When hotel brands respond to reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor and Booking.com it’s often a reactive endeavour.
NB This is a viewpoint by Geoffrey Ryskamp, principal of hospitality, travel, and leisure at Medallia.
When a customer publicizes a problem, the immediate priority is to address that concern and calm the situation.
But companies that only use social media to identify and neutralize issues as they occur – rather than learn from them – fail to fully capitalize on the information that social media unleashes.
Partnering with Best Western, Medallia studied data across nearly 4,000 of its properties to understand the impact of social media engagement on the business by looking at reviews on TripAdvisor and customer feedback data collected directly by its hotels.
We learned that hotel properties that didn’t respond to reviews on TripAdvisor actually lost ground to their competitors and saw their Net Promoter Score decline. On the other hand, hotels that responded to more than half not only saw an increase in NPS but also outperformed local competitors by 4.9 points in TripAdvisor ratings and even saw a 6% increase in occupancy.
As a result, we have identified four ways to engage customers successfully on social media.
Drive action to the local level
In social media exchanges, consumers engage on the local level. They take photos of the properties where they stay and the attractions they visit, they describe interactions they have with frontline employees. The first step is to follow your customers’ lead.
It often helps to give local managers the license to engage freely, authentically and rapidly through social media channels.
Frontline managers are in a position to take action most effectively in response to issues raised on review sites or through other social media exchanges, so they need to be full participants in the digital dialogue.
Establish clear response guidelines
To ensure that responses are efficient and consistent, it’s important to create guidelines that all employees can easily refer to as they formulate responses.
Try to give guidelines that are more general principles than boilerplate templates. Responses to social media reviews should never feel scripted or too choreographed.
Highlight to staff the importance of focusing on the issue at hand. Explain how best to convey genuine concern and compassion. Outline at what point it becomes better to take a conversation offline.
Ultimately, the goal is to establish parameters that will help local managers and frontline staff engage with confidence and authority.
Focus on the feedback that matters
Not every social media post requires a response. It may not be necessary to spend time responding to every post on every platform.
Best Western hotels are required to respond within two days to TripAdvisor reviews that are a 1 or 2 on a 5 point scale.
Another criteria is making sure that the feedback and conversation takes place on platforms which are used by potential guests.
Identifying and responding to feedback that is getting a lot of attention – such as a tweet that is being retweeted or lots of likes on Facebook – should be a priority.
Having decided that not all social media interaction warrants a response, it is still important that hotels record all feedback and mentions for internal use.
Identify weaknesses and opportunities
Engagement, when practiced most ambitiously, is a forward-thinking discipline rather than a reactive one. A strong social media program will use the findings it acquires while calming immediate concerns to prevent a similar problem arising.
Insights gained from positive social media mentions can also be used to improve the business. When guests enthuse about aspects of their stay, hotels should proactively explore ways to make those aspects a standard part of every customer’s experience.
According to the Pew Research Center, seven in ten Americans now use social media, and 74 % say they believe it’s important to read online reviews before buying something for the first time. Additionally, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. For many brands, investing in platforms that enable social benchmarking and text analytics is critical to staying in synch with customer expectations and changing markets.
As companies develop the habit of listening to and responding to their customers in a very public and immediate way, accountability and problem-solving become increasingly hard-wired into an organization’s daily rhythms. As the capacity to operationalize feedback improves, business outcomes improve as well.