Have you ever heard yourself saying, “Keep in touch?” When we leave a job or make friends on a vacation, often we come out with a remark such as this, while in the back of our minds we’re thinking we are unlikely to see or speak to these people ever again.
But can we afford to do this when it comes to our valued customers? We’ve worked so hard to get them in the first place, so surely we want to do everything we can to get them back. Simply saying, “I hope to see you again soon,” is not enough. Hoping or wishing those customers to return needs some action on our part to make it a reality.
Keeping in touch is a great way to build the relationship with your customers, so they keep you in mind when the time comes for a return visit or if they’re asked to make a recommendation.
How you keep in touch will be dependent on the type of business you have and the messages you want to convey. Obviously, email is the cheapest and easiest option, but if you have an audience who are less tech savvy (someone like my father comes to mind who has never had a computer let alone an email address), then a physical mailing or phone call may be a better option. And let’s be honest here, how many emails get deleted before being opened these days, so it’s not always the most reliable format. A hard-copy mailing with a hand-written envelope, a small gift or something quirky will get someone’s attention far more effectively than 10 emails.
No matter the form of communication, the important thing is to keep in touch and not just to bombard people with offers they are not interested in.
Build rapport and build a sense of anticipation
Before your guests arrive, start to build the relationship with them, getting them excited about their visit. Let them know in advance what they can be doing to make the best of their time with you. Offer your help in booking restaurants, entertainment, outings, taxis—anything that will make their stay with you memorable.
Introduce your future guests to the team. Let your head chef describe the menu or his or her signature dish, have one of your local team members make personal recommendations of places to see or things to do, have your gardener talk about what’s in bloom. All of these things will whet their appetite for their stay with you.
Pass on useful (and, most importantly, up-to-date) information that will enable a smooth journey: forewarn of expected traffic delays, give descriptions of the quickest and/or cheapest way to get from the airport or railway station, or personalize driving directions from their home zip code to your hotel.
Act like a travel company and give tips on what to bring and what you provide, so they don’t have to overload their suitcase with unnecessary toiletries, clothing, sports gear or travel books.
Say thank you
The quickest and easiest way to create an impression and get remembered by your guests after their stay is to send a thank-you note. A handwritten and personalized card or note will win hands down over an automated email.
Show you appreciate your guests by making reference to the rest of their vacation or something they mentioned during their stay. And one of the easiest ways to show your appreciation is with a small gift of some kind. This might be an exclusive offer or deal for them or a friend, a memento from their stay or some useful information or tips.
A follow-up thank you is a great opportunity to get feedback, too. If you know your guests enjoyed their stay, prompt them to write a review on TripAdvisor or Google Reviews, and make it easy for them by providing a link. Direct feedback is helpful. Ask what they enjoyed most and any ideas, comments or suggestions they have to enhance their stay next time.
Educate and build credibility
Depending on the nature of your target market you could use your mailing list to engage with your guests by sharing your knowledge.
For example, ask your head chef to provide a recipe of the month, tips on baking the perfect meringue or bread, a guide to choosing fresh fish based on what is in or anything related to your menu.
If you have a golf course, you might share tips on the latest equipment or techniques to hone your guests’ swing.
If you have a spa, ask your spa team to share information on relaxation techniques, aromatherapy remedies, tips for the perfect pedicure, skin care regimens, etc.
Ask housekeeping for tips on stain removal, cleaning household items such as glass, leather, silk etc.
If you are a wedding venue, ask any of your joint-venture partners or preferred suppliers such as florists, photographers, limousine services, etc., for their top tips.
Last but not least, keeping in touch with your guests is an ideal opportunity to keep them up to date with what’s going on. Yes, this will include forthcoming events and promotions, but it’s not just about this. No one wants to be bombarded with sell, sell, sell emails. You’ll soon get unsubscribes from your list if you do this. Create a sense of intrigue and curiosity. Tell them about your plans, changes you’re making (e.g. progress reports on refurbishments), what’s new (e.g. your new menu, new toiletries, treatments or services). You then have a reason to invite them back or make an offer.
Don’t be afraid to tell people what they’ve missed or your success stories. These also provide a great opportunity to share photos and testimonials, which all help build credibility. Maybe they missed it this time, but now they can see for themselves what they’ve missed out on, and it will be a lot easier to get their attention next time.
So don’t leave a return visit or referral to chance. Ensure you’re keeping yourself in your guests’ minds, and keep in touch.
Caroline Cooper is a business coach with over 26 years experience in hospitality. She is the founder of Zeal Coaching, specialising in working with hospitality and leisure businesses, helping them get more of the customers they love, and is author of the Hotel Success Handbook. For more information and articles from Zeal Coaching see http://www.zealcoaching.com/products-resources/
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