According to a recent consumer survey, hotels are among the most likely businesses to get word-of-mouth recommendations, only few percentage points behind restaurants and doctors. Therefore, it’s essential that your hotel distribution strategy takes every opportunity to maximize word-of-mouth referrals.
These days it isn’t enough to wait for your (hopefully satisfied) client to eventually find themselves in a situation to share their positive experience with someone else in person. It means giving the client incentives to make that referral before their event is over—sometimes even before the sale is closed. It means diving headfirst into the fast-moving world of the Internet to interact with past and future customers who are leaving a trail of comments about your hotel all over the web.
What are the steps you can take to make word-of-mouth business perhaps the most important tool in your hotel distribution strategy?
- Offer top-notch service, without fail.
Train your staff to make eye contact and greet everyone who walks through the hotel door. Engage the services of a CRO (central reservations office) voice service to cover the phone so your front desk personnel don’t have to turn away from a customer to answer a call.
When a wedding, business meeting, or other event is under way at your hotel, make sure your on-staff event planner is accessible and poised to handle any questions or problems, and to go above and beyond the customer’s expectations in solving them.
- Provide good value for the customer’s dollar.
Among the top reasons a customer recommends your hotel for someone else’s event, right up there with professional service, is a good price or special deal that closed the sale. Offering a coupon or a special deal for those who come to your hotel based on a past customer’s referral will help build a loyal following.
- A little thanks goes a long way.
Never underestimate the power of five little words: “Thank you for your business.” A smile and thanks should be the last impression a departing guest gets of your establishment. After a wedding event or business meeting, a follow-up letter is a nice touch, especially when accompanied by a customer satisfaction survey.
- Interact on the Internet.
As part of your hotel marketing strategy, you probably have a presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Don’t just set these up, post occasionally, and ignore them. Check frequently—at least once a day—to respond to comments, questions, and “re-tweets.” Post exclusive social media deals and encourage fans to hit the “share” button.
Never, ever respond to negative online reviews with more negativity. Remember you’re in a public arena and online posts are forever. A sincere apology and an offer to make it right will be more likely to win over dissatisfied customers and shows a professional face to those you hope to have as future customers.
- Yelp travels!
Encourage customers to talk up their experience with your hotel on high-profile review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. It’s a good idea to start a channel for your hotel, and link to increasingly popular video reviews that customers upload.
Find out who the top travel bloggers are, and purchase ad space on their blog. It’s usually inexpensive and could garner your hotel a highly visible review.
- Be shameless—for a good cause.
Another way to increase the percentage of customers who recommend your hotel to others is simply to ask them to do it. But do it for a good cause; for example, tell customers that for every send-a-friend referral, the hotel will make a donation to a reputable charity.
Let SmarteHotels.com help you develop a hotel distribution strategy that will reel customers in! Contact us today.