[INTERVIEW] My guests are loyal, but to OTAs. How can this trend be reversed?

Dear hoteliers,

I was recently in contact with Lauriane, a marketing & communication manager for four hotels located in Paris. We discussed the challenges she was currently facing in the sector, some of which many of you might be familiar with, and the various tools that helped her overcome these challenges and achieve her objectives.

To tell you the truth, what put me on her path was the fact that Lauriane has always been interested in the subject of CRM. My questions therefore were: What problem were you trying to solve by adopting a CRM solution? And how has CRM helped you achieve your number one goal, build loyalty with your guests?

The details can be found in our interview.

Happy reading!

Tony: Hello Lauriane. Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

Lauriane: Hello Tony. I work for four hotels in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, in the heart of Paris. I handle communication and marketing for l’Hôtel des Marronniersl’Hôtel de Seinel’Hôtel des 2 Continents and le Welcome Hôtel. As such, I manage all customer relations and the sending of email campaigns, etc. It’s quite varied.

Tony: Great. How long have you been working for these institutions?

Lauriane: Since 2012. And yes, things have changed quite a bit since then! It’s a very interesting job. These hotels are located in the same area but are very different, with very distinct clientele, so each location has its own challenges. 

Tony: Could you describe your responsibilities in more detail?

Lauriane: I’m responsible for the hotels’ external communication, for attracting new guests and, of course, for everything related to our websites and blog articles as well as being in charge of all internal communication. I keep an eye on our guests before, during and after their stay and do everything possible to keep them coming back. Basically, I attract guests to our four locations and try to retain them. So that’s my job.

Tony: And in your work, what’s the problem you encounter (or used to encounter) the most on a daily basis?

Lauriane: It all depends on the hotel. Generally speaking, my number one problem is that our guests discover us and book their stay for the most part via OTAs, which is not surprising since they’re still small hotels. But what I needed was a way to increase their loyalty directly rather than having them come back again through a distributor. For one of the hotels, the difficulty was having loyal guests, and for the other three, it was having direct loyal guests.

Tony: So, we’ve known each other for a while, and I’ve always noticed that you seemed very interested in the subject of CRM. What problem were you trying to solve by adopting a CRM solution? Was it mainly about building customer loyalty?

Lauriane: Yes, that’s exactly it. I wanted to have a real relationship with my clients, before, during and after their stay. What made me appreciate Experience, was that I could manage all these different aspects with the same tool.

Tony: That was going to be my next question. It seems to me that a few years ago, you were using a lot of different tools to manage your customer relations. What made you finally switch to Experience

Lauriane: I used to have a CRM that was uniquely dedicated to customer satisfaction during the stay. I had nothing for the “before” or “after”, in other words, for the follow-up. I was starting to become interested in the pre-stay. I had gone through a trial run with another company, but it didn’t work. I still had too many technical issues. Working with four hotels, I couldn’t afford to have recurring problems. It’s a real waste of time, and it generates dissatisfaction among our guests. So, I would say that I turned to Experience for its all-in-one advantage. It had everything within the same tool, and that’s exactly what I was looking for.

Tony: You mentioned that you used all our communication tools for before, during and after the stay as well as the email feature. How would you describe the evolution you’ve seen after the implementation of these tools?

Lauriane: First, I was able to obtain a usable database. Before, my database wasn’t one bit segmented or optimized. Today, I know who the people I contact by email are. I was able to cleanse my database and refine my segmentation criteria, etc. I now have far fewer people unsubscribing from my email lists. On the contrary, these people are expecting my emails and are therefore very receptive. In fact, I have a better results for my emails now that there’s an entire “pre-stay” element set up.

Tony: That’s really interesting! Would you say it’s a time and effort saver, actually?

Lauriane: Totally. The automation part is great for that! There is, of course, the whole implementation part which needs to be set up in the beginning, but once you have the tools in place, it works really well. Even for the reception teams, everything is simple. Automation is a huge time saver, especially when you have multiple locations. I create my own emails and I also use automatic emailing. Of course, I set up different emails for all four hotels.

Tony: You’ve answered so many of my questions. You really use the tool well!

Lauriane: I know we don’t use it to its full extent because there’s so much there. But I’m very happy to have it, from A to Z. 

Tony: Thank you so much. Do you have an anecdote that reinforced your decision to use our CRM?

Lauriane: Well, I had a situation where a client didn’t really enjoy her stay. She arrived and didn’t get the room she thought she was going to get because in one of our hotels, the rooms are very different from one another. She sent a message during her stay to say how unhappy she was. I answered her personally and offered to move her to another room. She just said, “No, I’m going to leave.” I apologized and said, “You haven’t seen what our hotel is really like, you haven’t had an opportunity to experience our establishment, and what’s more, you have a bad image of us.” She said, “Okay, I’ll give you another chance.” After that, we exchanged a few emails and I ended up sending her another satisfaction survey. She responded very positively! We talked afterwards and she said, “Listen, the fact that I was able to communicate with you is what ultimately made me want to come back.” Now, this client returns twice a month and brings people with her. She’s a great guest. She happens to work in customer relations and thought that we reacted very well.

Tony: Thanks Lauriane. To conclude, what would you say to your fellow hoteliers if you had to convince them to use Experience

Lauriane: I would say that Experience really enriches the customer relationship. We shouldn’t stop once the reservation has been made. Experience has allowed me to initiate the customer relationship before their stay, and to maintain a continuous relationship, from the reception desk, to breakfast and even after the stay, through the use of occasional emails. 

Tony: Well, thank you so much, Lauriane!

Lauriane: My pleasure, Tony.