Mobile Marketing: A Help or Hype?

By Robert King General Manager, Travel & Hospitality, ClickSquared | January 23, 2011

Mobile Marketing is "top-of-mind" among travel & hospitality industry marketers, and for many, it's a bit overwhelming. It goes into that same black hole as social media – too ubiquitous to ignore, potentially promising, but somehow too challenging to map a clear course of action. And even for those who recognize the importance of including mobile within an integrated cross-channel marketing strategy, where do you begin; how do you do it; and how do you know if you are successful? Regardless of which camp you fall into, what follows are some thoughts that should help you move forward confidently.

What's Going on in the Mobile Marketing Space?

So what is mobile marketing? The Mobile Marketing Association defines it as, "…a set of practices that enables organizations to communicate and engage with their audience in an interactive and relevant manner through any mobile device or network." That means mobile marketing encompasses all communications via a mobile device, whether they are standard email messages, digital content viewed on a mobile device, or SMS (text) messages.

According to MarketingProfs, more than 61% of people rely on their cell phone for up-to-the-minute information. Their research found that 33% of people regularly check their email on their cell phones while 59% do so occasionally. The same study also found that almost half of individuals cite text messages as their preferred way to receive information.

If there is any industry that is well suited to mobile marketing, it would have to be travel and hospitality. After all, customers are often en route to, on site, or returning from, their destinations. In a Forrester Research report focused on European travel practices (Forrester Research, December 2009, Travel Firms' Initial European Mobile Strategies Should Focus on Convenient Services), analysts found that consumers are routinely using mobile devices to consume travel information.

While only a small minority are utilizing mobile to book travel, it is clear that interest in innovative mobile travel services is growing rapidly. Beyond checking flight status on mobile devices, consumers are beginning to look to airports, hotel chains, car rental agencies, train systems, tourist destinations and even travel insurers to provide mobile offerings, and in particular, text-based communications.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.