CUSTOMER SERVICE STILL MOST IMPORTANT

Illustration of a waiter/concierge.

Google data shows that excellent customer service is more likely to attract returning customers than a loyalty programme.

A Think with Google report showed that only 21 percent of travellers are willing to sacrifice comfort for a lower price. Loyalty programmes didn’t even count as one of the top three customer considerations when choosing a brand to book with. Customer service came out trumps at 60 percent, an accessible and easy-to-use website at 55 percent, with online reviews at 50 percent. Loyalty programs came in behind at fourth, with 46 percent.

With customer service being the most valuable tool for a hotel, hoteliers need to ensure that every interaction is treated as sacred. The best way to do this is by assisting travellers from the very first point-of-contact. This ties into the second point – simple, accessible web presence – as that will often be a traveller’s first interaction with a hotel.

Another priority is giving customers more control. In air travel, choosing a flight is now a fundamental feature. Hilton Hotels has begun a similar function, allowing Hilton Honors members to determine their exact room on its app. Interestingly, the app now has over a 90 percent retention rate. The average mobile app retention rate after 90 days is only 20 percent.

Comparing industry to industry, the report showed that flight customers are more loyal to brands than hotel customers. This may be because there are fewer brand choices available in air travel, where 49 percent of customers feel towards a brand. Contrastingly, only 30 percent of high-value travellers showed brand loyalty towards hotels.

It is clear that hotel customers will not be swayed by loyalty points or other cost-saving options, at least in the high-value customer range. Quality customer service is irreplaceable and should be valued first and foremost, and should be universal across all aspects of the hotel that are customer-facing, from the website all the way to lobby.