Customer loyalty in hospitality industry – a marketing challenge?
June 27, 2014
We’ve all heard how oversaturated marketplace and varied brand offering has made the marketer’s task harder than ever. A lot of advice concentrates on creating brand differentiation, and, while we’re not likely to argue against the merits of great branding, differentiation is not always the answer.
For many businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industry a particular challenge remains increasing the number of return customers, and an overhaul of the brand is likely to backfire and scare away some of the return customers, the exact people you want to keep happy. When choice is abundant and price and quality is often equal, it’s brand loyalty you’re after. It will ensure that guests tolerate a less attractive location or a higher price and come back even if a one-off experience hasn’t been perfect.
While much depends on the service delivery and overall experience, marketing can and will provide the context and packaging of this experience. Good design, thoughtful extras, tempting offers are just some of the essentials that will make the business more enticing to customers, but discounts, loyalty schemes and advertising will only take you that far. A few simple ideas we all know, but taken together these few tips can make a huge difference in creating and maintaining your customer base:
- Engagement: not just reminding the customers of your great offers, but genuine building of involvement – tell people about the company developments, ask their opinion and involve them in the dealings of your business. But first ensure they want to hear from you!
- Feedback: actively seek the opinion of your customers and make sure they feel that they’ve been heard. And take their suggestions to heart – customer sees the things you don’t!
- Reason to return: loyalty programmes are not dead, and incentives to return still prove to get results. Don’t concentrate too much on discounts here – while they undoubtedly work, many customers are after that feeling of being special to the company. So consider providing some non-monetary insider privileges to your loyal customers, and make sure they see the added value.
- Relevance: know your industry and make sure you keep up with the changes in your marketplace. No point in marketing something that’s no longer relevant!
- Appreciation: go that extra mile and make your customer realise they are more than just a transaction for you. Know when to say Happy Birthday, or a simple thank you. It might start a conversation that will result in genuine brand loyalty.
After all, it’s called hospitality industry for a reason – it’s all about the interaction with the customer, from the moment of initial contact to hopefully a long-lasting partnership. The task of the marketer in this case is to ensure that your customer feels this interaction is alive also after the end of the purchased service.