How do you define a loyal guest?
As far as I’m concerned, the term “loyalty” has lost its meaning recently, particularly when it comes to how consumers interact with businesses. Historically, loyalty has been synonymous with exclusivity, indicating that a customer or guest only does business with organizations where they desire to be loyal. Nowadays, loyalty is synonymous to points and miles, elite status, and recognition for dollars spent. If you spend your money with brands when it’s convenient, you can be considered loyal to multiple competing corporations. You can simultaneously achieve Platinum status with Marriott Rewards and Diamond status with Hilton Honors, but perhaps it’s only because of convenience and room rates at the time of booking, rather than true dedication to one or the other. Of course, your most loyal guests do not need incentives to come back, but sadly, many do.
I was discussing this with someone recently, and the response I received was, “So what? If they keep coming back and spending money, why does it matter if they’re exclusively loyal to you, or if they enjoy the benefit from the incentive they get?” This perspective indicated that loyalty “programs” serve their purpose in generating repeat business, and it doesn’t matter if they also patronize the competition.
So perhaps the word “loyalty” hasn’t lost its meaning, but it definitely has shifted. There may be businesses that we are genuinely loyal to, but for the most part, as a society, we like points. We like free things. We are driven by tangible incentives and upgrades and amenities once we reach certain tiers. Loyalty has taken on a new definition.
We need to take these factors into consideration, and know that even if we provide a genuinely positive experience to our guests, and demonstrate that we sincerely appreciate their business, this will not automatically translate to loyalty. In order to understand how to capture loyalty in today’s society, we need to understand what loyal guests do. While they may do a number of things, there are two things in particular that guests do that are specifically related to loyalty.
They return with average frequency. The frequency varies based on a number of factors, but ultimately, and obviously, loyal guests come back. Restaurants and bars may see returning guests on a weekly or monthly basis, and this may be frequent enough to justify their loyalty. Larger destinations, on the other hand, such as a destination theme park or resort, may consider their guests loyal if they visit once per year, or maybe even once every few years.
The frequencies of return visits that justify loyalty not only vary with the size of the business, but also the distance the guest has traveled. The farther a guest has traveled, the less obligated they are to visit as frequently as those who live closer, and therefore require less of a commitment to get there.
They help generate new business for you. This particular action has seen quite an evolution in the past few years. Historically, this has simply meant “positive word of mouth;” however, the term word of mouth no longer means what it used to either due to technological enhancements that have reduced communication barriers. A loyal guest will actively share positive experiences with friends and family members, encouraging them to visit as well, and effectively increase their party size.
Additionally, they are more vocal online than your average guest. They post on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other social media platforms with the sole purpose of sharing positive experiences and recommending the business to prospective visitors. Additionally, when dissatisfied guests express negative feedback, your loyal guests come to your defense. They are your brand ambassadors. They are your revenue generating marketing team.
There are still ways to generate organic loyalty, and those occur during crucial moments of the guest experience. When you exceed expectations, anticipate needs, and provide assurance that you will take care of guests when they need you, guests will naturally become satisfied, which can then be transmuted into loyalty. If you don’t exert energy into influencing repeat visitation and positive word of mouth to your satisfied guests, it’s the equivalent of flooring it in neutral. You’re just wasting energy.
What are you doing to turn your guests into lifelong loyal ambassadors?
As the Founder of BackLooper, a consumer insights tool, Joshua not only helps attractions generate higher volumes of customer feedback, but provides them with the intelligence needed to correct the most pressing concerns that detract from the guest experience. Joshua’s passion for guest experience comes from his background in hospitality and tourism, serving visitors from all around the world and specializing in complex service failure resolution. BackLooper has proven to help attractions optimize their feedback loop and foster guest loyalty.