Social Customer Service is No Longer an Option

By DJ Vallauri Founder and CEO, Lodging Interactive | January 10, 2016

While setting up accounts and pages on the social media networks are free, in order for the hotel's branding and visibility to benefit, it requires constant attention which costs money as it relates to hiring people to leverage the social media networks. However, there is a colossal sea shift underway of which hoteliers need to be aware to ensure they don't drown in their own social media marketing efforts. What we have come to know as social media marketing is now morphing into social media customer service, also known as social media customer care. I call this emergence, Social Media 2.0.

Social Media 2.0 will find an increasing amount of consumers hanging up the traditional 800-call center number and demanding to connect with a brand via their favorite social media platform. Yet, according to econsultancy.com, only 11% of people expect to receive customer service via social media. This is where the opportunity to win big, really big, is presenting itself to hoteliers. Which brings us back to the opening statement that people are used to being treated like crap. If hoteliers, hotel companies and hotel brands can raise the social media customer service bar just a little bit higher than we've come to expect, they will win the customer loyalty game and crush their competitors in the long run.

An American Express study reported the top three reasons U.S. customers use social media networks for customer service purposes:

1. Seeking an actual response from a company about a service issue (50%)
2. Praising a company for a great service experience (48%)
3. Venting frustration about a poor service experience (46%)

When it comes to dealing and responding to guest service issues via social media platforms, hoteliers have another incentive to jump on board: TripAdvisor. Our experience has shown that if you can quickly acknowledge and engage with an unhappy guest who is using social media to broadcast their dissatisfaction with your hotel, you will keep them from posting a negative review on TripAdvisor or Yelp. On the flip side timely responses and engagement with hotel guests, past, present and future, can create a feeling of "goodwill and loyalty". This can be converted into positive reviews and comments on the major review sites. Social customer services is all about listening and engaging with customer comments on a near real time basis. After all, if consumers want to engage with you via social media instead of the telephone, we have to expect they want a near real time experience.

Our experience has shown that consumers posting on Facebook expect same-day responses while consumers using Twitter expect a response in less than one hour. And with hotel brands testing Facebook's Messenger application and other SMS texting platforms, consumer response time are expected in mere minutes.

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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.