Hotel guests are tweeting, blogging and posting their experiences. Several hospitality organizations are capturing portions of this customer feedback and using it as an input for the marketing team. But there is a deeper, operational opportunity that properties can realize to extract immediate insight to improve the business.
Classifying social media feedback as a marketing opportunity is quite natural when the comments are qualified as brand opinion. Furthermore, it is a little more palatable to digest some of the negative commentary online when it is viewed as opinion because it becomes easier to discredit (e.g., “The customer didn’t know what he was talking about!”).
Approaching the commentary as customer experience feedback, however, opens up a world of operational insight and opportunity.
Put simply, imagine the same feedback online were to be expressed in person. It creates a fundamentally different response.
This is a game-changing approach to customer insight and guest satisfaction and creates several fascinating ways of understanding the guest’s perspective, including mechanisms to qualify the feedback. Qualifying the insight is critical in social business intelligence considering the unsolicited nature of the commentary. This guest-experience-oriented approach to social media results in both industry-specific intelligence and insight that can be drilled down to the property level.
Under this new approach, one effectively flips social media upside down from a free-form feedback firehouse to a beautifully structured database of guest insights.
Let’s look at a guest review for a midscale hotel that was recently posted online. The reviewer gave the hotel a three out of five rating. While the three out of five is interesting, a deeper dive into the feedback highlights the real opportunity:
Stayed with my daughter and grandson at the “XXX Hotel” for 2 nights in July. Hotel is older, and could use a facelift. Rooms are ok, beds were comfortable, carpet was old and had many stains. I had read reviews where people talked about the smell in the lobby and hallways. I thought it was probably the over use of carpet fresh (do they still sell that), in the hallways, and a small portion of the lobby that is carpeted. The outdoor pool area was enjoyable, however the indoor pool is in a small, downstairs area of the hotel. If felt closed in. I see what other reviewers meant by the pool area indoors being extremely slick. They really need to do something about those tile floors, as I did see a lady slip and fall. Luckily she didn't hurt herself, but i could see where someone could, perhaps, hit their head. Water and tile.....not a good combination. Overall the stay was ok, but I probably wouldn't return to this hotel. Our main reason for choosing this hotel was the outdoor pool, and that was very nice. Also there was not a microwave or refrig. in the room.
The guest provides a comprehensive review with a summary rating. But an average rating or summary of overall brand sentiment lack the “so what” hoteliers are really after. With the same review and a social business intelligence approach, however, there is a much broader opportunity.
The reviewer comments on the hotel’s lobby, pool, and room amenities among many other insights. By evaluating the post as a customer experience from a social business intelligence standpoint, each individual customer insight would be catalogued into hotel specific operational categories (e.g., room comfort, lobby, pool). This process, completed for this mention and all other credible mentions, creates the “beautifully structured database.” The result is operational performance metrics for the lobby, the pool, and everything else the customer talks about on an aggregate level per property.
Perhaps the commentary about the pool is part of a broader theme? Maybe it only emerged since the property changed a staff member or started using a new cleaning product? These questions can be readily answered by pinpointed guest feedback through industry specific operational categories.
This example clearly illustrates how valuable social media is from an operations perspective. The above approach gives hotel executives the ability to transform the unstructured, unsolicited flood of online customer feedback into an actionable source of guest feedback.
Here are three steps you can take at your property to leverage user-generated content:
1. Look past the star ratings. Albeit measurable, an average star rating only tells you so much. Go one step further and review the written comments for any concrete feedback upon which you can improve.
2. Look for themes. Polarized feedback has a way of quickly spreading inside an organization. When you come across a mention, take it in context with a few other reviews.
3. Use a mention online as a training opportunity. Just as you would share a customer’s in-person feedback with your staff at the property, do the same with an online mention. Identify what, if any, opportunities exist to better execute your brand’s standards.
While it is clear that these insights can be effectively used to impact marketing, viewing them as an evaluation of one’s stay enables hotels to make the operational changes necessary to deliver a superior guest experience.
Ashish Gambhir is Co-Founder newBrandAnalytics and currently leads strategic marketing. Under his direction, the firm has successfully launched market-validated and industry-specific social business intelligence solutions for thousands of hotels, restaurants, and retail organizations. He developed the newBrandAnalytics suite of products collaboratively with restaurant, hotel, and spa & fitness leaders for two years prior to their release.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.