We all know a key strategy of a successful company is to build a great reputation. More importantly businesses must work even harder to maintain credibility they have established. When an organization attains excellence, clients hold them to that standard relentlessly.
In this new era of “Customer Service 2.0” there are more communication channels available than ever before for customers to share their opinions. They expect impeccable service and terrific products, and when they don’t receive excellence, their negative feedback will likely reverberate across the Internet.
“Social media empowers consumers to radically influence your brand — for better or worse. In fact, prospects and customers have the ability to participate directly in your marketing. As a result, one bad experience can result in a major dose of destructive marketing.”
The Hotel industry is particularly vulnerable to social media feedback from customers. In addition to Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter there are a significant number of noteworthy social technologies soliciting feedback, positive or negative, regarding the hospitality industry. Some examples:
- Travel Review Sites — Trip Advisor, PlanetFeedback.com, TravelPost.com and epinions.com are examples of sites accumulating data regarding hotel customer experiences. The use of these forums is widespread, and savvy travelers are embracing them.
- Location Based Applications — Another avenue of applications gaining momentum are the GPS-based tools, such as Foursquare, GoWalla, and Yelp. These applications encourage users to write reviews of their experiences with hotels, restaurants and other establishments.
- Video/photo focused sites — YouTube, The world’s #2 social network, is a video-based tool. Customers can film their challenges at a hotel and post the video for all to see in that network. Photo sites such as Flickr or Picasso, enable users to publish photographs of one’s experiences.
Hotels can no longer sweep under the carpet service or product quality issues, as there are convenient, and “very public” channels for unhappy customers to express their frustration, and disappointment. Wisely, many hotel companies now have “reputation management” plans in place. This week the USA Today blog “Hotel Check-in published an article addressing this subject.
“Hotels are increasingly reading what you’re writing on TripAdvisor and other online review venues – and responding. ”
Barbara De Lollis, USA Today
In another article, also published by USA Today, Roger Yu shares that “Less than 4% of negative reviews on TripAdvisor get a response, according to TripAdvisor, which has more than 30 million reviews. But the review site says it saw a 203% explosion in responses from hotels last year.
- Search Engines — Use applications with a tracking feature to tune into the discussions taking place regarding your Brand. One excellent example of this tool is “Google Alerts.” Periodically the software sends email alerts to users, posting comments made using specific keywords identified during the setup process.
- Twitter — it is possible to create a search string and then setup an RSS feed posting all tweets addressing the keywords in that search string. Alternatively, users can setup a search column in applications such as Tweetdeck which will do the same thing.
- Concierge Service — Many hotel companies are setting up accounts representing their brands on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, referring to them as online Concierge services. By promoting these sites, guests have a resource, even before they actually arrive at the hotel, to channel questions, concerns or service requests. One example of such a service is Hyatt’s E-Concierge service.
- Custom Software — Some major hotel chains, such as Hilton, Starwood and Marriott are using analytic software to monitor the social sites for feedback regarding their hotels. One such application is called “Review Analyst.”
In an already difficult economy, which has impacted the hospitality business deeply, hotels can ill afford negative customer reviews. Hotels developing an efficient system for monitoring online feedback from customers will stand apart from their competition. Most certainly, to ignore the cyber chatter will be corporate suicide.
Question: Is there a best practice that your hotel is using to keep an eye out on customers? If so, we would love to hear about it!