Develop Fully Connected Consumers Through Social Media

By Michael Barbera CEO, Barbera Solutions | August 20, 2017

Social media has shown the world its power. Your power. It's your voice that is shared throughout the world via underwater fiber optic cables and wireless networks. This voice has played a key role in the development of global politics, criminal justice, relationships and economic development.

Economic development is a broad term, but when there is growth in a town, city or county, a hotel is likely to appear. Alike every other business, hotels have a target segment, or two, or ten. It's unlikely that a four or five star hotel will appear in small, rural town, and it's unlikely that a large convention will be held in a small hotel, regardless of geographic location. Although each hotel has target markets, hotels can increase their reach through humanizing engagement on social networks as well as increase their revenues by developing a "fully-connected" consumer.

Hotels, or any industry, shouldn't be on social media just to be on social media. It's the largest voice in your organization, and if done correctly it could provide the largest marginal returns. However, hotels should have a strategy for their social media campaigns. A purpose and an expected call-to-action is needed. An example of a goal could be to gain more customers. Another example is to leverage current consumers into more loyal consumers. I'm going to discuss the latter.

Several independent studies by Harvard Business School, Mostista, Acxiom, Forbes, Forrester and Barbera Solutions have yielded results that identified the catalyst of increasing more revenue from current customers than new customers: fully-connected consumers.

Consumers have a connection to brands. The connection can be a purchase, a friend's purchase, or a memory of an experience. Hotels want consumers that are fully-connected. Fully-connected hotel consumers spent 68 percent more at their favorite hotels in 2014, than consumers who are "connected". The fully-connected consumer is loyal. They prefer one brand over another, and will avoid any easy solution in order to remain loyal to their favorite brands. For example, in 2014, 51 percent of fully connected hotel consumers drove an average 8 miles further from a nearby hotel in order to stay with their preferred brand.

The transformation from connected to fully-connected takes time. It also requires a rewards program and methods that build an experience that keep the consumer returning. Another method to create a fully-connected consumer is through the use of social networking. First, it's important to identify our target segments. Since most hotels have already completed this first step, it's time to identify which social networks are preferred by our segments. Your hotel shouldn't be on every social network. Your hotel should be on the platforms that offer you the greatest return: engaging with your consumers.

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.