Customers Are Talking To You Now More Than Ever, Are You Listening?

By Justin Holmerud Global Social Media Manager - Platforms & Tools, Starwood Hotels & Resorts | February 10, 2013

The great social shift

Since 2009, Starwood Hotels has seen over 300 percent growth in the number of TripAdvisor reviews for same store hotels. Now, 2009 was by no means life in the stone-age, but in just three years the ability for guests to quickly communicate with hotels has gotten so much easier. When a guest leaves a hotel today, they have the following access waiting for them:

  • Faster Internet access on their phone or tablets than ever before
  • Easier access to Wifi while they wait for their flight at the airport
  • Wifi service on the plane for the long flight home (something that wasn't prevalent in 2009)
  • Internet access at home, in the coffee shop and at work

All of these enable opportunities to quickly share their experiences while they are still fresh in their mind. It's not just the speed that has changed, but where they can share as well. For hotels, the number of review sites that exist today continues to grow rapidly. Not to mention social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. These avenues provide multiple mediums for guests to talk to you and about you – whether you're listening or not.

It's basic human nature to want to be heard but also to know that what you say matters. If a guest is looking for a social resolution to their customer service issue, the Nielsen state of social media (http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/social/2012/ ) finds one in three social users prefer to contact the company via social networks compared to the phone. In the past a bad experience may have resulted in a phone call or a face to face conversation in the lobby with the General Manager. But social networks have changed that. They are built off of credibility from offline relationships, online notoriety and common interests. They are made up of people who listen to you, but also who value what you have to say. Even if you don't respond, they know their voice was heard and their thoughts were valued by their friends and followers.

In June of this year, Domo published the following statistics (http://mashable.com/2012/06/22/data-created-every-minute/ ), detailing just how much people are talking on social networks. Every minute of every day:

  • Brands & Organizations on Facebook receive 34,722 likes
  • Twitter users send over 100,000 Tweets
  • Instagram users share 3,600 photos
  • Foursquare users perform 2,083 check-ins

For reviews, the story is the same. TripAdvisor says they receive 60 new contributions every minute. With that in mind, it's critical that businesses listen to what their customers are saying. Luckily, technology has also made that easier.

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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.