Chapter 5 explores how focusing on the overall guest experience can help to improve loyalty and create opportunities for guest advocacy.
Chapter 5
Improving, personalizing, and extending interactions with guests
Making good use of the guest experience
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Hotels, let’s get personal
Refocus on the guest experience
We’ve covered a lot in the last four chapters of this e-course. (If you need a refresher, check out the links to the other chapters below.) We’re wrapping up with a look at how hotels can better use one of their greatest assets: the guest experience.
Man on a laptop
Pre and post-stay engagement are often underutilized or overlooked.
Hotels have near full control of the guest experience while the guest is on property, and even some degree during pre- and post-stay. Strangely enough, many do little during these bookend phases to take advantage of a captive audience.
This is even more critical point as loads of survey data and loyalty member feedback has told us over the past few years that experiences drive true loyalty. In this chapter, let’s explore how focusing on the overall guest experience can help to improve loyalty and create opportunities for guest advocacy.
The stats to prove it
A white-paper published recently by Verint revealed that 30% of people claim that companies that acknowledge the consumer’s history and needs improve their overall experience.
61% of people would tell friends and family if they received exceptional service from a brand.
It also showed that 61% of people would tell friends and family if they received exceptional service from a brand and 27% would go on to enroll in that brand’s loyalty program.
Google’s 2014 Traveler Road to Decision study showed us that 67% are open to trying a new loyalty program if it provides a new, different, or unique experience.
In this course, we’ve already established that there’s strong justification for creating and strengthening unique and outstanding experiences for your guests. The challenge comes in getting started—and it starts with knowing your guests.
Our friends from Spring Engage look at personalization as a chance to maximize the guest experience. It’s crucial to begin building the relationship before the guest ever books and that starts with site data.
Key site data includes:
  1. Referring source - Where the guest is originating from should steer your message. For instance, if the guest came from a third-party review site, she can be greeted with reviews from prior guests.
  2. Visit number - Prospects who’ve visited the site between 4-5 times have very likely narrowed down their decision and could use a push to book during this visit.
  3. Landing / hitting pages - Similar to a referring source, where the guest lands tells you more about their interests and what features could influence a booking.
  4. Geolocation - Someone booking from a foreign country may be more interested in events in the area whereas someone just a short drive away may be interested in a quick getaway.
San Francisco Friends
Hotels can learn a lot about the demographics and interests of their guest's friends and family through advocacy.
This data can then be combined with what you’ve learned from your advocacy strategy.
We’ve shown that people are connected with like-minded individuals through social media. Once someone becomes an advocate and they share their experiences with their network, you can begin to draw inferences about what motivates those people to travel. Pulling these different data sources together helps to create a much more complete profile of the guest.
The added benefit of incorporating advocacy into this is that you’re able to get information otherwise unavailable to you but in a way that doesn’t feel awkward.
By inviting your guests to spread the word about your property you actually let them start handling some of the segmentation for you, along with the distribution.
They’re hitting your target audience with your message, through a platform that has massive reach and is consumed multiple times throughout the day. The responsibility for putting that advocacy to work in other areas still rests with the hotel, but your advocates are giving you a massive jump start.
Listening: the new direct channel
An interesting approach I’ve seen emerge recently by loyalty program providers is in-person, good ‘ole face-to-face interaction. (I know—hospitality, right?)
Stash Hotel Rewards hosts listening sessions in which they invite members from different regions to join them in a casual setting and help craft the future of the program. It’s conversational, and they ask things like:
  • What’s working with the program and what isn’t?
  • What new ideas do you have?
  • What do you expect from a hotel and what anxieties do you have when you travel?
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'Ole fashion face-to-face interaction with guests is powerful way to build brand loyalty.
That last question is particularly interesting because they’re actually looking at ways to improve the overall travel experience and not just the hotel stay. That’s engagement!
In addition to this their members are asked open-ended questions at sign-up like: What is your favorite hotel service or amenity?
For the same reasons, has been hosting customer VIP events around the world. If OTAs are already doing this, it’s absolutely crucial you step up your personalization game. If you do, it’ll help earn guest’s direct business next time they’re in your market.
A fresh look at your loyalty program goals
I’m going to propose here that what we’re ultimately doing is less about building your loyalty program and more about how your loyalty program helps you create lifelong brand loyalists. It sounds redundant, but I’ll explain.
