In 2013, the New York Times told the story of Leslie Ciminello, a business traveler and frequent guest at the Hotel 1000 in Seattle.
Why did she keep coming back? Because the hotel would make sure to keep her room refrigerator stocked with lactose-free milk and gluten-free cereal.
“It’s one of the small but significant ways the hotel has kept her coming back,” wrote the Times’ Harriet Edelson, who noted that hotels around the country “are increasingly emphasizing personalized services that do not show up on any list of amenities.”
We aren’t saying you need to start serving a personalized menu for every customer to attract repeat guests. But we will tell you that:
1. Repeat guests are much easier to cultivate than new customers
2. The steps you take to keep people coming back to your establishment don’t have to be too elaborate.
Sometimes, it’s something as simple as making sure your rooms are outfitted with comfortable mattresses, sheets and other bedding. Or maybe offering several pillow options since guests have different pillow preferences. Or, many properties provide large, soft, absorbent towels and or robes for their guests.
Beyond that, here are a few innkeeper tips to get started:
1. Offer (small) free stuff
Again, nothing too outlandish: minibar snacks, a room upgrade, or even free toothpaste in the bathroom, along with things that guests have come to expect, such as free, in-room wi-fi.
2. Get to know them
This one won’t cost you anything. Make it a point to chat with your guests. Find out their needs and the things they like. When you know these things, you’ll be able to keep them satisfied, and to turn them into repeat guests. Being an innkeeper rather then a hotel manager gives you the opportunity to spend time with your guests at breakfast or at happy hour.
3. Ask for feedback
As painful as it might be, you want to know if you haven’t lived up to your guests’ expectations, especially before they’ve checked out.
Don’t wait for them to write in your guestbook or leave an online review. Ask them in person, and make it easy by using open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response: “How would you rate your room?” or “What could we do to make your stay more comfortable?”
4. Solve their problems
Have you ever heard of the “service recovery paradox”?
It works like this: If a customer has a problem, and you solve it for them, they’ll have a better opinion of you than they would have if their stay had been uneventful.
Innkeepers who want to attract repeat guests take this idea seriously, and understand that every complaint – no matter how small it may seem – is vital to your customers. When you manage to turn disaster into delight, you’ll increase the likelihood that your guests will return.
A poor response often only serves to exacerbate the situation. Friends of ours waited hours to check in to a hotel while on vacation. They waited hungry and tired with 2 children, one with special needs. Needless to say they were not happy. When the husband complained about their experience and asked for compensation, they were sent a sad looking fruit basket not even big enough to feed their small family. The term “lousy fruit basket” has since become, among our families, a phrase meaning problem not solved. This was unforgettable and not in a good way.
5. Know that you can’t attract everyone
It might be hard to be all things to all people. An establishment that prides itself on being family-friendly might not be a good fit for business travelers, and vice versa.
Are you looking for ways to keep your guests coming back? Contact InnStyle. Our expert sales team is ready to help you with some of the basics of a comfortable Bed and Breakfast, Country Inn or Hotel stay – towels, pillows, bedding – so that you can focus on making sure your customers have the best stay possible.