If you ask any independent hotel manager what their priorities are for the next 12 months, increased online bookings and better reviews will figure prominently on the list.
Yet the solution most managers will come up with will be around increasing traffic to their website, increasing marketing initiatives and encouraging more happy customers to review the hotel. But what are the decision-making factors behind a booking? What are the reasons people leave good reviews? The answer each time is guest experience.
If your website visitors have a good experience online and they like the like what’s on offer, they will book. If your online experience isn’t great – if the booking system is clunky – if the site doesn’t work well on a mobile – if it’s hard to find the deal-closing information – visitors will not book. No matter how much web traffic you get to your site, you won’t hit your booking target unless you focus your attention on the guest experience.
But most hotel managers don’t realise that the customer experience doesn’t start when your guest arrives at the hotel – it starts as soon as they search Google or hit your homepage. According to Trip Advisor research, 87% of guests use the internet for the bulk of their travel planning and nine out of ten people will have some form of digital contact with the hotel prior to staying there. Yet, how many hotels are still failing to invest time and resources in digital channels like their websites, booking engines and social media profiles?
Whether it’s the hotel website, social media pages or profiles on third party sites, huge opportunities to influence customer decisions remain untapped. If you want to get ahead, keep the customer experience at the heart of everything you do, starting with your online front of house.
Below we’ve put together the top three considerations for your website and your social media activity…
Top three website tips
- Think first impressions
If your website is out of date, poorly designed and not fully functional, your visitors will expect the same when they arrive at your hotel. Your website is likely to be the first contact you have with customers, so make a good impression with strong content (including good quality photographs and clear, concise copy), a fresh professional design and no broken links or defunct features.
- Be mobile-friendly
It’s 2015; your website simply must work well on mobile devices like phones and tablets. If your website doesn’t look good or work effectively when your guests are on the move, they’ll more than likely move right on past you to one of your competitors’ websites.
- Keep structure and calls to action
So your potential guest has come to your website for a reason. Either they will are looking for information or they have come to book, so help them out and make your website structure as logical as possible. The big aim of your website is to either get them to book or get in touch, so wherever they are in the structure, make it obvious how they can do that.
Top three social media tips
- Be present
You really need to be where your customers are. If you aren’t using social media, you’re missing out on connecting with new customers and keeping in touch with current and past guests. The best sites for hotels are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
- Always respond
Social is another communications channel, so treat it like one. If someone asks a question or makes a comment, make sure respond to it. Remember to be gracious with negative comments – don’t forget that everyone else is watching and judging how you respond to criticism. In this case, the best defense is never offense!
- Don’t just sell
Don’t use social media solely as a sales vehicle. People will quickly be turned off by overly sales-led messaging. Sure, talk about offers and encourage people to stay with you, but you’re going to need to be a bit more creative if you want people to listen. As a guide, only posts things that are in some way valuable, useful or interesting.
Hotels can get a free digital report from Guest Core which provides a full review of the hotel’s online performance, including booking engine, website and social media performance.
Posted by Kyle Brookes, digital sales and marketing specialist at Group Dane.