Everything You Need to Know About Email CommunicationGeneral Posted by Alex Gaggioli Date August 14, 2017 1LinkedinFacebookTwitterSubscribe to the BlogGet our new posts sent right to your email inbox. IntroductionThe guest experience extends far beyond the property itself. Pre and post communication is essential for many reasons, but in short, it helps extend your property’s service and enhances the guest’s overall stay. Every property is unique, and the amount of communication you have will largely depend on your guests’ needs. Whether travelers are coming to your property for business or pleasure, there are ways better communication can enhance their stay. We wanted to learn more about how property owners and managers communicate with their guest, so we sent a survey to Cloudbeds’ customers. Based on the data we received, we pulled together some insights that we hope will help you navigate pre and post stay communication. We then analyzed more than 50 pre and post emails to find the best ones. Using this data, we’ll make suggestions on how your property should tackle pre and post stay communication.How do Properties Around the World Approach Guest Communication?We wanted to find out how our own customers approach guest communication. Communication is essential for any type of business, but especially so in hospitality. When any type of service is rendered, customers or travelers want to be informed. In today’s world, pre and post stay emails are one of the easiest ways to keep your guests in the know and gain valuable feedback. Pre-Arrival EmailsWhen asked about pre-arrival emails in our survey, 72% of respondents said they send at least one email prior to a guest’s arrival. When you think about the most important information to include in a pre-arrival email, basic property information probably tops the list. More than 90% of those who send pre-arrival emails include check-in and check-out information, and 70% include directions to the property itself. Check-in/out information – 90% Directions to the property – 70% Transportation (train, taxi, airport) – 55% Parking information – 39% Links to social media – 37% Local info (guides, tips, weather) – 34% Guest reviews – 13% Other – 4% And what about the 28% of people who don’t send emails? Only 5% of people said that they didn’t send pre-arrival emails because they don’t see the value in them. 40% said they don’t know how to set up pre-arrival emails, 32% said they didn’t have the right tools, and 14% said they don’t have time. Like most independent property owners, people are busy and don’t always have time to learn new systems. Depending on the reservation source, properties may not be able to send pre-arrival information based on the information they receive from online travel agencies. But, we’ll discuss how to navigate this problem in a bit. Based on these results, we know that the purpose of a pre-arrival email is to inform the guest of important information. While only 34% use their email to supply local information, we expect a more tailored approach to be important in the future. Post-Stay EmailsShockingly, 52% of the people we surveyed said they do not send post-stay emails. Of the mere 48% who do send post-stay emails, 61% use post-stay emails to obtain guest feedback. If your property wants to boost up your online presence or obtain valuable guest feedback, a post-stay follow-up is one of the most convenient ways to do so. What our respondents said was most important in a post-stay email: Feedback forms or links to review sites – 61% Bills/Invoices – 13% Deals and special offers – 11% Links to social media accounts – 10% Other – 4% Travel information for leaving the city – 2% Of the 52% of people who do not send post-stay emails, 50% said they don’t have the tools and 24% said they don’t have time. And interestingly enough, 13% said they don’t send them because they don’t have access to email addresses because the booking came from an OTA. While the majority of respondents don’t send follow-up emails, there is a lot of value for the property and their guests to receive communications after they’ve left the property. The biggest pain points appear to be tools and time, both of which can be dealt with automation technology. Guest Personalization59% of properties who responded to our survey do not ask guests the purpose of their trip. A major trend playing out in hospitality right now is guest personalization at all levels, whether it’s a vacation rental or a 5-star hotel. How properties use available resources to personalize guests’ stay, even in the smallest ways, will define the future of hospitality. The Best Examples of Pre and Post Stay EmailsWe looked at more than 50 examples of pre and post-stay emails to find what stood out, in good ways and bad, and chose two which stood out as exemplary. A Winning Pre-Arrival EmailThe standout player in our email analysis was the Holiday Inn Express in Indianapolis, Indiana. Their pre-arrival email touched almost all the areas which we believe are essential to a pre-arrival email. What they included:Confirmation Number Check-in and check-out date Address with link to view map and directions and link to reserve a carDirect links to modify, cancel or contact the property about the reservation Local information and attractions (nearby attractions, dining) Amenities to expect Link to join rewards program 4-day forecast and link to more detailed informationWhat they could have added: Check-in and check-out times Information on arriving to the propertyWhat