Iain shares some thoughts on the best ways to engage with your customers online and how to turn good service into sales.
Everyone seems to be talking about ORM. You could even say that right now ORM is one of the most popular TLAs (three letter acronyms) in the business world! The official, rather stuffy, definition of ORM is, “the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand or business, with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely or pushing them lower on search engine results pages to decrease their visibility.”
That makes it all sound a bit sinister and corporate. I think the true definition of ORM is more positive and is best expressed by former Vancouver hotel manager and ORM consultant Daniel Edward Craig: “…Online reputation management is the process of tracking and responding to online reviews and commentary and using feedback to guide improvements. It’s about actively participating in social networking to build awareness and shape impressions.”
Spot on. Online reputation management isn’t about anything so crude and cynical as gaming the system. It’s about developing an on-going relationship with your customers, responding to their opinions and showing that their feedback, whether positive or negative, matters to you. So what follows are some personal thoughts about ORM that have emerged out of my own wide experience of managing an online travel company and communicating with customers on a daily basis:
1. Managing your online reputation
- 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).
2. 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.
(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).