Alex Cass realized his future was in hospitality when he was eight years old. On a family holiday to Massachusetts, visiting the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Cambridge, he watched as the hotel manager greeted his family by name. It's this kind of attention to detail that makes the hospitality industry so special - and, according to Alex, it's crucial that this personal touch isn't lost.
At this year's Direct Booking Summit in San Diego, Alex spoke on the methods he uses as General Manager of the Carousel Beach Inn to improve the experience of his guests, from before they've booked to after they've finished their holiday. Read on for the key learnings from Alex's talk, which will help your hotel stand out while increasing your rate of both direct bookings and repeat bookers.
1. Make calling easy
When customers are selecting a hotel they face a huge number of choices and potential distractions. It's therefore essential that hoteliers reduce friction in their own booking flow, and make the process as smooth as possible. One place to start is your reservations phone line. Calling your own hotel is the easiest way to find out how user-friendly your phone line is. Alex describes how carrying out this experiment led him to cut his greeting message to 15 seconds and to reduce the number of options callers would have to choose before they reached a human voice.
Alex also recommends linking a hotel's voicemail system to an email address, which means that calls can be returned immediately and that potential direct bookers aren't lost. If staffing issues are making it difficult to man the phones, having an automated chat tool on your website is another way of making sure customer inquiries are answered straight away.
2. Simplify your website
Cart abandonment is when customers exit your website midway through booking. According to our in-house data, this occurs at a rate of around 90% in the hospitality industry, which is significantly higher than in other e-commerce sectors.
This means that anything that makes life easier for people booking online is crucial. Similarly to calling your own phone line, try booking a stay at your hotel on your website. Ask yourself, how easy is it to find out information about your hotel? Is your landing page overcrowded? How many clicks does it take before you can book a room? Encourage potential guests to book a room by making the process as simple as possible.
It's also worth checking whether you offer too many packages or rate plans. To prevent potential guests from dropping out due to decision fatigue, it could be effective to strip back the choices to just your most popular options.
3. A 'lobby lizard' can help your guests feel welcome and valued
'Lobby lizard' is an industry phrase for a hotel staff member who stays in the lobby, helping guests check-in and check-out during busy time periods. Having a lobby lizard at your hotel is a simple way of making sure guests feel looked after. The memory of being greeted in the lobby of Hyatt Regency Hotel has endured in Alex's mind, showing how such a small effort can create a long-lasting impression for your guests.
4. Make sure pets get a welcome too!
Every time the Carousel Beach Inn receives a pet-friendly booking, the team will then call this guest and find out the name of the pet. While the guest might think they're engaging in small talk, this information is recorded. When the guest arrives, whether this is the next week or nine months later, their pet will be greeted with a personal welcome.
Alex suggests a welcome sign with the pet's name or a named water bowl with treats - but do what works for your hotel! This is your chance to get creative. Guests will often take selfies with the welcome sign or photos of their dogs eating the treats. This has the double impact of providing a great guest experience while also receiving the best kind of free promotion - customer-generated content.
5. Be responsive after guests have left
Alex emphasized the importance of providing a great experience even after guests have left the hotel. If you receive a review online, always reply with a personalized response instead of with a cut and pasted message.
Potential guests often check reviews, so this attention to detail will have the effect of humanizing your hotel for other customers who are still deciding whether or not to book. Additionally, you should remind guests that if they want to stay again in the future, they'll find the best price booking direct.
6. Reach out to guests who've cancelled
Reaching out to guests who've cancelled is a great way to create relationships with people, even if they haven't been able to stay at your hotel. Alex recommends calling them, finding out the reason for their cancellation, and then creating a profile with this information. If these guests call to book in the future, you'll be able to mention these details and make them feel valued and remembered. This also applies to guests who've booked through an OTA; follow up with them personally and recommend that they book direct next time in order to get the best price.
Why this matters now
At the Direct Booking Summit, Alex reflected on the way COVID-19 has isolated the guests from hoteliers. Guests can arrive, pick up their room key, stay for a week and leave without ever having a conversation with a member of the hotel's staff. Therefore, it's essential that in this climate, hoteliers take every opportunity to make guests feel special and make their stays memorable. These simple ways of improving the experience at your hotel are invaluable in creating lasting memories for your guest. That in turn means more returning customers and increased direct bookings for your business.
If you're looking for ways to personalize and improve the guest experience for your customers, get in touch with the Triptease team today to find out more about how we can support your direct booking strategy.