Going Social: Should Your Hotel Offer Social Media Customer Service?
Many brands are now offering customer service via their social media platforms but, is this necessarily a good thing? For hotel’s social media marketing is an essential channel – it’s unthinkable not to have a Facebook page or to be on Instagram for example, with its community of more than 600 million users.
For those with an active, engaged social media presence, the question of social media customer service is one that will raise its head sooner or later. With frequent postings and an interested audience, there will naturally be messages and posts appearing with a customer service slant as followers and fans interact with images and updates, share their experiences and reach out to obtain further information.
Widely quoted research conducted by JD Power tells us that 67% of consumers turn to social media in the expectation that they’ll receive customer service. But should your hotel’s social media marketing be on tap to provide that support? There are pros and cons and if you aren’t yet offering customer support via platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, there are several advantages and a few drawbacks to weigh up first.
It can be good for revenue
Aberdeen Group found that companies who offer customer service via social media recorded bigger year-on-year growth than those who did not (7.5% compared with 2.5%).
It can strengthen relationships
Client complaints are a hot bed of frustration. They eat away at the consumer-brand relationship, decay brand loyalty and can lead to lots of public mud-slinging. So how can this possibly be a pro? It’s all about the way it’s dealt with. Social media offers immediacy and unlike the time scales typically involved with email, letter or telephone customer service, social media can offer an immediate solution.
When this Jet Blue customer reached out on Twitter to complain that his in-flight entertainment was broke, it could have been a recipe for resentment.
Less than a half hour later, Jet Blue had a very happy customer publicly praising their customer service.
It’s a chance to take control of reputation management
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, circumstances outside of your control can mean that guests don’t always enjoy their stay at your hotel. This could be due to a maintenance issue or over occupancy.
When a social media expert checked into a Delta hotel for a conference in Vancouver, he was happy with his room but not the view. Taking a photo from the window and uploading it to his Twitter account meant that all of his followers saw the bad side of his stay.
The guest, Mike McCready didn’t tag Delta Hotels in his tweet. However, the chain clearly had a strong social media customer relations strategy in play as their social media listening flagged up their brand name. A rep got in touch and offered a room change which was declined because the guest was leaving the next day. The customer service team sent a plate of cakes up instead. The guest took a picture and tweeted this too, making for great reputation management and leaving anyone who saw the original complaint with a much more positive view of Delta Hotels.
It’s useful for building a brand your customers feel connected to
Traditional customer service can happen in a silo, with the marketing team and stakeholders not fully in the loop. Information can become segmented, with everyday queries or requests staying with the customer service team rather than being common knowledge amongst other business units, such as the marketing department or hotel managers. This means opportunities to build a brand which customers feel connected to, and which truly serves their needs, are missed.
Making your customer service social can remove that information bottleneck and give you access to valuable customer sentiment, pain points and service requests. Starbucks is a case in point. The coffee chain has set up a dedicated Twitter account to handle customer requests and actively solicit suggestions. By asking its customers to tell it what services they want to see, Starbucks is able to adapt, develop and grow its offering in line with customer demand.
Beware slow responses though
While all of these benefits make for compelling reasons to add customer service to your hotel’s social media marketing efforts, there are also downsides to consider. Customers who turn to social media for service expect a quick response. They also expect service around the clock. This can have big staffing, resource and budget implications.
This expectation of instant service means you may have to invest in more staff or extend customer service operating hours – all of which can impact on your