5 Ways Hotels are Screwing Up Guest Engagement: How You Can Get it Right

You’d think guest engagement wouldn’t be all that difficult.

They’re guests, after all. They’ve already sold enough on your brand to have booked a room. Now you just need to hang on to them, ping them with the right messages at the right time, and the rest just takes care of itself, right?

If that were really the case, hotels would own more of the guest relationship than they currently do. Guests who had stayed with them before wouldn’t be booking through an OTA for their second or third or fourth stay. There wouldn’t be such a growing demand for engagement solutions. And, more than a quarter of the population would consider themselves loyal to a brand.

Guest engagement really isn’t all that complicated. At its core, it’s the act of keeping a hotel brand in front of someone on a consistent basis in a way that adds meaningful value to the relationship.

What’s so hard about engaging guests who are already convinced enough about you to have made an initial booking?

In my view, these are the five big mistakes hotels make in their relationships with their guests.

1. They sell when they should give

Pop open your email inbox right now, and most of what you’ll open is designed to convince you to buy more stuff.

Engaging? Only if you’re ready to buy and the email is pushing something you’re interested in.

There are times when it’s appropriate to make a sale. But, positive guest engagement is built by adding value to the relationship. The companies that enjoy the highest customer engagement tend to offer information that makes their customers’ lives better or easier.

Imagine being at a party and striking up a conversation with a car salesman. Which is fine, of course; you’re OK with car salespeople. Except it seems this person can only talk about selling you a car right now.

You put forth a good effort, bringing up different topics and asking him questions about the weather or his hobbies, but he’s not giving up the sales pitch, even in a social context when you’re not interested in buying a car right this second.

Not only this, but he’s trying to sell you a two-seat sports car. You try to say, “That sounds great, but I have twin infants. Where will I put the carseats?” But, this falls on deaf ears. Not only does he refuse to understand that you’re not interested in buying a car right this second, he also refuses to understand that he’s trying to sell you on the wrong product.

You? You’re going to escape the conversation the first chance you get and avoid future encounters with that guy.

That is the same approach many hotel brands take. They don’t communicate to their customers other than to ask them to buy right this second, and they blast the same offer to their entire database. This is a great way to alienate your guests and fail in building a strong brand relationship.

Many hotel brands today are doing it this way…except the smart ones. The smart brands know how to interact and add value to a dialogue. They respond to new information about a customer, and they are proactive about communicating in a way that adds value to the relationship.

You know…like good friends do.

2. They assume their product is enough

Follow every purchase with a next step, with this question in mind: What’s the most important thing someone can do to get the best experience from your hotel’s services or brand?

For example, when you sign up for Twitter, the service suggests people for you to follow. Twitter knows you’re more likely to keep using it if you can read tweets from your favorite athletes or celebrities. Amazon does the same thing, by suggesting products you might be interested based on your search and purchase history.

An Accenture survey found that 81% of people say it’s frustrating to deal with a company that doesn’t make doing business with it easy.

So make it easy by holding your guest’s hand, guiding them directly into the best possible experience they can have. How? Create segments of your guest database based on things your guests have in common and send emails targeted to their specific wants and needs. Our customers have seen great success with segmenting based on whether the guest previously booked directly or booked through an OTA. You can also segment based on whether the guest stayed with you on business or with a family, whether the guest lives within driving distance of the hotel or they’d have to book a flight to get there.

These are just some examples. But, tailoring your messaging with an “if you liked this, than you might also like this” type of messaging shows your guests that you pay attention to what their wants and needs are, and are interested in providing products and services that are valuable to them, personally.

3. They don’t really try

If we look at the big picture, most brand interactions are perfectly fine. A few are great. And a few are terrible. On the whole, we’re mostly OK with the things we buy and the brand interactions we have.

So why do just 22% of people consider themselves brand-loyal?

Because a lot of brands don’t put in the effort to engage.

Why didn’t they ask customers to sign up for their email newsletter, follow them on Instagram, or review them on TripAdvisor?

People are rarely more pleased with a business than when they make that initial purchase. Why not formalize the relationship and try to earn a second date?

Your email database, online reviews, and even social media connections provide the foundation for building ongoing relationships.

The bigger point is to do something. Don’t just let your future loyal customers walk out the door without some way of bringing them back.

4. They abuse their privileges

Many brands associate customer engagement with sending emails every day or constantly tweeting out the latest offering or service. But what matters most is being present at the right time—not all the time.

Granted, timing is a delicate art. You can get away with frequent tweets because the lifespan of a tweet is so short. Email and Facebook posts need to be far less frequent, however.

My rule is this: When you’re really adding value, frequency is irrelevant. Consistency helps, but value trumps all because you’ll be top of mind when people need something you offer.

For example, we need a plumber when our pipes are clogged. Plumbing help isn’t an ongoing, everyday need, so we don’t need to constantly hear from a plumber. But a plumber is most likely to get the call when the need arises if that plumber has dropped a line here and there, or sent over a helpful video about how to get wads of hair out a sink.

In the same way, most people aren’t constantly looking to book a hotel room. But, when they are ready to book, your brand needs to be the first one that comes to mind.

And that’s the goal of customer engagement. Building enough of a relationship so that you get the call when the need arises.

5. They keep all their secrets

Many restaurants won’t share their secret recipes. Would doing so hurt the business? The reality is, probably not. Because the restaurant would still make a better product, and provide a better experience, than 99.9% of the population could replicate at home.

The truth is that most businesses’ secret sauce isn’t that big a secret. Why are mechanics still getting paid when you can find just about every automotive repair tutorial on YouTube for free?

When your customers book a hotel, they do so in large part because they want the experience your brand has to offer. So open up a bit, share some of your expertise and remind your guests of the experience you have to offer. Turn your customers into semi-pros at what you do. But deliver an experience so good they’ll pay you to do it anyway.

Share how people are doing things with your product you hadn’t planned on, or connect new customers to an online forum of their peers. For example, film a quick YouTube or Instagram tutorial of your executive chef making one of the top dishes at your hotel’s restaurant. Have your brand’s designer talk about the thought process behind picking specific pieces of furniture for the rooms, from the perspective of teaching design philosophy.

Encourage mastery and expertise. Peel back the curtain a bit and let people connect with the brand and the company. It’s the best way to build long-term trust.

The common thread is relationships, not marketing

If there’s a common thread to all of these engagement mistakes it’s that brands aren’t exactly treating people like people.

Engagement is all about relationships. Most great relationships aren’t built by keeping secrets or selling things to each other. Relationships are about belonging to your customers’ tribe and adding value that makes their lives better and easier.

I like to say that our goal as marketers is to reach the point where communications don’t feel like marketing anymore, where each interaction provides value to the recipient. Every brand can do that, whether it’s offering online accounting software, peddling beaded jewelry at the local farmers market, or, offering a guest a place to stay during their business trip.

The advantage for you is that most hotels aren’t engaging in this manner today. Hotels need to realize that a booking is the beginning of the relationship. Treat it as an opportunity to keep the conversation going, and you’ll already be far ahead what everyone else is doing.

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