Your loyal guests have a more refined expectation than a transient visitor or a first-timer to your venue. They also demonstrate that they are willing to come back time and again, and to tell others about their great experience – resulting in new business being created. Your most loyal guests are your army of defenders, making them your street team for both marketing and public relations.
The best operators know that you can’t take this type of loyalty for granted. One bad experience could unravel all of the work that you have done to get them to this level, and while some service failures might be forgiven or brushed off, you must actively nurture your loyal guests so that they remain loyal, become more loyal, and help you create loyalty from newer guests.
Here are six ways that you can put fuel on the fire by recognizing and rewarding loyalty.
1. Personalize the experience
If your guests are regular visitors, it means you have reached the coveted designation of “third space.” You aren’t working and you aren’t home, but a comfortable environment that’s an easy decision (even though “third space” probably needs to be redefined as home and work have merged for much of the global population). A great place to start is by learning your guests’ names so you and your team can greet them personally on every visit. Many years ago, I would go bowling every single Thursday. Tom, the manager who was always at the front counter, would greet me by name and make sure that my lane was always open, because he could easily anticipate my visit.
In short, become the place where everybody knows your name.
2. Make them feel like a VIP
Your loyal guests deserve special treatment. Once you know their names and recognize them when they visit, take a look at what you can provide beyond your “normal” experience, without alienating other guests. When Tom made sure my lane was open at 4pm every Thursday, it made me feel like I was regarded a little bit higher than other guests coming to bowl. Reserving their space, expediting their entry, and knowing what they like to participate in will make your loyal guests feel like a VIP.
3. Leverage technology for intelligence
Remembering the names and habits of every loyal guest is (hopefully) very difficult. While you are aligning your service standard to naturally be personalized, use technology to your advantage to get there. At a fitness center where I used to be a member, I had to scan my card in order to be let in. Whenever my card was scanned, my name and photo would appear on the monitor behind the counter. This quickly prompted the desk staff to say, “Welcome back, Josh.” Eventually, this greeting was given before my card was even scanned. Technology was used as a tool to help personalize the experience, and helped the staff remember my name over time.
Make sure your team knows that technology is there to help them recognize loyalty, not to do it for them.
4. Engage on social media
In addition to everything you do for your guests onsite, don’t forget to recognize loyalty in between visits, or the “offsite” component of guest experience. While it can be difficult to identify your loyal guests from more transient visitors on social media, take note of specific posts that indicate if they are members, annual passholders, or frequent visitors. Similarly to recognizing their habits, watch for social media accounts that come up more regularly when checking in or sharing any content from your venue. Reinforce their advocacy by creating a dialogue, thanking them for visiting and for posting.
5. Regularly deliver “wow” moments
This one should be obvious by now, but it’s worth repeating. If you create that “VIP” experience for your guests, what unexpected moments of surprise and delight are you offering them that keeps them wanting more? Remember, the anatomy of a wow moment is something that the guest does not expect, goes beyond the job description of the staff member doing it, costs little or nothing to the organization, and does not negatively impact any other guest’s experience. Better yet, if you have a rewards program, this allows you to recognize your guests beyond any points system or loyalty scheme that you have in place.
6. Thank them for their loyalty
At the end of the day, it comes down to hospitality. However you are recognizing guest loyalty, through technology, through delivering “wow” moments, or creating that VIP experience, your staff should always stress their genuine appreciation for loyalty. Phrases like “Thanks for coming in tonight,” “Thanks for being an annual passholder,” and “Thank you for your loyalty” go a long way in making sure your guests feel warm and fuzzy when they visit – and when they keep coming back.
Always make sure that you are recognizing and rewarding guest loyalty so that it continues to grow organically.