Guest Loyalty and Gratitude is the Return Gift for your Thoughtfulness

In January, I attended the PA Tourism & Lodging Association Inn-Touch meeting at Hickory Bridge Farm in Ortanna, PA.  Great place…I wish we had stayed there.  Marilyn and I usually stay at inns when we travel, but on this trip, we had our 4 year old grandson and cocker spaniel Arthur with us.  So we stayed at a (gasp!) chain motel in nearby Gettysburg.  Marilyn had booked on-line (to include checking the bullet that said we had a dog…no charge…and a kid),and when we checked in, everything was messed up.  They assigned us to a room with no extra bed for Brody.  They did not know we had a dog so they said it would cost extra.  And when we went to the desk to make alternate room arrangements, the snot-nosed teenager behind the desk gave us lip.

The manager finally came out to make nice-nice and correct the matter.  He upgraded us to a larger room with a whirlpool tub in the bedroom (which Brody thought was a pool).  But even with the upgrade, I felt both cheated (I was looking for a nice experience…not lip) and guilty (for an upgrade we got only because we complained).

Pat Materka, owner of Ann Arbor Bed & Breakfast, on the U of MI campus, sent me an article from the June 17 New

York Times, written by Rob Walker, about “Hyatt’s Random Acts of Generosity“.  Hyatt is instituting a new program called “random acts of generosity” where the hotel randomly picks up the tab for an expense, such as your bar tab or massage.  The effort is based on the concept that giving such gifts will not only be appreciated, but will also build loyalty and gratitude.  And such gratitude will result in continued business.

Hmmmmm… A couple of questions come to mind… How do they select which guest gets the gift?  How do they train their employees to do it “randomly” as a surprise?  And, as Walker mentions, when Hyatt made the public announcement of the program (it was in the New York Times, for gosh sakes), wouldn’t EVERY guest be waiting for their gift?  And if they don’t get one, will they feel cheated (like I did)?  Or will they feel guilty (like I did)  if they asked for the gift?

Don’t get me wrong…I am a BIG believer in Relationship Marketing (see the article Marketing on a Dime).  Building personal connections with guests or potential guests (calling them by name, sending handwritten notes, going the extra step for service, including them in newsletters, making a personal call to say Happy Birthday instead of an email, etc.) is, by far, the way to strengthen repeat business.

But inns don’t need gimmicks to build loyalty or gratitude.  When an innkeeper’s thoughtfulness of providing a birthday candle in the cinnamon bun, or an unexpected bottle of bubbly upon the arrival of the honeymooners, or a handwritten sympathy card to a former guest, or a “Welcome, Dan” instead of “Can I help you?”, loyalty and gratitude already have a foundation of a lasting relationship.  Inns are good at that stuff.

What do you think?  Do you have “Gifts” you feel are adding to customer loyalty?  Scott

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