Alumni Relations: Team Spirit is a Powerful Service Ally
By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | May 19, 2010
Your former employees are a powerful market target. They all ready know the message and product. They "bought in" to what the organization was all about when they joined. They do not need lots of advertising messages and persuasive literature to familiarize them with the product or environment. They are "ripe" for the marketing mix and they should be top picks for special promotions and communications. Your employees could and should be one of your most valuable conduits for new business. So...how do you refine service levels to this powerful group?
This point really hit home for me when contacting one of my former employers, a resort company, for whom I have tremendous respect and enthusiasm in addition to wonderful memories. This would be the first time I would introduce my family to a place that was so meaningful to me, and I was excited. So, I wrote a personal note to the General Manager with the hope that he would acknowledge my contributions as a former employee and show me some level of recognition. I was not necessarily looking for a discount or preferential treatment. What I was looking for was a "welcome back" and appreciation for a "family member" that had returned, with lots of extra dollars to spend. Instead, he apparently handed the letter off to an assistant, who sent me a form letter, directing me to call the general toll free reservation line, like EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD!!! My loyalty diminished, and sadly, my memories got some new tarnish. All sorts of opportunities to have someone personally address my stay and encourage me to increase dollars per day spent were immediately lost.
What if they had only instead offered a friendly "welcome back" message, and perhaps helped with a reservation. Considering that this same executive probably spends lots of time and dollars thinking about methods to reach new guests and expand room night revenues, why did they totally miss the opportunity to take advantage of this target market? This one was easy and would have had no cost-"relationship marketing" 101! Effectiveness in hitting target markets doesn't have to always be the result of costly shotgun approaches, when often the best targets already consider themselves part of the relationship.
The hospitality industry employs thousands of people in both short and long term roles. Some are seasonal and some spend a lifetime with one organization. Some employees stay within the hospitality industry but move to other locales or types of properties. Some move into other industries with meeting, business and entertainment needs for the hospitality industry. Each of these employees has families and friends and business associates. Word of mouth is one of their favorite advertising mediums and they love to talk. Hospitality people are usually "people people".
Let's learn a lesson from major universities around the country. Alumni relations is critical to fund and fan raising success. Highly paid officers are hired just to manage the relationships with former students and harvest dollars from loyal graduates. Why wouldn't hotels and business do the same? Former employees are such an easy sell ...and you know who they are!!!!!!
How can hotels and hospitality organizations score big with employees as a target audience? How should hotels service those who used to be in service? How can former employees be reached and what will motivate them to become guests themselves?