How Employee-Facing Social Technology Improves the Guest Experience
By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | August 31, 2014
In today's world of 24/7 information access via smart phones and tablets, the next generation of hotel guests expects instant gratification and craves constant connection to the data and services they seek. According to Forrester, online and mobile consumption as a whole rose from 29 percent to 40 percent between 2009 and 2013. This has significantly impacted the hospitality industry, as hoteliers are faced with the challenge of keeping pace with ever-increasing service expectations from guests through a growing number of outlets. In order to meet these expectations, hospitality organizations are examining internal processes and looking to new technology platforms to help boost efficiency and speed service to guests.
The use of social media for communication between properties and guests has already been established as an important outlet over the past several years. Creating a presence on social websites such as Facebook and Twitter is no longer optional, but rather something that hoteliers must participate in to be viewed as a viable travel option. Research confirms that hospitality organizations utilizing social media experience significantly more website visitors, which ultimately facilitates an increase in reservations and revenue. Social media channels have also become viable outlets for marketers to present real-time offers and promotions to potential guests based on the time and location from which they view the hotel's profile. Additionally, as review websites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor have opened the door for guest discussions about hotels, social media outlets provide the most direct way to engage with customers. Many travel websites automatically link to Facebook profiles of members. Therefore if a hotel receives a negative review, they can instantly connect with the guest via social media to pinpoint the issue and potentially protect the relationship. As a whole, social media have forever altered marketing and customer service possibilities in the hospitality industry by creating an entirely new avenue for feedback and discussion.
While the impact of using social media externally is well recognized, the use of social collaboration tools for employee-to-employee communication is often overlooked. However, this has the potential to be equally, if not more, beneficial for hoteliers. Hospitality companies should focus efforts not only on building a social presence externally, but on improving internal productivity and guest services through the latest social platforms for business applications. Through the use of social collaboration tools, hotels can improve interactions between employees, gain operational efficiencies and enhance the overall guest experience.
The primary downfall in this era of never-ending accessibility is that consumers are now flooded with information. This is true within the workplace as well, as hotel staff members are constantly inundated with emails, phone calls, meetings, text messages, and often unorganized information updates passed along in person. These methods create silos of information – when something is communicated via one channel but not another – which produces a disconnect within the organization. For example, the revenue manager might be aware that the hotel's forecasted demand has suddenly spiked for a particular week. However, this information may take several days to reach the marketing department through routine meetings and reports. Still thinking demand was soft for that week, marketing plans a high-cost campaign to generate bookings, unaware of the change in forecast. Because of a lack in communication, the hotel is wasting marketing funds that could have made a much larger impact at another point in time, and alienating potential new customers by offering promotions that will not actually be available when they try to book them.
Social collaboration tools that are embedded in core systems and processes can eliminate scenarios such as this one by providing a central location to share and organize information. Connectivity to critical property, financial and asset management applications helps to capture vital corporate knowledge that might otherwise be lost. In order for social collaboration platforms to be effective, they must be integrated across the hotel or hotel group's properties and deliver advanced functionality that includes:
- The ability to "follow" both people and objects, which enables updates not only on other user activities, but on the status of accounts, equipment and entire departments.
- Contextual intelligence that displays real-time data on a single screen based on the employee's current task. Information should also be easily searchable and shareable through the application.
- The ability to drill back into this information to pinpoint sources of error and determine the "why" behind day-to-day operations.
- Automated tasks and alerts that help to speed processes by delivering critical updates to the right stakeholders are the right time.