How the Hotel Industry Is Embracing Social Customer Service

By Paul Johns Chief Marketing Officer , Conversocial | May 17, 2015

According to STR Analytics, the U.S. hotel industry generated $163 billion in revenues during 2013 alone, the highest of any year on record. This number is on par with revenues generated by Apple and three times the revenues of Google-- And with great revenue, comes great responsibility. To your customers, that is.

The hotel industry is currently going through a major innovative change with the coming of new, more mobile hotel technologies, such as apps that check guests in, check guests out, open a room door, order room service, etc. With the power of the guest experience in the palm of a traveler's hand, there is also a greater chance that they will be more apt to Tweet at their hotel with any issues or concerns they might have, rather than call the desk or walk down to a lobby.

There are also many instances of 'in the moment" reactions, say if the shower is broken and the guest needs it to be fixed immediately. Tweeting your issue the moment it happens can lead you directly to the on-premise team who can help, rather than reroute you to numerous agents before being able to simply shower in your own hotel room.

Done right, social customer service can not only retain current customers, but can also attract new ones. For many companies, social customer service is still either an offshoot of their social marketing, or a secondary activity. However, consumer expectations, coupled with the increasing number of companies that are starting to deliver real, fast social service, means that social customer service is rapidly becoming fundamental to customer satisfaction.

In a recent Conversocial survey, over half of company respondents said that resolving customer service issues is the top priority over the next 12 months for their social customer service teams. With 55% of respondents saying that the C-suite now values social customer service, it is clear that companies are waking up to its company-wide impact. With 43% of companies saying that customers now expect seamless issue resolution whatever the channel, room for error is minimal. All this means is that companies must now make social a core customer service offering that is efficient and scalable.

One key advantage of social customer service is the ability to listen to your customers, engaging with them through a channel of their choosing. The key disadvantage being that potential crises are amplified, resulting in what may have been a manageable situation becoming a potential PR disaster. Below are five ways that hotels can improve their own social customer service to stay engaged with their guests.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.