Great communication is the key to developing a strong and long-lasting relationship. If you approach your messaging strategy from the perspective of wanting to provide value to your guests, then you’re going to avoid some of the mistakes that a lot of properties make. You’ll reduce the need for spray-and-pray messaging, you’ll reduce your reliance on OTAs, and you’ll make more money from each and every guest, while simultaneously making them happier and more loyal.
In this article, we’ll break down the types of automated and personalized messages that you can send to guests at specific points in the travel journey. Keep in mind that we’re not just talking about email. Depending on the context, the situation, and the individual, these messages could be sent via email, SMS, or push notification to your hotel branded mobile app.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will get you moving in the right direction.
Relationship Building Messages
Early in the relationship, you need to appear to be helpful and to have the guest’s best interest at heart. This is not the time to be doing any hard selling. Date the guest a little before you try to sleep with them.
1. Welcome Message at Signup
Every good relationship needs to begin on the right foot. When a potential guest does decide to provide you with their personal information, you need to start a conversation and set the tone for the relationship. The welcome message is often overlooked but it is one of the most important messages you can implement. Hopefully, you’ve already set the appropriate expectations with the guest on the signup form. They should know when, how, and what you intend to communicate with them. It’s a good idea to reinforce this expectation within the welcome message and also show them appreciation for making the choice to trust you with their private data.
In addition, this is an opportunity for you to sell them on the value proposition by highlighting some of the reasons that people like to stay with your property, For example, if you offer free breakfast/parking/wi-fi or if you’ve received great reviews or if you’re in a great location. Make sure that this information is conveyed in a clear and succinct manner so that it’s easy for the guest to digest in a fraction of a second.
The welcome message can also be an opportunity to encourage direct bookings by stating a lowest rate guarantee or displaying incentives for booking direct.
Finally, as with every message, make sure there’s a call-to-action or a clear next path. That could be in the form of a link to the booking engine, a specific special offer, or to quality content such as the top 10 things people like about your property.
2. Requesting More Information
Relationships tend to get tighter as you learn more about each other. Your ability to serve the guest will also improve if you know more about someone’s habits and preferences. If a guest doesn’t return to your site or book within a couple of days of signing up, it can be effective to reach out proactively and rekindle the conversation. A simple way to do this may be to send a personal message introducing the guest to the GM. Write it in the first-person, as if it’s actually coming from them and tell the guest a little bit about the GM and the property and simply ask for some reciprocal information in return. Tell the guest how much you would like to host them at the property and say that you’d like to learn a little more about them in order to serve them better. Don’t over do it, but you could start by asking their first/last name (if you don’t already have it, their zip code, who they would be travelling with (solo, friends, partner, kids, etc), you could ask them if the trip would be business or pleasure, why they are coming to town, what their interests are, do they have special requests, there’s really no limit. Just be sure to ask questions that are relevant and that will help you better serve them. Avoid asking self-serving questions that will benefit you but not the guest.
Once someone has made a booking, the rules of engagement fundamentally change. You can now leverage the fact that the guest has made a decision to stay with you and you can capitalize on the fact that they are likely very excited about their trip. The other consideration is that the big purchase is out of the way and there’s now an opportunity to gain incremental revenue that doesn’t feel as painful and actually improves the guests overall satisfaction.
While almost every property sends an automated confirmation message, very few take advantage of the fact that this message typically receives the highest open rate of all messages a property can send. You have a captive audience, be sure to take advantage of it by not just showing the itinerary.
Firstly, there’s always the risk of someone changing their mind or having buyers remorse. You can reduce the risk of cancellations by reassuring the guest within the confirmation message that they made a great decision to book with you and that you’re excited for their arrival. This could be in the form of including typical weather conditions, events, and previous guest reviews.
The confirmation message should help set their expectations for their visit. Include check-in times, what they’ll need with them to check in, parking information, offer useful information such as the fact that they can leave their luggage with the front desk and go on to enjoy the amenities if they arrive early.
If you’re property has a mobile app, this is a good opportunity to encourage guests to download it by telling them the benefits and making it easy for them to find it.
Also, try to anticipate the questions that a guest may have between booking and arriving. Speak with your reservation and front desk staff and formulate a list of frequently asked questions and provide that content within the confirmation email. You probably won’t be able to anticipate every question so be sure to include contact information prominently within the message.
Finally, the guest is now excited and anticipating the stay and the property should both encourage and share in that excitement Tell them how much you’re looking forward to hosting them and give them an idea of the hospitality that you intend to provide to them. You oould possibly provide a countdown to their stay..
Once the transaction is made, the purse strings are typically at their loosest. During the booking process, a guest may have wanted to stick to the ocean view room as opposed to splurging on the ocean front room because it took their total from $800 to $1000. However, as their stay approaches, it may make sense for you to upsell an existing guest on a nicer room to free up the lower-rate inventory, which may be easier to sell closer to the date of stay. So, offering a room upgrade for $20/night may now become an attractive proposition for the guest.
