Hotel bookings: why a good first impression counts (and how to achieve it)
Your guests take 7 seconds to form an opinion about your hotel and 50 milliseconds to judge your website. Find out how to guide first impressions and secure more bookings!
There is a quote by Oscar Wilde that you have surely heard repeated hundreds of times that goes like this, "There is never a second chance to make a good first impression."
The reason it is quoted so often is that… it is terribly true! After Oscar Wilde, surveys and research have taken care to confirm it, establishing that
- it takes only 7 seconds to form an opinion about another person or a company
- and most people take 50 milliseconds to form an opinion about a website.
But why does this happen? Behavioral scientists call it first-impression bias, which is a limitation in information processing that causes us to make quick and incomplete observations about our surroundings based only on first perceptions.
The problem is that once we have formed a first impression, our brains do not prompt us to do a "double-check" to verify its correctness. Rather, we will have a tendency to look for information that confirms our initial impression and devalue information that contradicts it.
How much first impressions weigh in hotels
If in interpersonal relationships it is possible, with time, to correct a negative first impression, in a hotel the first impression is decisive and is often the cause of an (irretrievable) missed reservation or dissatisfaction that could result in reputational damage.
In fact, the data indicates that
- if you make a good impression, 72 percent of your customers are likely to talk about it with 6 or more people
- if you make a bad impression, 13 percent of your customers will share it with 15 or more people. (Everyone else will simply never come back).
That is why, for a hotelier, it is crucial to put effort into laying the foundations for a pleasant experience from the very first interaction, whether it is the hotel's website or a simple phone call.
In this article, we will look at what steps to pay attention to and strategies to avoid getting it wrong.
First step: research and choice
Every trip begins with exploring the available alternatives, and this is when a hotel should pay the most attention.
According to a recent survey by Statista:
- 72 percent of people prefer to choose and book their trips online
- while 12 percent still rely on travel agencies.
That's why, although agencies seemingly play a minority role, it is crucial to work on both channels, making sure that everything from social media channels to the accommodation's website to printed brochures are eye-catching and realistic, accompanied by evocative descriptions and comprehensive information.
The goal is to make the research phase not just a preliminary step, but an experience in itself. Here are what elements you should focus on:
Photographs and graphic style
A well-shot photo can immediately catch the eye and pique interest, but be careful not to overdo it: photographs of your hotel should be attractive but not contrived.
It is critical that they be realistic to offer a true preview of what guests can expect. Remember that your potential customers will study your photographs in great detail, and if they do not find what they saw when they arrive, it will do no good to have created a great first impression.
The design and usability of your website are also important to reflect the uniqueness of your facility and to make the visiting guest feel immediately comfortable.
Descriptions and booking conditions
As with images, the rule is not to "overdo it" in descriptions. Favor well-written and detailed but above all honest descriptions without exaggerated promises. Only then will you be able to create a trusting relationship between you and the potential guest right away.
Remember, too, that descriptions are key to influencing demand by attracting exactly the customer segments you want to target.
In addition to the descriptions of rooms, services and experiences offered by your hotel, make sure to curate to the smallest detail all information revolving around rates, payment terms and cancellation policies. This attention will show that you know your customers' needs and are maximally transparent, increasing their trust.
As a host, you are well aware of the importance of reviews in the process of selecting accommodation. They are an important source of information considered to be highly reliable by potential guests and, therefore, positively or negatively influence the decision to book.
Remember, however, that it's not just the reviews themselves that are critical − your responses matter, too! A good response below a negative review can have the power to override mistrust and, indeed, make those who read it appreciate you even more.
Step two: the reservation
After overcoming the hurdle of the research phase, you need to set up a smooth and pleasant booking process to reconfirm to the guest that they have made the right choice and continue to build a great first impression.
Obviously, you will need to curate every booking channel according to the specific characteristics of each.
Bookings from booking engines
As we've seen, your website should be visually appealing and offer a smooth and pleasant browsing experience. The same thing applies to your booking engine!
Make sure that the interface is intuitive, allows customers to enter dates of stay, number of guests, and personal preferences easily, contains all essential information, and ensures secure and compliant payments and privacy management.
The easier and faster your booking engine is to use, the more you will be able to encourage direct bookings. If you want to learn more about this topic, here are 5 tips for increasing bookings from your booking engine!
Bookings via email
If customers choose to contact you via email, it means they want to establish a personal relationship with you. Therefore, it is critical to remember to add a human touch, even if you use tools for automating quotes.
For example, you might consider small supplemental communications, such as a personalized follow-up email, a phone contact before or after the offer is sent, or an email follow-up based on the type of guest and their needs.
Phone reservations can be more challenging than other channels, because a phone call can surprise you at any time of the day, while you're busy resolving some unforeseen issue or when you have a full house at the front desk.
To avoid any misunderstanding and always appear well-disposed toward the guest calling you, remember that − even if the customer cannot see you − smiling while talking on the phone can positively influence the tone of the conversation and make the customer feel welcome.
It will then be important to identify yourself by name and your role at the hotel, use the customer's name right away (and repeat it during the call), and, of course, pay close attention to questions and needs, showing courtesy and flexibility.
If you know how to handle the telephone reservation with positivity and enthusiasm, the customer is likely to respond in the same way, creating a more pleasant interaction for both of you and laying the groundwork for an already positive first meeting in the facility.
To explore this topic further, read our article on how to manage phone calls and turn them into reservations.
Finally, many guests choose online or offline modes of booking through third parties. In this case, your job will be to provide accurate information and high-quality images to be faithfully and attractively represented.
Remember that your booking partners are extensions of your marketing strategy and must be selected and managed with the same care as you give to your direct channels.
Now that you know how to ensure a truly effective search and booking phase capable of eliciting a good first impression, don't let bad rates defeat all your efforts.
With Smartpricing, the revenue management software that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to always find the right price at the right time, you'll be sure that every single booking is actually profitable... to truly enhance the value of your hotel and repay you for all your hard work!
Book a personalized demonstration with a Smartpricing consultant now!