Hospitality Brands Can Tap Technology to Create Emotional Connections with Guests

By Lisa Ross President & Partner, rbb Communications | March 11, 2018

Increasingly, in our tech-savvy world, hospitality brands are seeking to use digital tools to enhance the customer experience. Technology integrations are helping streamline things like check-ins, room service, amenities bookings, and more, but that "efficiency" may come at a price. Incorporate too much tech, too fast, and brands run the risk of ending up "disconnected" from their customers. Real human interaction can be powerful in creating emotional connections and brand loyalty. Technology too, when used correctly, can strengthen connections with consumers. The challenge is finding the proper balance to not lose the personal touch that constitutes hospitality.

Transforming the on-property experience with digital tools

The hospitality industry has a unique opportunity to leverage technology in a way that engages guests online as well as in person. By bringing the online and physical world together in real time, hotels can turn negative sentiment into a positive experience and convert a positive experience into an unforgettable one.

How? By using tools that enable them to "listen" to their guests in real time, before, during and after check-in, then reacting to rectify or amplify the situation.

Brands and on-site staff can utilize social listening to learn more about their customers' experiences at different touchpoints and ensure that their stay is positive and memorable. From the moment a guest checks in, they may engage on social media by taking videos, tagging the property in photos and sharing their experience online with friends, family and beyond. These social engagements are the standard by which people judge a property, and those in a guest's close network-usually like-minded and equally engaged-are all potential customers.

While this type of social sharing is taking place, brands typically interact online by clicking like, retweeting, or sharing posts, but if that's all, they could be missing the boat. These surface-level interactions from brands are important, but alone, they are not enough. There is an even bigger opportunity to make a human connection in real time. For instance, if a guest checks in and posts or tweets about how much they love their room, a simple social media response is unlikely to alter the experience. Conversely, if that same person receives something to further elevate their happiness like a bottle of wine or dessert with a note, "Thanks for sharing the special features of our property with your friends," the hotel or brand may have gained a guest for life. This also applies to addressing unpleasant situations. If a guest shares negative comments about having noisy neighbors and not being able to sleep. A socially-conscious brand will be aware and can quickly address it.  With poise and personality, an offer to change rooms or provide a complimentary poolside cabana can flip the guest's experience upside down. This level of personal engagement coming from online listening enhances the guest experience on-property and, in today's world, is an experience deemed social-media-worthy enough for a post that will inspire other potential guests.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.