While OTAs are equally important for your small accommodation, the virtues of direct bookings can’t be understated. Not only do they impact your profitability, but they influence your relationship with guests.
In a growing industry the market will inevitably become congested – so it’s important that travelers are booking direct, for a mutually beneficial experience.
People often get the most enjoyment out of anticipating a trip than actually being on it. A direct booking allows you to take control of pre-stay messaging and build an exciting relationship with the customer.
This often has a flow-on effect towards founding guest loyalty. Guest loyalty is a bonus when it comes to return business and maintaining a consistent rate of revenue. Holding onto guests is always easier and cheaper than convincing new ones to come along.
Establishing relationships through direct bookings will also help hotel and guest in the long run when it comes to testing, proofing and implementing new technological innovations.
The challenge these days is that customers expect a certain level of service excellence across all industries, so hotels and B&Bs don’t just have to match their competitors; but all retailers.
One of the biggest barriers to creating the direct relationships small hotels need is guest friction.
Customer friction is explained by NTT DATA as ‘any aspect of the customer interaction that has a negative impact on the customer experience’.
According to their research, 43% of US customers say they experienced an unsatisfactory interaction with at least one company in a 12-month period.
Some qualified examples include:
Other common issues include:
NTT DATA suggests that every industry experiences the same customer friction across five broad categories which we have adapted:
The world is moving in a digital direction where more and more processes are becoming self-service and based on automation.
Guests want everything to be as quick and easy as possible. If you aren’t providing this convenience, your competitors will be.
Removing these friction points is the fastest, and hopefully easiest, way to increasing direct bookings to your hotel or B&B. Let’s tackle the categories above directly…
Boosting your audience engagement is relatively easy and quick. Here are three potential options:
1. Social media. Optimizing your social media strategy is a guaranteed way to boost engagement.
Think carefully about the content you post, how often you update your page, and the best way of connecting to your followers.
Think of your social page and its followers as a mini-community.
2. Customer profiling. Social media also makes up part of how you get to know your guests. You should be constantly trying to compile more data about the behaviour and personalities of your visitors.
The more you know about them, the more you can adapt your marketing and service to suit them. This will place them in a positive mindset and encourage good connotations when they think of your hotel because it will show you really care about them.
Use every means available to learn about your target market.
3. Events and attractions. Using your website/blog or social pages to provide tourist information on local events or popular attractions is one of the simplest methods to drive traffic through your business and engage people with your brand, with very little effort undertaken on your part.
A common bug-bear for travelers is how long it takes to finalise a trip once they’ve made a decision.
The more options, and less time they have to spend during the booking process the better.
You can optimize this with a solution that includes a two-step booking engine, which also integrates with your Facebook page.
Nothing will reduce a guest’s trust or patience with you more than experiencing a problem with your technology, most commonly your website.
A web page that is unresponsive to mobile, slow to load, or aesthetically unattractive will force customers elsewhere.
Invest in smart and simple website builder that you can launch instantly and customize to your needs.
Saving time and keeping customers in the loop should be a priority when running your hotel or B&B.
You don’t want to be tied down doing paperwork or responding to each individual reservation personally, and guests don’t want to be kept waiting for their booking confirmation, details, or receipts.
Using an integrated and automated front-desk system will alleviate all the stress and hassle out of booking and post-booking stages.
Again, your website and social media play a major role in making sure guests have accurate and realistic information about your property.
You also need to be active on managing online reviews and ensuring your guest’s peers are receiving a true picture of your accommodation.
Travelers want to know what they’re going to get for their money.
By clearly identifying the points of travelers friction you can quickly begin reducing it to drive more direct bookings and improve guest experience, hopefully building a loyal and valuable customer base.