Customer Experience is the Key to Customer Mindshare: Tips for Tracking Online Researchers

By John Federman CEO, eStara | January 27, 2012

Life takes planning and much of that planning revolves around the time that we are at our happiest and most care-free - vacation.

Because searching for the perfect vacation is not an every day affair, hotels are engaged in a continuous battle to retain customer mindshare both when they are and - perhaps most importantly - when they are not actively seeking to travel. While price is an important facet to the hotelier's marketing effectiveness, it is not one that companies can really hang their hat on. On the Internet, competitors are only a click away and, according to a recent Forrester Research survey, many internet retailers are addressing this challenge by making customer service a priority by investing in live customer service solutions (33 percent) and streamlining their guest checkout process (53 percent) within the next year.

Isn't it interesting that despite how complex the customer service industry becomes, live customer service still remains a major component to any multi-channel strategy? Live customer service remains the best channel to not only close sales but also present customer service representatives with up- and cross-sell opportunities. While I have documented the benefits of traditional click to call and chat solutions in this space, I have not discussed the other unique features leading companies are using to provide their customers with a memorable customer experience or to help them compete for that all-important mindshare.

More than just a proxy for a static phone number, click to call and chat allows hotel operators to leverage online customer data to engage customers based on their needs. These proactive deployments show click to call or buttons only when certain criteria have been met such as the amount of time a customer has been idle on a page, or allow agents to control when and where they decide to offer the click to call invitation and can also offer co-browsing options to help customer service agents lead customers to the answers to their inquiries.

The most important factor to weigh into which deployment option you choose is how your customers interact with your Web site. Some hotels may want to quickly bridge the customer/call center divide because it has great faith in its call center. Many larger institutions, however, do not want to connect with every Web site browser so they may find greater value in a rules-based deployment that links buyers via the phone only if it is a high-value customer, or a frequent guest, and offer lower-tier contact options such as chat, email and FAQs to those it does not deem to be as crucial to its online success.

In addition to its flexibility, click to call and chat solutions also provide secondary tools such as "Save and Send" that provide your company with the means to make your brand more memorable, prolong the effectiveness of online listings and promote customer referrals.

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.