by Kevin Possell, General Manager of Weiner’s Ltd
Since the onset of the pandemic, the hospitality industry has been forced to rethink its definition of customer loyalty – both how to earn it and how to reward it. Where loyalty has previously been more transactional (miles, points, etc.), having fewer transactions taking place means the focus is shifting to personalized, experience-based definitions.
Other articles out there explain how to use customer data, AI, and other technological options to survive the pandemic. However, this article focuses on the personal side of personalization, which means understanding and serving customers’ emotions. For example, Salesforce’s 2018 research brief on trends in customer trust found that:
- Personalization is at the heart of customer expectations; 84% of respondents prefer to be treated like a person, not a number.
- Respondents also prioritized trust, saying that their trust in a company makes them more likely to be loyal to that brand (95%), to buy more products and services (92%), to buy more frequently (91%), and to spend more money (88%).
With that in mind, here are some ideas for identifying key drivers of customer loyalty and offering creative solutions to help hospitality professionals revitalize their COVID-era loyalty offerings.
Getting Past the Fear
It’s been said that, in the short term, hygiene and safety are definitely the new loyalty. Hospitality companies should deliberately think like healthcare companies and put the well-being of their customers first in order to establish customer confidence.
This is because guests likely will be apprehensive about getting out, whether it be for a night on the town or a travel getaway. The more a hospitality business can create a recognizable culture of safety and cleanliness, the more guests will see that space as a safe place to relax. Businesses should not only prioritize their cleaning and sanitation protocols, they should communicate them to guests through notes on all advance communications, protection seals, prominent signage in public spaces, etc. Not only does this communication convey trustworthiness, it also provides advance knowledge of what’s to come, such as a temperature check or a quick text survey to complete before entering.
In support of both cleanliness and communication, staff members should receive consistent training so they can fully explain safety processes and protocols. Having a well-informed, reassuring staff is a big part of establishing trust.
Once safety has been established, it’s time to focus on providing memorable personal experiences. In a recent survey, 73% of global travelers agreed with the statement, “When I go on vacation, the most important thing is to have a unique experience,” while 59% said they like hotels that feel unique.
All hospitality businesses can gain from this kind of elevated hospitality, and the current global situation provides an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration. Look for ways to establish partnerships and packages with other local service businesses like restaurants, hotels, fitness clubs, spas, salons, travel agencies, tour companies, pet services, etc.
Another idea is for businesses to increase flexibility around how they use their space. For instance, restaurants could offer extended seating for “working lunches” or afternoon meetings. Hotels can offer rooms for day use as expanded office space, complete with box lunches, business services like fax machines, and chair massages in the spa at 4 pm, followed by a complimentary drink at 5 pm.
The key is to listen to what customers are asking for and to find safe ways to answer those needs. Are they wanting a little social time, or a little glamour or adventure after a hard year? Quiet space away from all the family at home? Maybe someplace different where there’s something for every member of the family to do? And don’t overlook the increased importance of pets over the past year.
Gifting the Little Things
Finally, when it comes to elevating hospitality through unique experiences, the littlest things can show great consideration that is appreciated and remembered. Examples would be offering upgrades to in-room essentials or providing branded, travel-size or single-use amenities both on-premise or included in takeout or delivery orders. Other safely packaged items can include condiments, hand wipes, facial tissues and travel-sized hand sanitizers. Discreetly branded disposable masks could be worn by employees and also presented to guests. A range of these products can be mixed and matched into different, personalized packages. For instance, a personal cleaning kit could include a hand sanitizer, mask and disinfectant wipes; an in-room welcome kit could add the usual travel-size hair care and showering products as well as facial tissues and water bottles.
If thinking through the details of these packages seems like just too much on top of all other responsibilities, hospitality businesses can benefit from forming a partnership with a specialist that will provide them the same personalized service they offer their guests
Providing consistently rewarding experiences will require creativity, flexibility, and strong customer insights – as well as a business philosophy that keeps the customers’ needs front and center. However, the brands that survive this economic slowdown will be those that use it as an opportunity to excel at elevating hospitality to build loyalty.
Kevin Possell is the General Manager of Weiner’s Ltd. Weiner’s began providing travel size products and essentials to the hospitality industry over 30 years ago and has extended the concept of elevated hospitality to employers, charities, NGOs and brands.