In the digital age, customer engagement has become a fast-paced, sometimes near-instantaneous endeavor. Customers browsing for goods and services online or through mobile technology can make decisions within seconds, and a single bad experience or company misstep can have fast, brutal repercussions as word-of-mouth spreads with all the speed of the Internet and use of smartphones. This is especially true for hotels and the hospitality industry in general, where customer service is everything and a single customer’s testimonial â€” especially a poor one â€” can have a near-global impact.
In short, customer engagement is more key than ever, because companies can no longer control their reputations as directly as they once could. Before the advent of social media and the Internet, a company could assert its reputation through advertisements, press releases, and other “one-way” forms of communication but now social media, websites and blogs have made reputation management and customer engagement a two-way street. Customers have a voice and they will use it to speak out about the brands and companies they use, so hotels need to make sure their customer engagement is effective and positive.
How Hotels Can Enhance Their Engagement
So how can hotels increase their customer engagement and emphasize positive customer experiences while limiting poor ones? Here are a few tools any establishment in the hospitality industry should have on hand and tools that a small hotel business should be using in order to grow their customer base:
Tool 1- Social Media Use of Facebook and Twitter
For many companies as well as hotels, a Facebook page or Twitter account is the central place for customer engagement and interaction, even more so than the company’s website. Facebook and Twitter was built for users to share their experiences with others, and a company that can react quickly and gracefully to criticism or complaints â€” as well as emphasize and share praise â€” can build trust and loyalty with those customers. For example, the Four Seasons hotels use Twitter in many ways by one having a centralized account and also localized accounts. The reason the hotel sets up many Twitter accounts on the web by locations is to make their product and service more personal for their customer base globally.
Tool 2 – Online Review Sites
Keeping an eye on your reviews is key, and using sites like Trip Advisor to research yourself as a hotel is a good web and social tool to use, but how must hotels approach this in the right way? Hotels should always be extremely cautious when engaging with negative customer reviews â€” the Internet is full of public spectacles where a company or hotel made a bad situation worse by choosing to get involved in an online brawl with a customer who left a negative review. If the choice lies between arguing with a customer online, or just remaining silent, silence is always the preferable course of action â€” but savvy hotels can take an opportunity to respond and mend a poor customer service situation before it gets any worse. Ultimately a hotels brand engagement can make all the difference in how customers perceive the business. If a hotel can react well and solve the problem it is more likely you will become recommended just by word of mouth promotion.
Tool 3 – Online Help Desks
Services like LivePerson, Zendesk and other online support solutions address a common customer complaint when dealing with large companies â€” finding a “real person” to talk to. Online help desks offer a fast, easy alternative to toll-free numbers and bewildering phone trees, instead offering customers a chance to chat directly with a representative of the hotel. Services like Zendesk even offer tracking services, to create a central repository of customer information and ensure satisfaction.
Some of the most popular and successful hotel chains in the world are increasingly moving to online channels for their customer engagement and satisfaction:
- The Best Western hotel chain has heavily focused its social media strategy on sharing the love of travel, opting for a more laid-back content marketing approach rather than direct sales pitches. Best Western uses its social media outlets to talk about vacation destinations, family travel, and has opted to open the conversation to their customers.
- Hilton Worldwide has devoted entire “Guest Assistance teams” to monitor and review sites like TripAdvisor and provide instant feedback to dissatisfied customers, as well as the @HiltonHelp Twitter account.
- The Four Seasons hotel chain won awards in 2013 for its use of social media, including its creation of the @FSBridal Twitter account for couples looking to wed, hearing the voice of wedding experts and real couples (stories, tends and inspiration). The Four Seasons Toronto hotel even recently began a month long birthday campaign celebration through social contests, whereby fans and followers were asked to post celebratory images with the chance to win a Toronto and a New York trip for two. Halla Rafati, the Director of Public Relations for the hotel said how important this was for engagement, using social media as a strategic tool. The #FScelebrate photo sharing competition online allowed the Four Seasons to reach a broader audience and it created something engaging and interactive for the fan base.
Tool 4- Mobile Technology
The use of mobile technology is key for hotels. People may be travelling and may require a room to stay in for the night and the first thing they will turn to in order to find a hotel is their smartphone. A smartphone enables a person to quickly check what is available in the surrounding area and compare prices quickly on the go and every hotel should be promoting themselves through mobile technology. But how might a hotel to do this you may be thinking? As with product placements you need to get your hotel at the forefront of the customers eyes and you can do this be doing the following:
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Create a mobile app because it is the latest trend and what people live through in the new era. Tablets are the travelerâ€™s companion and so designing for specific mobile devices is crucial, think about this in your mobile strategy. In addition, when creating a new application do integrate it with social networks for maximum exposure and promote through your media and web channels.
These are just some of the great ways on how hotels are embracing the web and social tools, and with new innovation and tools emerging online the hotel industry will only become stronger by the day. As a hotel remember, it is always best to have a brand plan when it comes to connecting with the visitor, knowing how to represent your brand, how to offer unique services and products that will keep the visitor coming back and how to make their experience a positive one to pass on the thumbs up and socially promote.
Author: Hannah Connor is a writer and product strategist who has a passion for travel, technology and social media. She works on the hotel vouchercloud discounts team and embraces industry news each day. Hannah personally feels that more hotels should embrace more discount offerings or interactive competitions to keep the customer engaged and happy like the Four Seasons hotels do. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and any tips you may have.