As we’ve seen in prior chapters, the loyalty program is typically viewed as a silo for your best customers. You want them to be members because the benefits that come with membership mean they’ll never book elsewhere.
Understanding what the guest wants and then incorporating that into your messaging is key to building true, long-term loyalty.
What I propose is that the program itself is instead a device to aid you in crafting a guest experience so meaningful and appropriate for a guest that they have no incentive to book elsewhere.
This means looking at it less as an endpoint and more as a means to an end. It’s a method for you to learn more about your guests and to communicate with them in the best possible way. Embrace it as part of your strategy to build a meaningful relationship with your guests.
Research shows us that program benefits are no substitute for the factors that have the biggest impact on travel decisions: room quality, location, and price. In fact, nearly 60% of leisure travelers didn’t even redeem any points in the last year.
Oceanfront View
Know what your guests actually care about and then build those into your messaging.
Understanding what the guest wants and then incorporating that into your messaging is key to building true, long-term loyalty.
This isn’t to say loyalty benefits should go unmentioned. It’s still very important to mention and reinforce those as well.
A recent PwC study found that for the millennial and business traveler segments, the second most valuable redemption option is a room upgrade. Free nights trumped everything but hey, it’s hard to beat free. This tells us the experience is hugely impactful for the guest.
In that same study, travelers said loyalty is more about the hotel meeting their preferences and the service delivered than anything else. Stash received similar feedback from its members when asking similar questions. They want more room type redemption options and more ways to earn points besides hotel stays. This screams “experiences”.
The cycle of engagement
For hotels, this all means they need to do a better job at using interactions with guests to make a deeper connection.
Advocacy is a remarkable tool for accomplishing this. Starting at pre-arrival, encourage your guests to share an upcoming trip over social media creates a unique opportunity for you to engage the guest in conversation.
A simple “Thank you, we look forward to taking care of you!” over Twitter can go a very long way. It lets the guest know you’re paying attention to her and that you genuinely care. The same can be done after the guest checks out.
If you’re inviting your guests to share their experience, you extend the interaction with the guest beyond the physical confines of the hotel. Just because the guest checks out, doesn’t mean you should too!
A shared photo from the guest’s stay is a memory that person will cherish of an experience you helped create. Post-stay has almost been relegated to a mandatory transactional interaction that’s flat and boring. Surveys are certainly helpful, but why not inject personality into that aspect of the guest experience as well?
Post-stay engagement can also aid you in segmenting your audience. You can learn a great deal from a guest by their visual story. This information can then be used to communicate with anyone that guest has brought to you as a result of her advocacy. And as we saw in chapter 4, it’s hugely helpful in your content marketing strategy as well.
Did they submit a great photo of the family on the beach? There’s a good chance they’re connected with other families via Facebook, Twitter, and others. That’s an immensely valuable insight when crafting communication to those potential future guests.
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Know someone that might be interested?
Share the knowledge with your colleagues and start the conversation.
Action items
  • Take time to dissect your points of guest interaction and be honest about your goals with each. Do they complement each other? Are they doing the most they can do to enhance the guest experience?
  • Look at your data sources and determine where the information is that you need and where you would like for it to be. Do you have a CRM? Now might be a good time to consider bringing one aboard.
  • Assess your loyalty program’s benefits and how it’s positioned in your overall strategy. If you subscribe to my approach here, you’ll want to treat it as a means to learning more about your guests and less about it being the end goal.
  • Taking all of these points into consideration, look at where and how an advocacy campaign can complement each and give you better insight into your guest demographics.
A look back
Feeling like you missed something?
  1. Expand Guest Loyalty Through Personalization
  2. The 2014 Traveler's Road to Decision
  3. What’s driving customer loyalty for today’s hotel brands?
  4. New Rules for Customer Engagement
  5. on does Loyalty in travel still exist?
  6. Social Advocacy and Its Impact on Loyalty
  7. The Grand Wanderluster: A new perspective for the modern day travel reward programme
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Richard Dunbar
Director of Partnerships

Hi [firstname,fallback=there]—Richard here from I’ve been in the hospitality space for over 15 years, including many at one of the largest providers of independent loyalty reward programs worldwide. After picking up my fair share on loyalty, I’ve been able to put it all together with revenue management, e-commerce, and now advocacy. Have thoughts about the e-course? Let me know!
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