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7 ways to turn an OTA guest into a future loyal customer

While hotels spend a great deal of time trying to attract new customers, retaining those they already have is arguably worthy of greater attention.

Most marketers are aware of the fact that acquiring a new customer can cost anywhere between 5-10 times more than keeping hold of a new one. Studies have also found that repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers.

So when a guest books with your hotel via an OTA, doing everything you can to earn their future business simply makes good business sense. With that in mind, here are six retention tips to help incentivize those all-important repeat bookings.

1. Get to know your guests by name

While it might seem a small thing, training your staff to build a by-name relationship with guests can play an important role in developing rapport. Most guests will be accustomed to being addressed with a generic “sir” or “madam,” so the simply act of remembering their name will act as a nice surprise.

Remembering a person’s name also demonstrates an attentiveness to detail and can lead to you being perceived as more competent.

To extend this personalized approach, your front desk manager could also hand their card to guests at check-out with a note to contact them directly if they stay again. This simple gesture is yet another easy way to make a person feel truly valued instead of just another customer.

2. Surprise and delight your guests

Hotel loyalty tips

Often, it’s the unexpected gestures that make a guest’s stay truly memorable—the added perks and extras they never saw coming. If you can find a way to surprise or delight a guest during their stay, you’ll instantly make their time with you feel extra special.

On special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries, you could offer a room upgrade, a free bottle of Champagne with an evening meal, or a luxury treatment at your spa. But for a real surprise, you might want to make these kind of treats completely random.

Freebies and extras don’t have to be extravagant. You could do something as simple as offer guests a complimentary coffee with their wake-up call, or leave a fruit basket or box of chocolates in their room while they’re out. Sometimes, even the smallest gestures can have a big impact.

3. Capture emails and contact information

OTAs are highly protective of customer data and commonly limit hotels from directly communicating and marketing to guests after an initial booking. But a hotel can usually market to that guest in the future, as long as they remember to capture their email and contact details in the first place.

Making sure this happens during a guest’s stay is crucial. It means you can keep in contact with them throughout the year—maintaining brand visibility, building rapport, and tempting them to rebook with special offers and tailored deals.

If you forget to capture this crucial piece of information, you effectively forfeit the opportunity to influence future decision-making. In the worst case scenario, they end up going back to the OTA to book your same hotel again!

4. Ask for feedback

Asking for feedback shows your guests you value their thoughts and care about their experience. But it can also help you refine your customer service and increase the chances of getting their repeat business in future.

By asking for broad feedback on things like your concierge service, staff friendliness and comfort of your beds, you’ll learn about your strengths and identify areas that need improvement. Engaging on social media is also a great way to learn about your guests preferences. By understanding what drives their behavior, you can then tailor your future marketing efforts to increase effectiveness.

Encouraging guests to leave a review on TripAdvisor—and then acknowledging their review— is also an easy way to demonstrate attentive customer service. Recent studies have also shown this practice can lead to a rise in revenue when used strategically.

5. Get to know your guests

The more time you spend getting to know your guests, the more you’ll naturally strengthen your relationship with them. And by getting to know them a little better, you can begin offering personal suggestions to make their stay as memorable as possible.

When a guest walks into the lobby, ask if they have any plans for the day. Start to get a sense of the kind of local experiences or activities that might interest them. Perhaps there’s an art exhibition in town you know they’ll love. Or a nature trail they might be keen to explore.  By spending time with your guests, you’ll be able to make tailored recommendations that are truly appreciated.

Just be sure to keep track of these preferences as you go—your PMS or guest CRM system will help you with that. This information will prove invaluable for future marketing emails by allowing you to craft more personalized content.

6. Focus on service recovery

While complaints and service issues are inevitable, the way you respond to them can have a major impact on overall customer satisfaction.

According to the service recovery paradox, customers can end up feeling more favorably about a company if a service issue is successfully resolved than if they never experienced a service failure in the first place.  So in fact, dealing effectively with a customer complaint could potentially prove one of the reasons they choose to rebook with you.

It’s also important to treat every complaint with equal importance. Whether a problem is big or small, the fact that a guest has raised an issue with you means they consider it significant. While a slow or unsatisfactory resolution could lose their business for good, a fast response and an offer of compensation for any notable trouble caused could change a guest’s entire perspective of their experience with you.

7. Remind them to book direct on their next stay

When OTAs first began their partnership with hotels, the main selling point to hotels was that OTAs could greatly reduce the cost of acquisition for new guests. In many ways, that’s true—a 15-25% commission fee on a customer that had previously never heard of you is not completely unfair.

The problem comes if that same guest books your hotel again on an OTA. The onus is on the hotel to remind current OTA guests of the benefits of booking direct on their next stay.

Train the staff to remind guests during checkout that their business is greatly appreciated and that booking directly next time can earn them perks or other goodies. Follow up later with direct email or mail campaigns with specific direct booking offers targeted to these guests.

The value of repeat business

Loyal customers can end up being customers for life. The cost and energy involved in earning their repeat business is also significantly less than trying to attract new guests. For those reasons, it simply makes sense to do everything in your power to incentivize repeat bookings at every opportunity.

OTAs can never compete with your ability to develop personal relationships, so by simply getting to know your guests and making them feel welcome, you’ll instantly be better placed to learn about their preferences, build rapport and earn their long-term loyalty.

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