Monday, September 28, 2015

Hospitality Industry and Social Media

It’s a common belief in the business of hospitality that if they use technology beyond a certain limit they would end up losing contact with their customers and eliminate an opportunity to provide hospitality. The problem here is that, at the time when hospitality standards were being developed no one had thought about the impact that internet, cell phones, and social networking would have on the world and our lives. All interactions between the hospitality staff and customers were all personal interactions. A challenge that the industry faces today is to determine when it is advisable to use technology and when it is advisable to have direct customer interaction.  

The industry currently is on a rise with major innovative change. Hotels are making their presence felt everywhere on social networking sites, mobile apps etc. The power of communication today lies in the PALM of a traveler. The likelihood of a guest tweeting for any issue is more than the same guest picking the phone or waking to the lobby for an inquiry. This also takes care of lot of ‘in the moment’ reactions. If done right, social customer service can not only retain current customers, but also can attract new ones. But customers nowadays expect seamless issue resolution and hence the room for error is minimal. Hotels can adopt various ways to improvise social customer service to engage guests. Some of them are listed below. 

• Decrease Response Time: Hotels raise guest expectations when it comes to service. They want quick and efficient response. The turnaround time for any issues raised has to be less than an hour. One would not keep a guest on hold for 45 minutes or make him stand for that long in a hotel lobby. 

• Increase Responsiveness: In Travel and Tourism Industry, reviews by the guest can be very influential to other guests when they are deciding on where to stay and which hotel brand to trust. Many guests look up to sites like TripAdvisor, for reviews etc.  One needs to make sure that they are active on these sites and reply to all the reviews as soon as possible. 

• Keep issues public: Try to keep issues as public as possible. Doing so shows that there is nothing to hide and that you’re willing to pro-actively engage with your customers.

With the existing competition one has to keep up with the pace of things happening around. Social customer service has the ability to turn guest into happy returning customers. But in a rush to do so the hotels should balance right between technology and human touch. The key would be to take wise decisions and understand that different customer sets define hospitality in different ways. 

- Ms. Bindu Menon
  Senior Faculty, INLEAD 

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