NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Hoteliers who seek out “genuine” interactions with guests on social-media platforms are more likely to improve guest satisfaction and capture the dollars that come along with it.
During a session titled “BFFS or curse in the marking: social media and guest satisfaction” at the Hotel Data Conference, a panel of experts said one way hoteliers are providing genuine interaction is by responding to all reviews—negative or positive.
“When it comes to TripAdvisor, we respond to everything and try to incorporate everything into our response,” Michael Tijerina, e-commerce manager at the InterContinental Dallas, said. “We add a little bit of marketing at no cost, and we try to keep that 24- to 48-hour responding window.”
Doing so helps build loyalty and interaction, he added.
According to a survey conducted in the fourth quarter of 2010 by Forrester Consulting on behalf of TripAdvisor, 68% of guests said if they were considering two comparable properties online, the presence of management responses to reviews on one would sway them in the property’s favor.
Responses and interaction should be personalized, said Janet Kurtz, director of sales and marketing at the Hermitage Hotel, a luxury property in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Once marketers have to step into social media, fans step out,” she said. “If you’re using the same message everywhere, it doesn’t have that same impact.”
But getting hoteliers to invest time responding to reviews can prove challenging, said Wendy Stevens, senior VP of sales and marketing at First Hospitality Group, a hotel management group focused in hotel operations in Chicago and the surrounding Midwest areas.
The key is to show the return on that investment.
“If they don’t live in that (social-media) environment, and now you’re telling them that they need to engage in it, the challenge is helping them to understand it,” she said. “The GMs feel overburdened.”
With more than 25 properties in its management portfolio, Stevens said management at First Hospitality Group had to come up with a solution to better educate the front line. Part of this was creating a new position this past May: the guest experience manager
“The response has been well,” she said. “The board of directors understands that social media has to be done, but they do ask about ROI, but we’re seeing guest satisfaction go up.”
Stevens advised hoteliers to focus only on those platforms where they can make the greatest impact.
4 steps to building a social media plan
1. Do the research. “It’s important from my perspective to understand who the guest is from social media and understand who you’re marketing to,” said Chris Klauda, VP of lodging services at D.K. Shifflet & Associates, a travel research and consulting company. Klauda said business male millennials are the most prolific in joining Facebook pages and tweeting. “That’s the target I would go after first,” she said.
2. Understand the customers. Stevens said that it was common in her hotels’ reviews that they weren’t recognizing guest preferences. For example, one of her properties is in a downtown location, but not in the heart of the city. From those reviews, she learned that guests enjoyed being away from the hustle and bustle of the city, she said.
“It does help highlight where there are some opportunities to improve descriptions,” Stevens said.
Tijerina said reading customer reviews can streamline processes. For example, at one property, sales improved by changing the description of the check-in process based on a customer review.
3. Have a strategy. “Manage and encourage positive reviews,” Kurtz said. “You’re going to appear to have a much larger reach and then you don’t have to pay extra for marketing. (Customers) do the marketing for you.”It’s important to not just look at TripAdvisor, and educate your front line on their comp set, Stevens said. “(TripAdvisor’s) just one vehicle,” she added.
4. Have a goal. “Have goals whenever you’re hitting your social-media strategies,” Tijerina said. “Have a target market and benchmarks.”
"We focus a lot of what doesn’t get done, but there are some folks that get a lot done and do a great job,” Stevens said.
Both Tijerina and Stevens added that they have incentives in place for their top line.