Sometimes customer retention has nothing to do with your products and services. Often times it is memorable customer service that will keep them coming back for more. Tactics like personal attention, building ongoing relationships, customer loyalty, and service after the sale all contribute to increasing customer retention.
I think it is kinda ironic that I chose to write my 50th Blog on customer retention! After all, the intent of my blogs is to retain YOU, my customer. I have no idea how many of you out their in “hotel-land” read my blogs, whether you find any value to my topics, or if you are even trying to integrate even some of my ideas – but since I find value, I will keep on keepin’ on! So, with that in mind, here we go!
In my opinion, keeping customers should not be that difficult. Now, I didn’t say it was “easy”, I just said, it shouldn’t be difficult. I think “keeping” an existing customer is much easier than “gaining” a new customer. Customer retention requires that we are diligent, current, and caring. Finding new customers means you are out there competing with 20 other hotels in your area for the same business.
So, let’s look at the four steps that should keep our existing customers knocking on our doors:
Pay attention to what is going on at your companies. You should (have) set up Google Alerts for each of your Top 30 companies. If so, you should receive any newsworthy information in your inbox at any interval you want….. daily, weekly, monthly, or real time. Setting up Google Alerts takes less than 1 minute per company. Make the 30 minute investment to do this task. Then, when something newsworthy arises, sent a note, make a call, or drop by the customer and make mention of what you know. Read the newspaper. Read the minutes of your town’s economic development meetings.
Know your customers. Recognize their names. Set up trace files so that you are contacting your customers no less than once per quarter. Some of these customers require more contact, and some less. Use ICal, Outlook or your sales programs (Delphi, SalesPro, etc.) to set up reminders. If you aren’t a technology person – use the old fashioned type of trace system….. cards in a box, a dry-erase wall calender, or a day timer!
While on sales calls, or during phone conversations, get to know at least one personal fact about your customer. Do they play a sport, do they have kids, do they take cruises, do they dance, are they roller coaster fanatics? While visiting their offices, look around. Are there 33 pictures of tiny toy poodles? Recognizing and learning something about your customer makes the relationship personal. Customers like it when you remember what makes them tick!
Remember their birthday and send a card. Invite customers to breakfast or a manager’s reception once a quarter. Send holiday cards with handwritten messages!
Many of you live in small communities. You see your customers in the grocery stores, at the hair salon, at your child’s soccer game, or in Wal-Mart. Your customers are people too. If you recognize them, speak to them. (If you are wearing sweat pants and no make up, then go down another aisle – LOL) But seriously, building on-going relationships with customers is a great way to find new customers. For example, you have a relationship with the admissions office at your local hospital. Perhaps this person is also a member of an organization within their industry that meets once a month. Ask them about it, and if there are any other individuals in similar offices or professions that might benefit from an introduction. Offer to take them both to lunch together to explore opportunities. Or, if you have a relationship with one department within a large organization, ask that contact if there is anyone else in their company that they might introduce to you. Relationships breed relationships.
People buy from people they know and like. I have used this premise in many of my blogs, and to many of you on visitations. Loyalty is the difference between good service and legendary service. (Go back and read that blog!) Are your customers loyal to your hotel because you make it easy?
The ultimate compliment a customer can give to you is to “buy-use-buy”. How many of your customers come back for more?
Customer Service After the Purchase
I touched on this topic in my recent blog “Do Your Customers Suffer From Buyer’s Remorse?” Do they? Or do you have a great customer maintenance program in place? Retaining customers means that we don’t forget about them after they have paid their bills. I told a sales team the other day…. have you gone back into guest history to see who was here a year ago? Many of you do this only when we look at our weekly Star reports. “We were down to last year because we didn’t get that XYZ Company meeting.” Why didn’t we get that meeting this year? Did we even try to get it? Did it go to our competitors? Do we know when our customers typically meet and are we “reminding” them that their annual event is approaching and do we need to start planning now?
Saying thank-you (refer to another recent blog) is just one step in “after the purchase” customer service. Reaching out on a regular basis means something to our customers. I suggested to one hotel, that on their first call to a potential major player than they bring them a seasonal plant in a very nice pot (hopefully one that has your hotel logo on it). Then, at the change of each season, it gives you a great excuse to revisit that customer with a fresh, new seasonal plant to put in their pot. You can do the same thing with seasonal coffees, cookies, flower or vegetable seeds, or other items that fit the four season theme. For customers who haven’t booked in a while – what about Forget-Me-Nots?
In summary, we just need to keep what is ours. And to keep it, we need to earn it. Like Tim Gunn says, “Make it work!”