- People now research trips, make decisions and share experiences online via social media.
- 75% of customers now cite reviews as being influential.
- More and more people are using social media platforms, like Twtter and Facebook, so review information moves at ever greater speed
Evidence suggests social media is currently used primarily as a service channel rather than a direct sales channel, so if your customers are using it they will expect you to be on it and may want to connect with you via social media.
Sales and service are linked and there is absolutely no doubt of the link between service and loyalty, so service and reputation are a great place to start. The transactional “sales” side of social media may not be that strong, but I don’t believe it will be long before large businesses make it happen….just like they did with the Internet! Indeed large companies are building these social media platforms into their service models.
When you come right down to it, using social media is really just about working with your customers in a way that they find most convenient…and isn’t that what good service is all about anyway?
We built the customer review process into “freetobook” right at the start so every customer using our online booking engine receives a review email a day after their stay….and 29% of our customers complete reviews for the properties (voluntarily).
Where does your independent property start?
- Audit first, find out what’s out there and what people are saying…or not saying.
- Understand what you want customers to say and where you want them to say it.
- Monitor, react and encourage feedback: these are all “first principles” of service… wherever you are.
Getting back something extra!
Use feedback to guide your marketing message. Is there something about your property that customers find extra special? If so, are you selling it? Add more information about it on to your website. Perhaps run a special offer based around it (this could be seasonal, like a garden terrace in summer or a log fire in winter.)
Responding to reviews
You need to respond to every “poor” review and a few of the good ones as well. Customers appreciate seeing replies and how you reply says a lot about you and your business. So…
- Never restate the negatives in a review reply…it will show again (twice) in the search listings!
- Always reply in the same channel (e.g. on TripAdvisor, if that’s where the review first appeared) so other customers can see you have responded. Take it off-line if you can, but make sure the world sees you are concerned and have reacted.
- Remember as a property owner you get the last word on TripAdvisor.
If you are responding to a “bad” review there are few useful tips in this blog I wrote a while back…http://blog.freetobook.com/2011/02/02/how-to-handle-complaints/
Effectively customers are using the review process to launch complaints. In some cases guests are posting a complaint on their Facebook page whilst at a hotel instead of going to reception to raise the issue there! It does not make practical sense, but you cannot afford to ignore it.
Make sure you monitor not just your property but your destination on TripAdvisor. It’s a great place to get a feel for what people are saying and possibly get some ideas for content on your website.
Tripadvisor and Facebook have linked to provide the “wisdom of crowds.” All this means is that your friend’s comments make travel search a much more personalised experience. This brings social media right into the heart of the purchasing process, with the likes of Tripadvisor seeking to maximise their influence and returns!
At Freetobook we have tried to bring service and sales together by creating booking buttons that you can load on your Facebook page or Twitter feed. You can also track these commission-free bookings to see exactly what revenue your social media presence is generating.
Get these in place:
- Google Alerts, so any time you are mentioned on the Internet you hear about it (it’s free!)
- React to all guest feedback (treat it as if it were face to face…would you ignore someone talking to you?)
- Respond to everything regardless of whether it is true or fair.
- Manage your content, check your listing on various sites and ensure they are accurate.
Much of the above is already standard practice for many accommodation providers and all social media has done is to move it onto a much more open and faster moving platform. That said, if you are already doing the basics right and satisfying your guests it will work in your favour. It’s also worth remembering you can’t please everyone all the time, so don’t get hung-up on the odd review or comment, deal with it and move on to the next thing….don’t take it personally.
These are just some of the tips I have picked up from various places, but if anyone has any comments or examples of situations I would be glad to hear of them (email@example.com).