to expect based on where you’re coming from (airport, train, cab, Uber/Lyft) etc. A personalized flare that doesn’t feel so plainIn my experience as a traveler, I think it’s ideal when all of your reservation information is in an email or directly accessible from it. Especially during international travel, finding internet access and being able to find important information like the address, confirmation number, and crucial property info is essential. A Winning Post-Departure EmailOur favorite departure email comes from The Hoxton, a boutique hotel in London. The Hoxton deserves praise for including all the necessary information while adding their own personal flair. What they did right:Personalized the email content with the guest’s name (Matthew in this case)They Included four Instagram posts that the hotel shared during his stay. This is some next level social media genius. The best part is they give context to what they’re sharing. A simple thumbs up or thumbs down call to action that directs to a branded landing page, but only if you click the thumbs up. If you click the thumbs down it automatically opens an email to send to the property.They subtly let you know here to find the cheapest rents for next timeWhat they could have added:Specific deals or discounts for rebooking We particularly enjoy the simplicity of this post-stay email while still providing all the essential information. We looked at plenty of post-departure emails that only included the bill or invoice or only included a link to a review site. Getting feedback, for us and our survey respondents, is the most important part of a post-departure email, but you want to make sure that if your guests have a problem you can handle it privately before they take to an online forum. A proactive strategy works best here. What You Should Include in Pre and Post-Stay EmailsBased on our survey and email analysis, here’s how you should approach your guest communication strategy. How to Approach Pre-Arrival EmailsFirst of all, you should send pre-arrival emails when you can. Depending on where a traveler books, you may or may not have control over their email address. In the case where you do have a property’s email address, you should always send pre-arrival information. Here’s what you should include in your pre-arrival email:Reservation details Check-in and check-out dates and timesContact information so the guest can easily call or message you A map with a link for directions (either generic or a link to Google maps or a similar service) Essential property information (parking info, must know information before arriving) – anything that a guest needs to know before they arrive Local information and guides – show the guest that you’re a local expert. Include any events that are happening during their stayShare weather informationIf you have a bar or restaurant, include a discount or free drink Links to your social media accounts – show guests what they’re in for Something unique to your property – whether it’s images, fun facts, or something totally differentHow to Approach Post-Stay EmailsAfter a guest has stayed at your property, you want to make sure that their experience met or exceeded their expectations. If in the guest is unsatisfied in any way, you want to make sure that you address it before they have the opportunity to say something online or to their friends. Sending a post-stay email the day of or day after a guest’s stay is a great way to extend their experience and make sure everything is squared away. In the case that you don’t the guest’s email from their original booking, you can always obtain it another way, either by simply asking or requiring it to use the wifi. You want to obtain guests emails both to check-in post stay, but also to send them marketing messages in the future. Even today, email remains one of the best ways to market to consumers. That being said, you should always send a post-stay email. At the very least, you should be asking guests for reviews and actively engaging a reputation management strategy. Here’s what you should include in your post-stay email: Some sort of personal touch, even if it’s just their name A request for comment on how their stay went. Ideally, you want them to go to a branded landing page that allows them to submit a review or send an email to management Something to give the email context, whether it’s social media posts like The Hoxton, or some other timely, personal touch that makes the guest feel special. Give them the wow moment. Information or a deal on how to book again In our opinion, a post-stay email should be short and sweet. Make sure the guest knows that you’re thankful for their stay and give them an opportunity to voice their opinion on their stay. It’s almost always cheaper and easier to get a returning customer than it is to obtain a new one. Use it to your advantage.How to Send Pre and Post Stay EmailsIn our survey, 53% of respondents reported that they use no sort of email system. There are cheap email tools you can use to send out pre and post emails, which we outlined in a previous post here. Also, Cloudbeds just announced a brand new email automation system that’s free for all property management system customers. You can learn more about it here. ConclusionGuest communication is essential for all types of properties and travelers. Keeping guests informed and then making sure they’re taken care of after they’ve left your property is a winning strategy. Use email communication to enhance your relationship with guests.