It’s estimated it costs anywhere from 5 to 8 times more to gain a new customer as opposed to retaining your existing ones. When you consider the cost of advertising, marketing, sales people, etc. to attract new customers this becomes obvious.
It’s also said that 68% of customers will fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is the number one reason businesses lose customers.
Based upon these two statistics, it is obvious your business be it a hotel, visitor attraction, restaurant or events venue needs to place as strong an emphasis on keeping existing customers as it does on gaining new ones. Here are ten ways to do this.
- Last impressions
Make sure your customers leave with great lasting impression of their stay with you. Ensure they realise that you appreciate their custom. A sincere thank you in person goes a long way. Give them a little memento to take home with them as a lasting reminder: a box of homemade truffles, jam or pickles or gift bag of your exclusive toiletries for your leisure guests, or quality logoed accessories for your corporate market. Following this up with a simple personalised thank you note a few days later will not only show your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by, especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them.
- Keep in touch
Out of sight is out of mind so even if your guests are only likely to visit you once a year, keep in touch with them for the whole year so that when they come to book again you are very firmly in their mind. Let them know what other activities you have going on, you never just know it could just tip the balance in favour of them coming to see you as an extra visit. You can also remain on their radar by your presence on social media. Do your homework first and find out the best options to suit your guests.
- Reward their loyalty with exclusive deals
Make your loyal customers feel special by putting together packages or deals which are exclusive to them. This again demonstrates your appreciation of their custom, as well as potentially prompting additional bookings. As a loyal customer, the last thing you want to hear about is an offer that’s only available to ‘new’ customers.
- Understand your customers’ needs
Keep up-to-date with what your customers want from you by listening to them. Get to know your customers and be visible in your hotel, or at the venue making personal contact with your customers to build rapport and trust. They are then far more likely to tell you what they want and what would encourage them to return. The more you get to know your customers the easier it is to anticipate their needs, and deliver what they want on a consistent basis to keep them satisfied. Avoid being so bound by your own rules that you can’t be flexible. If a guest wants a lie in and would like breakfast at 11.30, is this really that big a problem if it means they enjoy their stay and tell their friends?
- Ask for feedback
Never take your regular guests for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve shortfalls quickly. Problems or challenges are often your opportunity to shine and leave a positive lasting impression if dealt with positively. Now’s a chance to exceed expectations. Face to face feedback will always win over a comments form or questionnaire. Ask them what they like and what disappoints them if anything, so you can learn from this and continually improve. Guests will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. So also ask for their feedback on new ideas, or for their recommendations on how things can be improved.
- Remember them
Address your customers by name; it’s really positive when someone remembers your name especially when you aren’t expecting it. This goes for giving the name right when you’re writing it down. And although you may know this regular customer, do your staff know them too. Record their personal details and any special requirements. Do they have any particular likes and dislikes, what is their favourite room, do they have any particular requirements such as access issues. Do we know their birthday or any special anniversaries? Remembering such details will always be appreciated.
- Get the basics right
Ensure your customers’ second, third, or 50th visit is as good as their first. Have systems in place to ensure you’re able to deliver the same level of service on a consistent basis. Take the customer journey regularly, and see everything from a customer’s perspective. Be sure to under promise and over deliver. With regular customers this means continuous improvement, as they will have set expectations, which we need to strive to exceed on every visit. Simple things delivered well will always be better than trying to be over sophisticated and delivering it badly.
- Train your staff
Your staff need to know the level of service that your customers expect, and have the appropriate training, tools and systems in place in order for them to deliver this. Brief your team so that they too can recognise and remember your loyal customers and empower them to deliver what your customers want and expect. In the unfortunate event that your customers have cause to complain, give your staff the training, confidence and authority to deal with complaints promptly. Your recovery of the situation can in itself earn you brownie points.
- Know your competition
Keep an eye on your competitors, what they are charging, new services they offer, improvements, marketing promotions, etc. Make sure your services are the best value for the money. You do not necessarily have to lower your prices when your competitors do, but make sure your customers know that you are worth the extra money. Stay competitive.
But I’m not just talking about other hotels, restaurants or attractions; your customers will compare you with anyone else who delivers a similar service. So as long as you deliver a five-star service you’re going to compare favourably with all your ‘competition’.
- Wow your customers
Think of the things that are of high value to your customers but low cost to you so you can give added value. Give people a reason to talk about you. Always look for an opportunity to go that extra mile to wow your customers to make it really difficult for them to ever contemplate not coming back to you.
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