How to manage high occupancy rates and build better guest loyalty programs

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Red sign showing high occupancy at a hotel

Hotels spend a vast amount of time trying to procure more bookings and increase their occupancy rates. So what if you’re really good at distributing your rooms or the market is currently very strong and your hotel gets full? What should you be doing in that situation?

You need to take advantage of your full house and work on building a strong guest loyalty program that will keep guests coming back.

The United States is currently experiencing its highest occupancy rates in at least a generation. It’s been over 30 years since they were as high as they are now, with more than two-thirds of the nation’s hotel rooms occupied through July 2016.

Operating a hotel at capacity is not only great for revenue, but it provides some great opportunities to gain insight from customers about how you can improve the guest experience, and you can also build your loyal customer base by introducing specific and unique rewards programs.

Designing surveys to improve guest experience and hotel reputation

Receiving and managing feedback is essential for learning how you can improve the operation and desirability of your hotel. There’s no better time to focus on gaining this valuable data than when you have a hotel full of guests.

Designing your own surveys and encouraging customer reviews on travel sites are two of the biggest tools you can use to keep bookings coming in. In this day and age, the ability to continually provide excellent service is only bested by whether people are telling other travellers you’re providing a great experience.

Research tells us 76% of travellers are willing to pay more for a hotel with better reviews. Click to Tweet

Giving your guests a survey to fill out during or post-stay is a great way to gather data and reiterate to them what a fantastic time they had. That way, if they decide to post online reviews, their positive thoughts will already be formulated.

Tips for developing your surveys:

  • Make a concerted effort to plan the survey thoroughly and provide engaging questions
  • Be more time-sensitive by giving out on-site and post-stay feedback forms
  • Research your hotel’s reviews beforehand so you know what to focus on and see if you have improved
  • Keep them short and restrict long-form questions. Typically, a customer would not want to spend any longer than five minutes on a survey
  • Stick to using checkbox and rating answer options, with some short free text if necessary
  • Start broad and simple to give your respondents encouragement before moving onto more specific topics

If the process of designing surveys and creating unique hotel loyalty systems seems too involved or time-consuming it doesn’t all have to be on your shoulders. If need be, you can employ the help of a customer relationship management (CRM) group to help.

Either way, strengthening your customer relationship is vital for the continued success of your hotel.

How to build effective loyalty programs

When you manage to sell out your hotel you want to make sure all the guests enjoy themselves and choose you when they travel again. This means working hard to earn their loyalty.

There’s a general consensus that loyalty programs are dying and not worth pursuing because they don’t work. However, this is due to a lack of originality and personalisation from hotels. Most loyalty programs are run by large chains and simply offer a points rewards system that is uninspiring for most guests.

A study found that most members of programs aren’t very active and that activity declines around 2.5% annually. Despite this, loyalty programs as a concept are actually quite effective and more than a third of travellers still believe they are useful for saving money or gaining added value. If hotels get it right, there is life left in loyalty programs yet!

Tips for guest loyalty programs:

  • Try to personalise your rewards system as much as possible so your members feel like an individual
  • If using a points system, make sure there is a diverse range of awards to choose from so your members won’t be bored or put off
  • Make member exclusive offers outside of the normal program
  • Create relevant and desirable rewards strategies rather than generic or formulaic plans (try to steer clear of the standard points system)
  • Maintain contact with your members. Regularly use one-click emails and constantly give them ways to maximise their participation in the program
  • Make the claim or redemption process as simple and quick as possible

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