What is the hotel customer journey?

The hotel customer journey is the process by which a traveller researches, books, and stays at a hotel. 

In normal circumstances, when a product purchase is made by a consumer, it generally forms the end point of a customer journey. That journey may have been quick, like the impulsive decision to buy a chocolate bar at the checkout, or slow, like buying a home.

Hotel bookings are slightly different. The number of hotel guest journey ‘touchpoints’ – an interaction between a business and a customer – can vary from a few to a lot. And unlike product purchases, the bulk of the hotel customer journey lies beyond the point of payment – experiences are collected and hearts are won during the stay.

Read on for a full guide to the customer journey and how to optimise it at your property.

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Why is the hotel booking journey important?

The hotel booking journey as a whole is crucial to consider because it has a big impact on how many guests you actually have come through your door and how much revenue you can earn.

The most successful accommodation providers are those that focus on creating the finest guest experience possible. This extends beyond their experience while at your property – it also means their experience with your website or booking pages on online travel agents, their impression of your email communication pre and post-stay, how you respond to their reviews or feedback, and more. 

It’s about the lifecycle of the customer’s experience. By better understanding it, you can ensure your property is favoured over your competitors.

What are micro moments in the customer journey?

Micro moments in the customer journey are small instances where a traveller has high intent for something. For example, when researching accommodations they may have a micro-moment of wanting to ensure the hotel has free Wi-Fi. It’s moments like these that hoteliers need to prepare for, so that potential customers have their questions answered and needs satisfied.

These micro-moments usually occur during a hotel customer journey across five basic stages. Here are those stages, and how hotels are setting themselves apart in the buying journey within each.

1. Inspiration

The journey begins with a customer making the decision to go on a trip. Inspiration for the journey could come from anywhere, from a personal recommendation to a social media post from an influencer. This inspiration moment is important for small hoteliers to take advantage of as they create an online marketing strategy.

How to set yourself apart: 

Smart hotels understand that they have the power to be that inspiration. Selling yourself on social media and incentivising previous guests to tell their personal networks about their stay can put your hotel’s name up in lights from the very beginning. It’s also important to Improve your SEO strategy to remain visible on the search engine results page, and optimise your website for mobile platforms, as many travellers are using their phones and tablets to research their next trip.

2. Research and booking

Once a destination and dates have been chosen, the traveller will begin to search for hotels. The research phase will see most guests attempt to strike their ideal balance between quality and price. Planning micro-moments that operators need to be aware of include searches for hotel availability and prices, as well as searches for specific destinations.

Data shows that most travellers are still most comfortable booking their stays at small hotels on their desktop device, but an increasing number are becoming more open to mobile bookings.

How to set yourself apart: 

Pricing your hotel appropriately and actively soliciting glowing guest reviews – with the help of a high quality guest experience – will help you to find the sweet spot that will earn you the maximum number of bookings. A prominent ‘Book Now’ button should also be displayed on each website page, and your reservation form should be short and simple to encourage quick and easy bookings.

3. Check-in

There is a period, between booking and arrival, that many hotels ignore, but that can be incredibly valuable in building a deeper and more fruitful relationship with a guest. When the guest arrives, the check-in experience should be as smooth and simple as possible.

Top hotels will use the time between booking and check-in to offer tips on how a guest might enhance their stay, both within the hotel and in the local area, and seek information that they can use to better personalise the guest experience.

How to set yourself apart:

When check-in comes, an increasing number of guests appreciate an automated process, as this ensures they don’t have to wait in line to simply be handed a set of keys. Smart check-in tools like Little Hotelier allow you to send pre- and post-check out emails, and allows guests to check themselves in ahead of time and alert you of their check-in time.

4. Guest experience

The guest experience, spanning from the moment they check in to the moment they check out, is the meat of the customer journey dish. The guest experience is all-encompassing: the cleanliness, the amenity, the quality of the service, the comfort of the beds and any number of other factors contribute to how a guest perceives their stay.

How to set yourself apart: 

The only way to ensure this part of the customer journey is enjoyable and memorable is to be creative, and to dot every i and cross every t.

5. Check-out and post-stay

Check-out is an ideal time to solicit feedback. If a guest has constructive criticisms, take them on board. If the guest is glowing about their stay, encourage them to leave a review.

How to set yourself apart: 

Happy guests can easily be turned into return guests, particularly if you craft your customer journey to include follow up communications reminding the guest of their experience, and perhaps even offering a deal or discount on their next stay.

Hotel Customer Journey

How to create a hotel customer journey map

By developing a customer journey map, you can see the experience you offer through the eyes of the guest, from the moment they consider taking a trip, through to getting a friendly email after their stay. All this to better understand the common sticking points and where you can make the journey smoother, simpler and more enjoyable.

Customer journeys are an abstract concept, and can therefore be a difficult thing to visualise. But a customer journey map can make things far easier.

Customer journey maps can take a few different forms, and there are a few ways to create them, but the basic process of making one is as follows:

  1. Create a customer persona

In order to define the customer journey you need to get into the head of your target audience. Create a customer persona based on your ideal hotel guest, then use this avatar to guide the rest of the process.

  1. Identify motivators and pain points for each stage of the journey

Consider how your guest would feel at each of the stages listed in the previous section. What motivates them to travel, to book with you, to leave a review or to tell a friend about your hotel? What hurdles might be in their way when making any of these decisions, and how can you help them overcome them?

  1. Define touchpoints and actions

Identify all the possible points at which you could interact with the guest, from inspiring them to take a trip with an alluring social media post, to inviting them back in the weeks and months after their stay.Go through each of the journey stages to identify all of potential touchpoints: Ads, social media posts, OTA listings, emails, phone calls, staff interactions and more. Using customer motivators and pain points as inspiration, create actions at key touchpoints that will advance the customer journey.

  1. Place the information in a graph

Create a graph with the five customer journey stages up the top, and motivators, pain points, touchpoints and actions down the side:

Pain points

Fill in the graph with the information that you have collected.

  1. Enact and review

You should now be looking at an easy-to-digest form of the journey of your ideal guest, including the actions you can take to enhance it. Implement the actions you have outlined, and look to review your ‘map’ semi-regularly. The ‘actions’ section in particular will be in constant flux, as you test and tweak the actions that are most effective in attracting more guests.

How to use technology to enhance the customer journey for hotel guests

The customer journey is a reflection of how well a hotel is run. When a hotel has all its ducks in a row it can devote the necessary effort to developing a better customer journey that delivers more guests to its door.

Technology facilitates exactly that. By combining an optimised website, direct booking functionality, front desk management, channel management and payment systems, you’ll be able to create a seamless customer journey that ensures you are converting the number of bookings you need.

The good news is that all-in-one solutions exist that can give you all these features in one place – making property management easy, simple, and effective.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).