Engagement After The Fact: How Mobile Technology is Becoming a Hotel's Best Post-Stay Emissary to Maintain the Guest Connection After Checkout

By Vanessa Horwell Founder & Chief Visibility Officer, ThinkInk & TravelInk'd | August 05, 2012

"A good rule to remember is that a guest is always a guest once they have stayed with you and the services you provide."
– Scott Nadel, Chief Operating Officer, DMC Hotels/Dhillon Management.

It may not seem like a profound statement or idea, but it's surprising how so many hotel brands and hoteliers fail to remember and act on this simple piece of advice. At its heart is the optimistic, glass half full notion, that in a perfect scenario, the customer experience never truly ends – not if you're trying to engage guests and keep them loyal. It just evolves into different stages and levels of outreach and engagement. For once a guest leaves your hotel, business and leisure travelers alike often begin planning for their next trip, eager to lock in competitive prices, air travel benefits and potential room upgrades. For guests, barring something unexpected or calamitous, another getaway is always around the corner. And once they turn that proverbial corner, your hotel should be the first one they think of and consider. But it isn't unless you are creating some form of continued engagement after they've checked out of your property.

The Start of Something Beautiful

In the last few years, mobile technology in the form of feature phones, smartphones and tablets have gone far to reinvent and re-imagine the continuing customer experience. While much has been written about mobile's pre-stay and in-stay possibilities, including mobile booking, mobile checkout and a host of in-room and on-site hotel amenities, the post-stay experience has been largely ignored or thrown in as a last-paragraph addendum. But connecting with a guest after the bellhop has delivered bags and the bill paid is equally important and should be considered not the last step in a transaction, but the first step in a future stay. Think of it is as the start of a long, meaningful relationship – if done properly.

Restaurants and Mom'n' Pop stores are often fond of hanging from their doors vintage red and white signs that read, "Please come again soon" or "Thank you for your business." But for hotels looking to maximize mobile, turning the medium into the ultimate post-stay emissary, "please come again soon" shouldn't be a siloed request – it should be an expectation that is carefully and non-intrusively cultivated. In other words, mobile can (and should) be a privacy-respecting approach that entices, not enrages and can include follow-up emails, Twitter and Facebook interaction, digital surveys, future deals and discounts, as well as providing the transparency for open guest dialogue, and the granting of reviews, whether they're positive or negative.

There's no getting around the fact that we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me lately culture. Failure to connect with a guest via mobile following their stay is like saying a brand doesn't care. In these still-uncertain economic times, hoteliers would be wise to avoid that perception at all costs.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.