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The 'Meet Cute': Instead of Counting Interactions, Build Relationships With Your Customers

A new report from Sabre and TrendWatching identifies Human Brands as one of the six mega-trends with the largest impact on the hospitality industry. More specifically, this mega-trend identifies key components often overlooked when it comes to the discussion of loyalty. For hoteliers, the big question remains: How do I get guests to keep coming back?

Hollywood has a term for the scenes when two characters meet and you know right away they'll end up together: it's called a "Meet Cute." With that in mind, I think it's good that Jeremiah Gardner, author of The Lean Brand, defines a brand as "a relationship between an organization and an audience." Gardner isn't talking about having conversations with consumers on Twitter or getting likes on Facebook posts; those are merely interactions. A relationship is much larger, and much more meaningful.

And the way that you meet new customers, that first impression, has a lot to do with how those customers will see you and whether a lasting relationship will unfold.


STAND FOR SOMETHING

Getting consumers to like you is hard, and it's pretty much impossible to get everyone to like you. The key is to show people who you are and what you stand for. People will buy into what you're selling if your goals and aspirations are in line with their own.

63 percent of global consumers claim to only buy products and services that appeal to their beliefs, values or ideals. When a customer considers your hotel brand with those factors in mind, her perception of your brand becomes the culmination of everything you say and do, as well as everything you don't.

I don't know about you, but all this talk about relationships is starting to sound rather … human.


I SEE YOUR TRUE COLORS

Once you start opening up and telling people who you really are, this is when the magic happens. This is when you develop those long lasting relationships. This is when those one-time guests develop into guests that are loyal to your hotel brand.

Hoteliers: Identify what you are passionate about, and let that be your guide in taking that first step in developing a system that rewards guests on shared values. Do you have a special place in your heart for law enforcement? Then give policewomen and men a special rate when they stay at your hotel. Are you passionate about saving the environment? Give your guests perks if they recycle their hotel key, or if they agree to not have their sheets and towels changed every day during their stay to save on water. The possibilities for rewards are endless.

In relationships, it's the little things that matter. This is what takes things to the next level. Instead of just liking you, they will like like you. And if you don't recall what "like like" means, it's when a customer thinks they're in love with you, but isn't ready to say it just yet.


IT'S A TWO–WAY STREET

The good news is, seeing how this is a relationship and all, it's not just about your behavior. Two-way ratings and reviews for buyers and sellers have been around for a long time on e-commerce sites like eBay. The same principle is now being applied in ways that can help hoteliers segment and market to customers.

For example, Uber has implemented what has been dubbed as two-way transparency. Not only are passengers allowed to rate drivers, but Uber also allows drivers to rate passengers. As consumers, we tend to have no problem giving criticism and writing negative reviews, but get a little perturbed when we are held accountable for our actions as well. But so far, it seems this two–way rating system makes for a more enjoyable experience for everyone. It also doesn't seem to be affecting consumer loyalty – just the opposite, in fact.

Check out some of the other companies that are putting two-way transparency into action:

  • Art Series Hotel Group developed a program where guests are rated by the hotel staff. Based on their rating, guests can earn special discounts and rewards.
  • Pret is a coffee shop where the staff reward favorite customers with free coffee.
  • Nest Protect provides discounts on home insurance for customers who share smoke alarm data.

GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER BETTER

After being in a relationship for a while, there comes a time when that relationship needs to progress in order to continue. In today's world, everyone is trying to constantly get and keep consumer's attention. However, in a Tinder-ized world, it's hard to stand out. So, how do you maintain their attention? Perkonomics.

Offering little extras outside of traditional loyalty programs will strengthen relationships, attract attention and escape commoditization.

Remember how we talked about rewarding guests based on things you care about? This is the next step. However, to be able to reward your guests appropriately, you have to know them. Studies have found travelers are very willing to give up personal information for a more customized experience. And the more you know about people, the more apt you are in generating targeted discounts. For instance, is there a regional humanitarian event happening in a property's market? Perhaps you could offer discounts to participants in that event. If there's a natural disaster or other crisis, perhaps you offer free or discounted services to those affected. It's things like this that show you truly care. These kinds of messages will break through the "noise" and not only introduce what your brand stands for, but make people love you for "walking the talk."

By focusing on how to build lasting impressions human brands, we learn an important lesson: guest loyalty is something that is earned, not created.

For a more in-depth look at human brands, click here to get the full report.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Ashley Dillon
Senior Designer
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