Repeat customer recognition programme (GA 2011)


(For non-branded, non-chain’s affiliated hotels and as supplement to
corporate loyalty programmes as appropriate) 

In many stances, the success of an hotel is based on the number of repeat customers that the hotel is able to build up and maintain. Retaining a customer is the primary objective of every managers and executives in the hotels. It is known that it costs as much as 10 times more to attract a new customer vs. retaining an existing customer also repeat customers are easier to cultivate than new ones. Repeat customers are the most important customers for the hotel and should be treated as such.

Capturing as much information as possible from each customer and maintain an efficient and clean database are the most important steps to implement an efficient repeat customer recognition programme.

It has been proven that in most cases, customers appreciates recognition over any other programs that the hotel has to offer including hotel points. Frequent travelers expects recognition, consistency and efficiency on services received. Also proven that customers love welcome-back notes stating the number of visits at the hotel (ideally hand-written note from the General Manager).

In a 5-star hotel, it is quite non-negotiable that all the “employees recognize customers and use customers’ names in every interaction”, it is highly recommended that the hotel introduces a discrete “Face Recognition Technology” and this may consist of taking photo of repeat customers and distribute to all service points in the hotel with correct name of the customer.

Important for the hotel management to have a clear understanding of what drives customers to return to the hotel and to manage the whole process of responding to those customers’ expectations and ensure there is commitment to use the hotel in the future.

Define the most efficient way to communicate with the repeat customers, this could be via email or via social media and if appropriate also via phone. Keep an open communication with them, with information of what’s happening at the hotel and also the best way to make future reservations. Avoid at all costs that repeat customers book via OTA’s or become repeat customers of the OTA’s.

Once at the hotel, remember that repeat customers are in contact with the front-line employees and they are better judge of the services provided by the hotel than the hotel’s General Manager. Get their feedback on the service and on improvements to be made, involve them in surveys and focus groups (if any) and invite them at the social activities of the hotel.

Do set quarterly and annual targets on the amount of business from repeat customers, note that successful 5-star hotels have up to 50% - 60% business from repeat customers. Also be aware that every hotel in the competitive set are after your customers and they will do all what it takes to take them away from you and offer similar or better deals at their hotels, “Fact of life”…..

Also it is to be noted that repeat customers will always criticize you when there is an increase on rates/prices, this is a natural human behavior and it has to be handled in a most professional way. Also in many instances, repeat customers resent any changes that may take place at the hotel from time to time and management has to take this into consideration when involve repeat customers in surveys.

Important for the hotel management to distinguish who are the repeat customers; are they individual travelers on their own who are either on business or leisure? Or are they employees of a corporate account of the hotel requesting them to stay at the hotel and in this case assess who choose the hotel, the corporate account or the individual traveler?

Remember;
A most useful slogan used by many in the industry; “Remember me, recognize me, give me what I want, when I want”. I will pay for it and will return to your hotel.

Objective of the repeat guest recognition programme;
Recognize who are the repeat supporters and reward them with special attention and small amenities. Also, most important, improves customer retention and create a stronger brand value and identity.

Responsibility/programme ownership;
This is a joint effort between the Director of Sales & Marketing and the Director of Rooms. Both are responsible to assure that repeat customers are recognized every time they stay at the hotel, from the time of booking to check-out. The hotel General Manager has to assure that there is clear programme ownership, normally an operation person like the Front Office Manager.

Recognition benefits;
In principle, recognition starts from the 2nd stay onward. Pre-registration is always very much appreciated and expected by the traveler and must be part of the programme. Also express and late check-out to be extended. A welcome back, by name, should be extended on arrival. In addition to the basic amenity, a special recognition to be extended on every 5th stay i.e. 5th, 10th, 15th plus VIP status.

Measurements;
Maintain an accurate count of the volume of repeat customers on monthly basis as percentage of total business and set the ideal targets.

Accuracy of data and continuous cleaning;
The word “garbage-in garbage-out” applies. Ideally the whole data should be cleaned four times per year. Of course each time a client stays in the hotel there is opportunity to make some updates without the client having to fill up the check-in form but as an example can ask for a new business card or request information when reservation is taken and confirmed.

Discipline;

  • Full commitment from top management down is a basic requirement and necessary.
  • All customer’s contact employees must be trained in details of the whole process.
  • Always have an electronic back-up just in case the system fails or destroyed by computer virus.
  • Constant communication with people responsible on maintaining and updating the data.
  • Regular quality checks and controls of the data and on the process of handling the repeat customers.
  • All guest registration keyed in the PMS must be double-checked by the shift supervisor.
  • Deletions of customer names from the database requires approval from the hotel General Manager and must have valid justification.

Recurring problems;

  • Inaccurate names and address
  • Insufficient information for the database
  • Data not checked when reservation confirmed
  • Data not checked prior to arrival
  • Data not reconfirmed on arrival
  • Data not entered correctly

Fields to include on the customer database;

  • Name: in English and own country (English prevail)
  • Gender
  • Married/Single
  • Date of Birth, (if possible)
  • Profession
  • Full address
  • Passport number
  • Nationality
  • Phone: Office + Mobile
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Preferences: for amenities, linen, pillow, etc…
  • Type of room/s
  • Food particulars (vegetarian or religious compliances)
  • Credit history: credit cards, limits, expiring dates, etc.
  • Complaints lodged during previous visits
  • No. of visits/stays
  • In-room requirements (if any)
  • Length of stay-average
  • Stay pattern of the customer (time of the year)
  • Others as appropriate

Security Issues;

As the database becomes an extremely valuable asset of the hotel/company, two important steps must be taken;
A – In compliance with city/country privacy law/enforcement.
B – Ensure that it does not fall into a competitor’s hand. With today’s technology, the entire database can be stored in a very small space and can easily be copied and stolen without anybody noticing ownership and restricted access to the whole database is one of the best ways to avoid having the database stolen. The people who have access must sign a confidentiality document for the purpose of safeguarding it.

Software consideration on setting up the system;

  • Sorting speed
  • Ability to add/delete information/fields
  • How many users will access the system
  • Security codes
  • Type of reporting
  • Runs locally from corporate (if applicable)
  • Memory
  • Easy to access/connectivity with reservation
  • Cost to maintain, up-grade, charge
  • Service
  • Recognition of different geographical addresses

Database Development
Overview & Development Strategies
The fundamental purpose of an accurate database development is to create a foundation from which the hotel fully understand who the customers actually are. Only with a detailed customer-by-customer recording system, hotels can pretend to know their clients.

 Purpose of Database;

  • Centralized record of customer activity
  • Getting to know the customer
  • Base for promotional campaigns, telemarketing, mail, etc…
  • Customer development strategies
  • Educational tool for all in the hotel to identify areas for improvements
  • Customer tracking & analysis
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Sales reports & performance
  • Account development
  • Synergy with sister hotels
  • Competitive analysis

Benefits of Database;

  • Avoid that customers fill the check-in form/register every time
  • Help hotels focus on customers
  • Help focus marketing funds & strategies
  • Performance measurement of front line staff
  • Precise targeting
  • Getting to know who are the most important customers
  • Use to communicate/promote services & products
  • Measure effectiveness of promotional campaigns
  • Most important: improves relationship between customer and hotel
  • Analyze the spending power of customers
  • Avoid that customers book/the hotel from other sources (OTA’s)

Process;

  • Design the database philosophy & objectives
  • Create budget/cost involved
  • Create the structure & features of the database
  • Convert existing sources/information to database
  • Integrate database into marketing system
  • Commitment from all involved