Offline Impacts of Online Customer Experience
By Tema Frank CEO, Frank Reactions | March 15, 2015
In my previous article, the "Online Impacts of Offline Customer Service ", I discussed the growing importance of providing consistently excellent service when people come to your hotel. Why? Because if you don't get it right, they'll blast you later online, and that can do a lot of damage. Almost everybody checks online reviews before making hotel bookings now, and scoring one point higher on a 5 point rating scale can increase your bookings by 13.5%. But what about the flipside? How does the online experience affect what happens once guests arrive at your doors?
Obviously there are some key elements of the online experience that you've got to get right for people even to get to the point of arriving at your doors. In the article "Don't Make These 10 Common Mistakes on Your Hotel Website" I discussed the mistakes I see most often in the hotel industry. Most of them are issues that will deter people from booking with you altogether. There are some however that, might not prevent a booking, but if not done right on your website will have an impact on the guest's later real-world experience with you. Most important: be upfront and honest.
When I worked for a bank many years ago, we ran a campaign called "Zoo Crew" to encourage deposits. People would get a stuffed animal if they deposited money and kept it in the account for at least 90 days. The animal they got varied depending on how much they deposited. The top prize was a life-size gorilla, which they got for deposits of $15,000 (nearly $30,000 in today's money). It was so popular we had trouble keeping up with demand! The first year we ran the campaign, although it did bring in lots of deposits, we had a many complaints from people who hadn't read the fine print and tried to withdraw their money before the 90 days were up. The second year we doubled the amount they had to deposit, and I battled the lawyers till I got permission to use "plain English" rules, displayed in big easy-to-read print. My superiors were terrified that we'd have huge numbers of cash withdrawals at the 90 day mark. What happened? We had fewer withdrawals than the previous year, and this time we had zero complaints. People knew what to expect.
You want to avoid nasty surprises, both in the booking process and once guests get to your hotel. It used to be that if people arrived at your doors and the experience didn't live up to what they had expected, they would complain to a few friends. Now because they will know so much more before coming, they'll have a stronger sense of what to expect. If they don't get it, they will complain online in social media, which means their complaints can be seen by thousands of people and can devastate your bottom line.
This does not mean that every hotel has to offer a five star experience. It does mean that you should not lead guests to expect a five star experience when what you really offer is a two-star. It is the gap between expectations and reality that makes people angry.
Let's assume that your website is honest, clear, and easy to use. You've got them to the point of booking with you. Now how can you leverage digital media to make the customer experience with your hotel be truly memorable (in a good way)? How can you do things that "wow" your prospective and returning guests so they will become avid promoters for your brand?