We’ve all been there: the need for corrective service through nothing more than a dreaded 800 number. We detest the thought of prolonged automated menus, reconnects and – heaven forbid – a dropped call. That’s what consumers have come to expect from services like third party booking sites.
There is a myth that you can save more money by using third parties but, as my dad always says, “you get what you pay for.” Just ask Hotels.com and its ⅕ stars from over 1,300 reviewers. Most prices and availabilities are inaccurate, details get easily muddled, and it’s borderline impossible for a problem to be corrected. Here are just a few reasons why vacationers are veering away from third party booking, and how Inbound Marketing can fill the niche:
- Room Reservation Woes
There are too many inconsistencies when it comes to block-outs for third-party platforms. While rooms may be available according to a site like Travelocity.com, in reality, the room is anything but. And there is little that a third party can (or are willing) to do to correct the problem. This leaves a bad taste not only for the third-party, but for your hotel – even at no fault of your own. Inbound Marketing Tip: For hotels and resorts, a little exclusivity isn’t a bad thing. Better rooms will naturally be in high demand, which increases the perceived value. A visitor on your site is looking for a service – attract them with something that sets you apart from other resorts. Implement mobile check-ins with social sharing features, or promote your free high-speed wi-fi.
- The Pricing Myth
People use these undermined parties because they believe they are getting a better deal. However, when guests book directly with a hotel, more often than not, they are willing and able to match the lowest price. The problem is that many travelers are unaware of this fact. Inbound Marketing Tip: Use this to your advantage and promote price-matching through social media or other online tools. After educating them, use the opportunity to follow-up with a form for additional information, whether it be a eBook, travel guide or coupon. After all, those most likely to reserve online are more likely to do their homework. Showing your hand builds trust and turns your visitors into leads by connecting with them in order to have them rally around your brand.
- Lack of Customer Appreciation
Personally, I like to feel like my business is appreciated. Hotels are good at showing this appreciation through loyalty points – IF rooms are booked directly. Unlike third-party services, these points accumulate with each stay and can be used at any hotel location. Points collected through third parties are limited to that site and come with expiration dates. Hence, the ‘appreciation’ is standardized and unfeeling. Inbound Marketing Tip: Your resort offers delightful, passion-driven service that exceeds a visitor’s expectations. Do this by acknowledging their wants and needs via review monitoring, social mentions, or – better still – asking your current customers. A visitor’s loyalty is hard-earned and deserved. It’s more than a fair-trade: the resort or hotel gains direct attention from a visitor, so you, the hotelier, should be more than able to accommodate any concerns they may have to turn them into customers.
- Why Pay for Something Twice?
Not only do you pay to retain a third party as a service, but you pay extra commission for each booking. That’s like paying for phone service on top of paying monthly for the phone itself – oh wait… The point of the matter is that no one likes to pay twice. Inbound Marketing Tip: While eliminating third party booking may seem like a step backward, having guests book directly only strengthens value proposition. Not only do you gain a personal connection with your guests, but they in turn take away a positive experience to share with others. Ensure your rooms are filled by creating lasting relationships with your guests. Share your great content. Stay active in social media. Guests will share their great experience with others – that kind of marketing is priceless.
While partnering with third-party sites does help get rooms filled, promoting loyalty programs and customer connection through social media tools can create an avid following for your brand. No matter how a customer arrives at your property, treated well enough they will give your their loyalty.