves awesome coffee.

Transaction and profile data collated during occupancy is not only key to providing personalized guest service, but for determining high- and low-demand services and items, pricing, department needs, package design and other operational decisions.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> POS system (with PMS integration)

> CRM (with PMS integration)

>>Departure and post-departure. It’s time to say goodbye (for now) to Harriet and her husband. With all relevant data at your fingertips, your PMS makes the check-out process a breeze, showing any outstanding charges and generating a check-out receipt that itemizes everything clearly for the guest.

It’s apparent that Harriet and her husband have really enjoyed their stay—wouldn’t it be great if they left a review? If your PMS is integrated with a CRM or reputation management software, your property can politely request guest feedback via completely automated post-stay emails. Modern CRM and reputation management systems can even analyse reviews to identify amenities your guests like and dislike, and help prioritize operational improvements (this is called sentiment analysis).

Post-stay email campaigns designed to bring Harriet and other guests back can be targeted and triggered based on guest profile data, including stay history (dates, rates, room types) and interests.

At the end of the day, all transaction data (check-ins, check-outs, guest charges, payments, etc.) needs to be centralized for an accurate, efficient night-audit too. Your PMS has got it covered.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

Data is key to guest satisfaction and the overall health of your property. At the heart of operations, your PMS automatically captures the data you need to provide great guest service and track your property’s performance through a range of reports. When integrated with your other hotel systems (CRM, RMS, POS, payment gateway, distribution channels, etc.), your PMS becomes part of a powerful data eco-system that shares data between departments in real time, increasing productivity and transparency for more personalized service and more profitable operations.

Data is all around—use the right hotel technology to harness it for success.

WebRezPro PMS currently offers integrations with over 90 hospitality solutions. Check out our Quick Guide to PMS Integration to see how you can make your data work more efficiently for your property.

Everyone Is On Mobile. Why Aren’t You?

What you need to know about adopting a guest messaging platform for your hotel.

***Guest post from Whistle, a WebRezPro partner***

Hotels are in a bit of a technological limbo. We are one of the few industries that still use FAX machines while providing guests with cutting-edge technology like digital keys. In the end, the decision to innovate comes down to the benefits a new service brings to the hotel—the direct impact on guest experience, not how shiny or expensive the new software is. So, what do you, as a hotel, need to consider when bringing on a guest messaging platform?

Your Guests

When guests look for hotels, they’re trying to find the best experience; how far they will be from their destination, what amenities are offered, and more. Guests often need to speak with hotel agents for specific information, but don’t always have the time to wait on hold or dig through your website. Guest Messaging Platforms give guests the ability to send a quick message to your staff, while allowing them to go about their day. The best part is that they don’t have to download another mobile app, they continue messaging your hotel the same way they already message friends and family.

Problem resolution or service recovery is also much simpler with messaging; survey metrics will rise considerably after you start using a messaging system in your hotel. Often, the primary challenge is not the actual resolution of an issue, but rather, those who score your hotel low tend to not report the problems in the first place. With a messaging service in place, it is easy to proactively identify and address any service concerns or guest dissatisfaction, resulting in a positive impact on your scores and loyalty.

Your Staff

Your staff will find that they are able to work more efficiently with messaging services in place. Prior to your guests’ arrival, your team will more accurately plan around given arrival times, work out any logistical barriers, and satisfy any pre-check-in requests, ensuring your guests start their stay on the right note.

Complaints are easier and less stressful to manage now. Your team will have more time to find solutions, and better solutions mean happier guests. Your staff will thank you for having no more angry patrons yelling in the lobby!

Your Revenue

Messaging services will help your team build relationships with your guests and generate more ancillary revenue. By proactively ensuring guest satisfaction, your team will increase the likelihood of guests returning. Your hotel will be presented with more opportunities to keep your current guests happy—and it’s cheaper to keep them happy!

Choosing a Service

What do you need from a messaging service? We suggest reviewing the following:

Price – Fees vary between guest messaging platforms. Look for companies that fit your budget, and watch out for setup/installation costs and hidden fees.

