Building the Brand

By Lindsay Elkins, Assistant Editor | October 01, 2005

Loyal guests are a key component to staying afloat in the hospitality industry. Hotel and restaurant operators are increasingly taking notice and using the latest tools and technology to not only build a better understanding of who their loyal guests are, but also use targeted campaigns to keep them coming back.

Marco Beach Ocean Resort, a 100-suite independent destination on Florida's Marco Island knows a thing or two about how to keep their guests coming back for more. Marco Beach utilizes Gold Key Solutions' (goldkeysolutions.com) Concierge Assistant software to not only identify loyal guests, but also develop ways to drive more return visits. The Concierge Assistant is a one-stop shop for storing information about guests and give them a personalized experience, according to general manager Phillip Starling. "We have our customer recognition team call ahead to find out what the guest would like to plan, and then they assist the guests in planning their vacation by making dinner appointments or reserving jet skis," he says. "In the past the information was in an excel sheet, which was often cumbersome," Starling adds. With Concierge Assistant, an agent can easily find information about an incoming guest and be able to assist them at a moment's notice.

Loyal criteria

"Loyalty is something that is built," explains Branka Guberina, chief concierge at Marco Beach. For many hotels and restaurants, loyalty means repeat visits and satisfied guests. Operators need to ensure that if a guest is at their property for the first time, their needs are met and they have a pleasant experience. "We need to not only learn and fulfill guests' needs, but also anticipate them," explains Guberina. "I think the feeling they have during their stay here is the most important thing."

Craig Cunningham, senior vice president of marketing for Wyndham Hotels and Resorts agrees. "We want to reward our most loyal guests and give them a more customized guest experience."

Wyndham uses Right Now Technologies' (rightnow.com) Right Now Service to manage the guest recognition program, Wyndham ByRequest. All customer inquiries are logged so Wyndham can analyze customer interactions and gain insight into the ever changing needs and concerns of their guests.

Guest interaction

"We wanted technology that would give consumers a choice in how they interact with Wyndham," notes Cunningham. "If they want to talk to someone on the phone, by logging into our web site or over e-mail, they can do that."

Cunningham adds that Right Now Service operators can see in real-time what kinds of questions guests are asking, as well as zero in on any issues or trends. The Wyndham operators are then able to serve them better and faster, resulting in a satisfied guest who is more likely to return to a Wyndham hotel or resort when taking their next trip.

Marco Beach uses its guest recognition team to keep track of guests who stay on a special day like a honeymoon or anniversary, or guests with any special allergy or diet needs. Those staying at Marco Beach on their honeymoon for example, will receive a 'best wishes' flower arrangement. "Guests appreciate the fact that they are being recognized, and that their needs have been acknowledged and remembered," says Marco Beach's Guberina.

Making the guest feel valued is a method that also works for Dairy Keen, a fast casual restaurant in Utah that uses Menusoft's (digitaldining.com) Digital Dining POS to custom design a frequent diner program, according to Jan Olpin of Dairy Keen. Returning customers receive a frequent diner card, which is scanned every time they come in. "I am able to know the guest's name because it pops up when I scan their card," says Olpin. "I call them by name and then that guest thinks that I am there just for them."

Targeted campaigns

Once a restaurant or hotel develops a following, it's important for the operator to hold on to their loyal patrons. That oftentimes means reaching out to loyal guests with special offers and unique campaigns. Marco Beach's Starling is working on a newsletter that will give frequent guests a first look at special offers and promotions. "Getting information on certain packages out to our loyal customers ahead of time gives them the first choice on dates," he says.

With Dairy Keen's frequent diner program, guests receive points for what they spend, and the accumulation of points translates into free gifts. "In our frequent diner program, if a customer spends $20 they get a free super size, spend $30 and they get a free shake," says Olpin. "With these rewards I am able to thank the guests that come in the most." Dairy Keen also sends post cards and coupons announcing special events.

Wyndham's Cunningham explains that in order to hold on to loyal guests and create new ones, "you have to keep them happy and provide them with the experience that they want." These operators seem to be doing just that.

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