Other additional services or add-ons can also help generate incremental revenue at the same time as improving the guest’s overall experience. Many properties now offer add-ons such as wine or champagne in the room, breakfast, show tickets, and even early check-in or late check-out when it makes sense.
The upsell is sometimes combined with the pre-arrival message, but we recommend doing it as a stand-alone and also including some upsell opportunities in every pre-arrival message.
Just be sure that the guests feel the value in what you’re offering and don’t try to price gouge.
The pre-arrival message is another opportunity to reiterate many of the things that were included in the confirmation and upsell message. Depending on the length of time between the booking and the date of arrival, there may be an opportunity to send multiple pre-arrival messages. Be sure to continue to share the excitement and anticipation for the stay and keep providing more and more value in what you’re sending each time.
If you’re primarily a drive-in destination, or if they live within a few hundred miles, you could include directions from their home to your property and include commute time. You can also start to make recommendations such as your staff’s top picks for restaurants and attractions.
6. Day of Arrival Pre-Check-in
Anticipation and excitement for the stay is reaching fever pitch on the day of arrival but stress levels are really high, especially for families who are travelling a long distance. This message can really set the tone for the entire stay. It should share in their excitement, set expectations, and provide reassurance. Reiterate the check-in process, offer a way to cut down on check in time by letting them provide any required information online and offer an advantage such as express check-in line for doing so.
This is also another opportunity to promote what’s going on and to provide them with answers to frequently asked questions. In addition, provide the personal touch by giving the contact information of the on-duty manager and encourage them to reach out should they have any issues,
This message can also help house keeping out if you ask the guest to provide an approximate arrival time, potentially helping with the room cleaning scheduling.
7. During Stay Satisfaction Survey
Continue the conversation with a personalized message from the manager and reiterate how important it is to you that the guest is comfortable and satisfied. This may be an opportunity to send a short survey asking about the check-in process, the friendliness of the staff, and the cleanliness of the room. Again, provide personal contact information in the event that there are any issues but also proactively reach out to anyone indicates that there is a problem in the survey in order to try to rectify the problem and prevent things from getting worse.
8. Pre-Check-Out Upsell
Depending on the length of stay, you may want to give the guest the opportunity to extend the stay by a night or two and/or offer a late check-out. Also, this is the last chance you’ll have to head off any issues prior to the guest leaving.
9. Post-Stay Thank You/Survey
First and foremost, this should be a message that conveys your sincere appreciation for the guest staying with you. Don’t jump straight into asking a bunch of questions.
A mistake many properties make is to send a lengthy survey that overwhelms the guest. Keep it as simple as possible with a yes/no answer to the question “Would you want to stay with us again in the future?” or “Would you recommend our property to a friend?” Depending on the responses to this question, you can send the guest down a different path. For guest who indicate there was a problem, try to get more details and try to have someone reach out to the guest. For guests that are positive, see if you can get them to share the highlight of their stay with you. Note: tools like Flip.to make this really easy.
Another approach is to ask three simple questions:
- What should we keep doing?
- What should we stop doing?
- What could we have done to improve your stay?
The insights you will gain from these responses are far more valuable that a bunch of “Rate us from 1-10” type responses.
You should also use this message as an opportunity to ask the guest if they will take the time to review you on TripAdvisor and/or Google. Be sure to tell them why this is important for you and make it easy by providing a link and instructions.
10. Post-Stay Resell
Though the primary objective of these messages is to see a future stay, they should always start out by thanking the guests for their previous stay. When you sent a message that is nothing more than an “ask”, it can seem one-sided and doesn’t nurture the relationship. Once you’ve established the tone, you can move on to business.
A good friend and all-around smart guy, Tim Peter, always says that getting a guest through an OTA is fine but if they book with you through the OTA a second time, you’re doing it wrong. We couldn’t agree more. This does require effort from the staff, but you should take every opportunity you can to obtain the guest’s real contact information if you didn’t get it from the third-party channel. Once armed with the ability to communicate with the guest, take advantage of it. Send the guest a message that tells them all of the benefits they get from booking direct next time and possibly even offer a discount towards future stays.
For all guests, it’s simply a good idea to encourage them to come and stay with you again. You can even make this easy for them by showing them rates for the same room for similar dates to what they booked this year.
Additional Revenue Generating Messages
If you’re tracking guest properly, and you’ve gained the appropriate permission to do so, there’s a massive opportunity to shift your overall communication strategy away from mass messages targeting segments based solely on demographics and towards behavioral targeting. This methodology is more cost-effective, more personalized, and drives much higher engagement, which leads to more revenue and happier guests.
