Place the same strong emphasis on keeping existing customers as you do on gaining new ones.
Gaining a new customer costs anywhere from five to eight times more than retaining your existing ones, according to estimates. When you consider the cost of advertising, marketing, sales people, etc. to attract new customers, this becomes obvious.
It's also said that 68% of customers will fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is the No. 1 reason businesses lose customers.
Based on these two statistics, it is obvious your business—be it a hotel, B&B or restaurant—needs to place as strong an emphasis on keeping existing customers as it does on gaining new ones. Here are 10 ways to do this:
1. Last impressions. Make sure your guests leave with great lasting impression of their stay with you. Ensure they realise that you appreciate their business. A sincere “thank you” in person goes a long way. Give them a little memento to take home with them as a lasting reminder: a box of homemade truffles, jam or pickles or gift bag of your exclusive toiletries for your leisure guests, or quality logoed accessories for your corporate market. Following this up with a simple personalised thank you note a few days later will not only show your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by, especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them.
2. Keep in touch. Out of sight is out of mind. Even if your guests are only likely to visit you once every 12 months, keep in touch with them for the whole year so that when they come to book again you are firmly fixed in their minds. As part of your outreach, let them know what other activities you have going on. You never just know—it could just tip the balance in favour of them coming to see you for an extra visit. You also can remain on their radar with your presence on social media. Do your homework first and find out the best options to suit your guests.
3. Reward their loyalty with exclusive deals. Make your loyal guests feel special by putting together exclusive packages or deals. This again demonstrates your appreciation of their business, as well as potentially prompting additional bookings. As a loyal guest, the last thing you want to hear about is an offer that’s only available to ‘new’ customers.
4. Understand your guests’ needs. Keep up-to-date with what your guests want by listening to them. Get to know your guests and be visible in your hotel, making personal contact with your guests to build rapport and trust. They are then far more likely to tell you what they want and what would encourage them to return. The more you get to know your guests the easier it is to anticipate their needs, and deliver what they want on a consistent basis to keep them satisfied. Avoid being so bound by your own rules that you can’t be flexible. If a guest wants a lie in and would like breakfast at 11.30, is this really that big a problem if it means they enjoy their stay and tell their friends?
5. Ask for feedback. Never take your regular guests for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve shortfalls quickly. Problems or challenges are often your opportunity to shine and leave a positive lasting impression if dealt with positively. Now’s a chance to exceed expectations. Face-to-face feedback will always win over a comments form or questionnaire. Ask guests what they like and what disappoints them, if anything, so you can learn from this and continually improve. Guests will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. Also ask for their feedback on new ideas or for their recommendations on how things can be improved.
6. Remember them. Address your guests by name. It's really positive when someone remembers your name, especially when you aren't expecting it. And although you may know this regular guest, make sure your staff know them, too. Record their personal details and any special requirements. Do they have any particular likes and dislikes? What is their favourite room? Do they have any particular requirements, such as a late check in? Do we know their birthday or any special anniversaries? Remembering such details will always be appreciated.
7. Get the basics right. Ensure your guests’ second, third or 50th visit is as good as their first. Have systems in place to ensure you're able to deliver the same level of service on a consistent basis. Take the customer journey regularly, and see everything from a guest's perspective. Be sure to under promise and over deliver. With regular guests, this means continuous improvement as they will have set expectations, which we need to strive to exceed on every visit. Simple things delivered well will always be better than trying to be over-sophisticated and delivering it badly.
8. Train your staff. Your staff need to know the level of service that your guests expect. Have the appropriate training, tools and systems in place in order for them to deliver this. Brief your team so that they too can recognise and remember your loyal guests and empower them to deliver what your guests want and expect. In the unfortunate event that your guests have cause to complain, give your staff the training, confidence and authority to deal with complaints promptly. Your recovery of the situation can in itself earn you brownie points.
9. Know your competition. Keep an eye on your competitors, what they are charging, new services they offer, improvements, marketing promotions, etc. Make sure your services are the best value for the money. You do not necessarily have to lower your prices when your competitors do, but make sure your guests know that you are worth the extra money. Stay competitive. But I'm not just talking about other hotels; your guests will compare you with anyone else who delivers a service. So as long as you deliver a 5-star service, you’re going to compare favourably with all of your ‘competition’.
10. Wow your guest. Think of the things that are of high value to your guests but low cost to you so you can give added value. Give people a reason to talk about you. Always look for an opportunity to go that extra mile to wow your guest to make it really difficult for them to ever contemplate not coming back to you. It’s all about giving guests a reason to return.
Caroline Cooper is a business coach with over 25 years’ experience in business and leadership development, and founder of Zeal Coaching, specializing in working with hospitality businesses, and is author of the 'Hotel Success Handbook'. You can download her free report on How to Get more boost sales and get more repeat bookings for your hotel.
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