While “pivot to virtual” has become a cliché of pandemic-era marketing and communication, there’s no denying that COVID only underscored the important role that digital plays in identifying and engaging guests, gathering their feedback, and cultivating their loyalty. Here’s how those dynamics shifted throughout the pandemic and have continued to evolve during recovery:
More of everything: Communication is happening more than it did pre-COVID, and in every direction — from guests to hotels, hotels to guests, brands to properties, brands to team members, team members to clients, and so on. And it’s happening via multiple channels, including email, hotel websites, social media, and consumer platforms. “People are looking for more,” said Elizabeth Schultz vice president of guest experience, strategy, and innovation for Hyatt Hotels Corporation. “They want to understand more. We’ve put more information into our pre-arrival and confirmation communications than we have before.
“Hotels have raised the red flag of ‘We’re getting so many inbound phone calls about what’s open, what our menus are, all that stuff,’ so we’ve tried to get more of that into our arrival communications.”
Added Gregor Schertler, chief operating officer for Flemings Hotels, who is based in Germany: “We’ve had much more internal communication during this time than we would have before the pandemic. We have a meeting twice a week to communicate with all our hotels, get their feedback, and discuss changing things in response to legal requirements.”
Not too negative: “We have not seen a tremendous amount of negative feedback,” said Sabrina Lillew, vice president of loyalty programs – North and Central America for Accor. “Our guests understand and appreciate that the protocols in place are being implemented for their safety and wellbeing.”
Added Eliot Hamlisch, executive vice president of loyalty and revenue optimization for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts: “It’s my general experience that many of our guests are quite understanding of the current environment. In general, there’s an expectation that things like breakfast are going to look and feel a little different.”
Online over social: “There is some feedback from guests on Instagram,” Schertler said, “but most of the feedback is actually on TripAdvisor and Google. I call them the classic way of online feedback.”
But less online overall: “You’re seeing a big decline in the online review volume,” said Rachel Dowling, vice president of product for TrustYou. “That actually started before the pandemic, in 2019 and 2020 — online review volume was already decelerating.”
Excerpted from Do You Know Your Guests?, a white paper from HSMAI and Trust You.