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 June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.