Alumni Relations: Team Spirit is a Powerful Service Ally

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“We’ve got spirit, yes we do, we’ve got spirit…how about YOU?!!” Remember this simple enthusiastic cheer, from high school sporting events? There was and is nothing like being part of something and showing off your loyalty. When we join an organization and become part of something, most of us are motivated to contribute and want to feel like what we do matters. We are proud of “our team” or “our department” or our “division” and will rally around strong and caring leaders. And, even when we leave that organization, perhaps to move on to bigger and better or different things, many of those positive feelings still remain. We retain pleasant memories of our employment and most of the people with whom we worked. We make lasting friendships and build personal networks from those experiences.
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?

Consider these winning strategies for big hits on the service scoreboard that drive sales effectiveness:

  • Thank them. When their employment ends, send out a thank you note for their time with the company. Let them know their time with you was valued and you want to stay in touch.
  • Secure accurate contact information and enter them into the database immediately with a “former employee” code.
  • Invite them to come back, use the product, and refer new employees, family members and friends. Tell them you want their business! Give them some preferential or easy way of making the connection. Perhaps a special reservation line or contact that will recognize them as an employee.
  • Consider an “alumni discount”. It does not have to be significant to make an impact and show them their business is appreciated.
  • Send personalized letters or other mailings on a frequent basis which updates them on new services, amenities, upgrades or renovations.
  • Make it easy for them to spread the word and tell others once they get your message.
  • When they do come back, WELCOME THEM BACK!!! Train your existing employees to recognize former employees. Maybe it’s a special code when they check in or a response they have when notified of a former employee.
  • After they leave, thank them AGAIN! Keep building the relationship and momentum…and the dollars.

Your former employees are in a unique position to refer business. It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just that they may not think about it and don’t know the latest. Out of sight…out of mind. Since thousands of dollars are spent on guest loyalty programs and statistics prove how much more profitable loyalty dollars are, why would we neglect doing the same with former employees, who know the product even better than loyal guests?

Catch the team spirit. Pay attention to your alums and welcome back dollars with familiar faces. Everybody wins with team spirit as a powerful service ally.