The Wired Hotel: Online Strategies to Strengthen Customer Loyalty
By Jerry Tarasofsky CEO, iPerceptions Inc. | January 27, 2012
The revolution in marketing and business affairs that has placed the customer at the epicenter of all strategic and tactical thinking has become so mainstream that the acronym CRM can be tossed around in television advertisements (see Microsoft's recent ads) without any need for further explanation. From top to bottom, sector to sector, it has become increasingly clear that everybody "gets it" and that the voice of the customer has its place at even the highest level of decision-making. This is particularly true of the hotel industry, where loyalty is king and customer feedback goes a long way towards the maintenance of competitive advantage.
But even the most sophisticated combination of clickstream data, usability reports, and attitudinal information might not be enough to know your website visitor completely. Time and seasonality are always at play, subtly influencing the mood of your visitors. You might have paid for the most detailed and elaborate study of your site visitors, something that really gets into their hearts and minds and allows you to measure their satisfaction, but if the data is three, six, or nine months old, is it really pertinent anymore?
Let's look at a situation that took place recently involving one of our hospitality clients. Hotel X had been measuring its visitors' satisfaction on a continuous basis for about 6 months. The picture that had emerged was fairly rosy; all aspects of the site experience were trending above the third quartile relative to the industry index.
Then one day, one of Hotel X's online managers was checking the live results for his site and saw that the score for site navigation had dipped substantially in the most recent week. He alerted one of our analysts, who then drilled down on the open-ended commentary to discover that a broken link, buried on one of the secondary pages so that it escaped the notice of the web designers, was seriously impinging on visitors' ability to move around the site. Hotel X's website design team fixed the broken link, and the navigation scored climbed back up to its usual level the following week.
The important point here is that, by constantly being attentive to visitor feedback, Hotel X was able to fix the problem expeditiously, before any significant collateral damage could occur. Indeed, because remedial measures had been brought to bear so quickly, the attributes measuring loyalty, brand strength, and brand referral were unaffected by the problem.
Typically, we see that problems with some aspect of the website experience-whether it is the site's content, interactive features, or pricing options-only affect brand perceptions after several months of inattention. If Hotel X had been receiving customer satisfaction reports quarterly or bi-yearly, they might not have been able to act in time to prevent brand depreciation.