Hoteliers who ignore and underuse social media miss out on opportunities to engage with guests.
On a hot and sunny Saturday in August, a new mother (we’ll call her Shelly) pulls into the driveway of a hotel for her first family trip with the baby. Shelly balances her bags and daughter and heads into the hotel, working out the day’s schedule in her mind. Feed the baby, have lunch, meet her husband, change for the event. She arrives at the desk only to find that her room is not available yet. Upset, she treks back to the car to call her husband and feed her hungry daughter. This is not how she wanted to start their trip. Shelly settles into the back seat and sends the hotel a Facebook message with a photo captioned, “Me feeding my daughter in my car because my room was not ready when promised.”
Opportunities for guest service and recovery around situations like Shelly’s are abundant on social media. It isn’t merely a sales tool, but an operational tool as well. The very definition of social media is focused around concepts of sharing, engaging and networking. If we are only pushing our messages out (or worse, not present at all), it is like having a mailbox and never reading the letters you get. Social media holds guest service requests, concerns and accolades, and we should be taking advantage of it.
Facebook alone has more active users than the population of any country in the world, and social profiles are increasing. Stories of service recovery and customer success on social media sites are not hard to come by. Making social media part of your guest service process can seem challenging, and takes planning to get right.
Here are some key things to consider to ensure that you are successful:
- Determine the most popular channels to your guests and start there. Don’t engage on a channel unless your guests are active there as well.
- Engage your operational team to have coverage of your social platforms, just as you would have coverage of your phones. If any of your employees are communicating on behalf of your business on their personal social media channels, make sure that they follow appropriate rules and guidelines regarding how to represent the organization.
- Ensure that your team has the appropriate tools to be successful. Many brands already work with third-party reputation platforms. The most powerful tool is knowledge; provide your team training on process and platforms to be successful.
Our business is already focused on guest experiences. Integrating social media into that process enhances the results. The pillars to focus on are listening, engaging and improving. Operationally monitor and engage on social as you would monitor email and phone calls. Include social media data in the managerial reports you review. Add social media interactions to guest service meetings for accountability.
Positive experiences shared on social media affect not just one guest, but all potential guests that view the interaction. Social media will enhance your current process and influence guests now and into the future.
Now back to Shelly … She received a reply back within minutes that told her the management team had been contacted and a room had been made available for her. She acknowledged the feedback on her Facebook post and messaged back again the next day saying how great the staff was, thanking the team for their prompt response and to say that she was looking forward to her next stay. If social media had been merely a tool for the sales team, this Saturday morning message would not have been received until Monday, after the guest had departed and the damage was done.
Tom Conran serves as a principal of Greenwood Hospitality Group, where he is responsible for strategic investments and third-party hotel management assignments. Mr. Conran has more than 30 years of hospitality experience in the management, finance and real estate sectors. Prior to Greenwood, Mr. Conran served as VP of Business Development for Richfield Hospitality. Mr. Conran earned a bachelor’s degree from Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire. Mr. Conran was a founding member of Meetings Planner International in Hartford, CT, and he currently serves on the Owners’ Advisory Board of DoubleTree Hotels.
Emily Dailey is the director of digital presence at Greenwood Hospitality Group. In her role she oversees the reputation management and social media programs that she designed and implemented at each property. This program includes digital marketing support and solutions for the food & beverage, operations, sales and human resource teams.
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