How social media helps bridge gaps between hotels and guests
Imagine you are a guest who has just arrived at the hotel and not finding anyone to greet you – it’s bad. Now imagine how worse it would be for a guest to enter an establishment, press the call bell and be ignored. This is exactly how people feel when they contact a business on social media and do not get any form of acknowledgment or feedback.
Basically, the virtual world is no different than your actual hotel lobby or reception area. The idea that social media is an informal and casual way of building online relationships is flawed and short-sighted. It should be taken more seriously by any business or organisation, to each their own (platform). Just like a receptionist, a hotel manager, a housekeeper, a marketer behind the facade of your social media pages is equally responsible for the success of your hotel, no matter how many stars you claim to have. It’s no different than any customer service channel, not less worthy than a phone or an email.
Social media has evolved so fast when compared to any digital form of communication that there is really no excuse for service gaps any longer. Hotels have a multitude of channels at their disposal and intrinsically cost-free, with Tripadvisor® and booking.com possibly being the strongest and most influential platforms in the hospitality industry and widely accepted and used by the travelling public. Not only because it puts similar businesses in the same basket of online shopping but more importantly because it gives voice to the customer and serves as benchmark for both sides of the story: selling and buying. It creates a balance which is usually only broken by fake and illicit feedback.
Without forgetting Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIN, all very important social tools too, the Reviews section on booking platforms and social pages is without any doubt the most feared by managers of guest relations. And this is where mistakes are mostly done – not engaging the right person to handle online feedback, be it positive or negative. Even though guest relations specialists may do an excellent job on the floor, it does not necessarily mean that they can deliver the same level of service online. It takes the know-how of a seasoned marketer to engage with customers, black on white.
How to use social media to your hotel’s advantage:
Engage & Build : all social media channels are well built to allow engagement with partners and end customers. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all have direct messaging systems which lend well to building relationships through private conversations which can be integrated into your CRM system. The marketers engaged to reply to messaging/comments/reviews are key to success stories – actually replying to a message and not letting it go unnoticed, remembering a repeat customer, anticipating the needs/requests based on historical data, taking the chats onto a personal level and following the guest’s mindset. The common but most essential factor here is timing: engaging with delays could actually mean losing a customer.
Listen & React: be bold, don’t be afraid to reply to reviews, no matter how negative they can be! Actually reviews should be encouraged as they are an opportunity to engage with guests beyond their stay, an “aftersales service” in the hospitality industry. Take the opportunity to listen, turn negatives into positives, accept criticism and realise that your business could always do better thanks to your guests’ own contributions. Take time to acknowledge the good comments and react to negative experiences by turning them into new opportunities. We are all human who make mistakes, it’s how we react to them that distinguishes us from our competitors. Social media platforms like Tripadvisor and booking.com are the perfect windows for this, and you would not only be impressing your own guests but also attracting millions of potential customers who come across your online presence via these platforms and assess you for your way of dealing with problems and coming up with resolutions.
Add Value & Reward: showcasing your hotel through your own social media pages resonates into shared experiences by the guests themselves, the best modern form of word-of-mouth advertising. Give more reasons to book through your online media – offer value added forms of retention by means of discounts, cross promotions with close-by businesses and own suppliers, creating apps for loyal customers and pushing digital offers/rewards which can be redeemed through an action on social media (example, sharing a story and tagging your page or place). Make your guests proud to represent your business and give them reason to do it.
Innovate & Save: one of the best ways (if not the best) to demonstrate innovation today is to go green. What is your business doing to reduce waste, plastic, energy, overhead costs and contribute to the planet’s wellbeing? Online media can surely help replace paper thanks to digital
communication mixed with smart phone technology. Think paperless brochures/receipts, virtual key rooms, WhatsApp/social messaging and apps to enhance the customer journey and offer peace of mind but respecting the environment at the same time.
Inspire & Attract: social media is your window onto the world. Inspire followers with high-quality photography/videography without falsifying your image – stay true to your brand values and keep your identity realistic.
This will help you keep your followers and grow to reach out to new unexplored markets and target niches. Follow the ethos of your business to attract like-minded people on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram for leisure customers and Twitter/LinkedIN (for business customers). Followers will easily turn into customers if they understand that you share the same X factor.
Ultimately social media can be the “fil rouge” of a guest’s journey from the research phase right through to the memories of the stay, a tangible way of joining all the dots of a guest experience and not just a means to an end. Being social online is the equivalent of smiling whilst welcoming your guests – make the best of it!