This week I was in Ft. Worth, Texas at the Experient Envision Conference, our annual internal meeting. For the first two days, of our four-day event, our industry supplier partners joined us for some quality socializing, and business networking. I really enjoyed the time spent with our hotel friends and other supplier colleagues.
On Wednesday, I had an interesting conversation with one of my close friends, who works for a “major brand” hotel in the Southeast. Somehow (imagine this) the subject turned to social media. Shockingly, I learned her employer does not allow any of its employees to utilize social media technology on “company time,” regardless of intent.
Plain and simple, this is a classic example of a management team making policy decisions with an “old school” mindset. Sadly, these executives don’t realize that, while they may have maintained control of their employees, they have significantly inhibited their hotel’s ability to leverage some proven online tools, to enhance the experience for their guests and meeting clients.
So, where is this hotel “missing the boat?” Lets look at some of the lost opportunities.
- Customer Relationship Development — The Sales, Catering, and convention services staffs are all client-facing employees responsible for building relationships with the hotel’s meetings and events clients. Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and bl0gs are all excellent communication channels for these hotel managers to:
- socially interact with both existing and potential clients more easily and frequently.
- Learn insightful information regarding a customer’s hobbies and interests, in a friendly environment, which is a key component of relationship building.
- Build their personal credibility by sharing quality industry information (trends, best practices, techniques) with their customers, peers and supplier contacts.
- Make new Connections with other industry professionals which strengthens their sphere of influence, increasing the likelihood of developing business opportunities.
- Create Brand Awareness — Whether it is the above team members, or even the marketing or Public relations departments creating positive messaging about the hotel, clearly social media channels are fertile ground to efficiently and inexpensively generate quality market exposure.
- Online Concierge — Many hotels are using social media tools such as Twitter or Facebook, to provide convenient portals for hotel guests and clients to obtain information, or resolve a challenge of some sort. (i.e. reservation error) Some hotels even make restaurant reservations or make other types of service arrangements for their guests ahead of time, as well as during their actual stay.
- Reputation Management — By assigning staff members to monitor the chatter on Twitter, Facebook or other applications, a hotel may discover a customer service challenge, and resolve it, before it becomes a major problem. The process for doing this is simple, and not labor intensive, yet it goes a long ways towards helping protect the hotel’s reputation.
- Competitive Intelligence — Keep track of what other hotels are doing… its amazing what may be learned about the competition through social technology.
I hear a lot of people say “I just don’t have time to do social media” or “I don’t need it to be effective in my job.” Here is why you must make time to leverage this technology and why it is important to your job:
Companies, organizations and yes, hotels, all need to embrace the use of social media because the reality is their customers are all spending their time there. If you believe (as I do) that quality customer relationships are founded on frequent, quality communication, then you need to focus your attention to where they hang out. Most likely that will mean spending consistent time at their social media sites of choice!
If you are a hotel manager responsible for “client-facing” work, then you need to reach out to your supervisor and explain why it is so important to be playing in this ballpark. If your hotel doesn’t do it, inevitably, your competition will! Do you want to be left behind?
Question: Is there an experience you have had in “selling” your organization to adopt social media technology and practices into their business plan, that worked well. If so, please share it with us!