11. Website Visit
Rather than randomly sending generic messages to everyone on your list, pay attention to when people come back into the shopping phase. If someone for whom you’ve collected an identity shows up on your website, pay attention to what they’re doing. What dates are they searching for, what content are they looking at? Who is travelling with them? From here, you can tailor content to them that will help them make a decision to book.
In the case of Fuel’s AI-Powered CRM, we use machine learning to determine what content will be most helpful for the guest and be the most likely to drive a conversion.
12. Cart Abandonment
This is a no-brainer and should be one of the first triggers you implement. Be sure to personalize the message and make it easy to resume the search by showing the rates and having a link that leads someone deep into the booking engine with their dates and room pre-selected.
This message should be seen as a sales tool. Not only is it a way to sell the value proposition of your property vs. the competition but it’s also an opportunity to mitigate the risk of someone booking your property via a third-party.
You should experiment with the timing and frequency of these messages and it can also vary based on the booking window and the length of stay.
We all get bombarded with emails throughout the year, but we tend to pay a lot more attention to the personalized deals that get sent to us as a birthday “gift”. Think about it this way, 1/12 of your entire database is going to have a birthday this month. If you’re sending a monthly message, then that segment of people would be a lot more likely to open your special offer if it’s personalized and acknowledges your birthday in the subject line. Making something feel exclusive gives the guest the feeling of being special and this creates a deeper connection between them and your property.
14. Event Notification
If someone stayed with you to see a specific band or attend a specific event, be sure to let them know the next time that the same thing is occurring in your area. You can also have some fun and build a deeper relationship with the guest if you make the content super-relevant to the subject matter. For example, if someone attended a local comicon, show photos of cos-players and show that your property appreciates the culture by including carefully crafted Star Wars puns.
15. Anniversary of the Booking
For our clients, this has proven to be a great revenue generator and likely also saves money on advertising because it helps you short-circuit the typical shopping and booking cycle and reduces the risk of someone booking a competitor or via an OTA.
Make sure that you play up on nostalgia, if you collected the guest’s highlights or feedback from their previous stay, be sure to show that front and center in this message. Also focus on reducing friction by making it as easy as possible for the guest to rebook by showing rates for the same room and similar dates as last year and giving them multiple opportunities to jump into the booking process.
You may also want to highlight any new improvements or changes at the property to encourage them to come and experience something new.
2: Guest Will Always Want To Feel Like They Got A Fair Deal
Offer your guest the best deal going, always. This is a non-negotiable rule in any service business. You may not always have the best price (OTAs can be tricky), but your “deal” should always be the best.
This is not to say your daily rate will be the lowest (though it should). This does mean that the value a guest receives by booking direct is always the best. A guest who books direct should have a higher experience such as a free welcome gift, later check-out, free parking, or reduced resort fees.
Think about your guests and always strive to make them glad they booked with you.
- Make the messages as personalized and human as possible. It’s easy for messages to come across as sterile and generic. Try to use the guest’s name in correspondents as much as possible and also try to put the personality of the staff in the messages by showing photos of real employees and writing content with a conversational tone.
- One size does not fit all. Always consider the source of the booking and create variants of each triggered message where it makes sense. For example, someone who books through an OTA should receive a different message than someone who books directly from your own website. Also, consider the length of stay and how far in advance the booking was made because these should both impact the timing and frequency of the messages you send to an individual.
- Consider the method of communication based on the guest’s preference and the context. For example, an SMS message may be preferable and more effective while the guest is on property. Just be sure to ask permission and set expectations in advance.
- To be successful, you must always remember to operate with the guest’s best interest in mind. When you lose sight of that and start sending messages that benefit you at the expense of the guest, it will all fall apart.
- Be sure to remove folks from your generic emails when they are actively engaged in a personalized/triggered campaign. You want every message to be deliberate and focused on moving the relationship forward. Why confuse things by sending them a special when they’ve already booked?
- The benefit of automated messages is that, once set up, they reduce the workload of your marketing team. However, this comes with the risk of triggered messages breaking at some point in the future. Be sure to have someone go through and test these messages on a frequent basis to ensure that the triggers are working, that the content isn’t out of date, and that the guest is receiving the best possible experience.
The value of sending triggered messages is that you’ll develop better relationships with your guests. You will move away from sending monthly or bi-weekly messages to your entire database that are only relevant to a small section of your database and you’ll see that you are able to communicate with individual guests on a much more frequent basis and in a manner that nurtures more frequent and more enjoyable stays.
If you want to get started implementing these effective message triggers but don’t know where to begin, reach out to a Fueligan. Not only do we have the most advanced, hotel AI-Powered CRM software available, but we also offer managed email marketing services that can help take your email campaigns to the next level. Contact us here.