Features – No two guest messaging platforms are the same; find the feature set that matches your needs. Some common questions to ask the provider are:

  • Do you charge for user accounts? 
  • Is there a way to automate messaging?
  • Can we communicate with international travelers?
  • Which third-party systems do you integrate with? 
  • Do you offer a way to verify and collect messaging consent? 
  • Do you offer product training? 
  • What type of analytics or reporting is offered? 

 

Impact – It is very important to find a platform with a proven track record. Ask for case studies, testimonials, references, and online ratings. Make sure your guest messaging platform will yield the highest return in value.

“An overwhelming success for our hotel… we couldn’t be happier.”

“The WebRezPro/Whistle Integration has been an overwhelming success for our hotel.  Beginning within minutes after the customer makes a reservation they receive ‘immediate gratification’ with a welcome SMS message to let them know their reservation is complete.  This helps us quickly establish a direct and personal line of communication with our customers so that we can easily assist them with any of their travel plans. 

As a small, boutique hotel our front desk offers limited hours of availability and now we can clearly communicate reminders about check-in times and guests can easily alert us when/if they plan to arrive beyond our normally scheduled times which allows us to easily alter our schedules accordingly. 

Once a guest checks-in, Whistle quickly delivers answers to commonly asked questions such as Wi-Fi code, etc.  From time to time as information changes we can easily update our canned messages in Whistle without any expensive printing costs or communication delays.  Really, I just can’t say enough about the WebRezPro/Whistle Integration, we couldn’t be happier.”

— Topher Swanson, Co-Owner, The Fred

Whistle

Whistle is the number-one rated Guest Messaging platform. With over 85% of travelers carrying their smartphone, Whistle allows hotels and guests to communicate via SMS Text Messaging and Mobile Messaging pre-, during, and post-stay. Whistle enhances customer service through real-time guest engagement, helping boost service scores while streamlining internal communication and operations through team messaging.

For more information, please visit: www.TryWhistle.com

Sou’wester Historic Lodge & Vintage Trailer Resort

The Sou’wester Historic Lodge & Vintage Trailer Resort is a hodgepodge of accommodation types including suites, cabins, vintage travel trailers, RV spaces and campsites on the Long Beach Peninsula in historic Seaview, Washington. A variety of art and wellness programs are held onsite. The Sou’wester has chosen to use our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how WebRezPro enables the lodge to accept online bookings!

Days End Campground & Cabins

Located in Sturgis, South DakotaDays End Campground & Cabins offers 56 RV and tenting sites and 39 cabins seasonally from mid-April to mid-October. The property is makes an excellent home base when touring Black Hills attractions like Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial. Days End Campground & Cabins 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 our software to accept online bookings!

Hotel Trundle

Hotel Trundle is located in the heart of Columbia, South Carolina‘s Main Street Historic District. This boutique hotel features 41 guest rooms in three historic buildings, each meticulously restored to showcase the beauty of a bygone era through exposed brick, stamped tin ceiling tiles, deep moldings, and custom wood trim. Hotel amenities include complimentary local beer upon check-in, free light local breakfast, a fitness studio and free WiFi. Hotel Trundle has chosen to use our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how WebRezPro enables the hotel to accept online bookings!

Cornerstone Inn & Suites

Located in Oelwein, Iowa, the Cornerstone Inn & Suites is a brand new 32-room hotel that offers modern amenities like complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, a fitness room and a smoke-free atmosphere. This hotel has chosen to use our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. You can see WebRezPro’s integrated web reservation software in action taking online bookings by visiting their website!

Wickiup Cabins

Located 10 minutes west of Lead, South DakotaWickiup Cabins offers rustic and modern cabins that can sleep two to six people depending on the style. All cabins have kitchens and WiFi. This cabin resort has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how WebRezPro’s integrated web reservation software is enabling them to accept online bookings!

Port of Tacoma Inn

The Port of Tacoma Inn is located in Fife, Washington, and offers 93 guest rooms and amenities like free WiFi. The hotel offers easy access to area attractions including the Tacoma Dome. The Port of Tacoma Inn has chosen to use our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Please visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro’s integrated web reservation software to accept online bookings!