Using Social Media to Differentiate on Service

I recently met with an executive at a leading hotel marketing group. A legend in the industry, he has spent more than 30 years working in hotels. He genuinely loves hospitality and is a stickler for great service. He told me that he is apprehensive about all the new technology coming out because he fears it will make the staff in a hotel obsolete. He said, “I worry about what will happen when people can just check in online and open their door with a bar code that is emailed to them. How will we be able to differentiate on service?”

As much as I love technology, I can see where he is coming from. A few nights ago night I stayed at the Elysian in Chicago and from the moment I pulled in, I was met with smiles and staff that couldn’t do enough to make my 12 hours with them special. My name was passed from one staff member to the next so every conversation was personal. Upon checkout, when I expressed concern about making my flight, a front desk manager told me that they would love to have me stay with them another night. I genuinely believed him. And that’s when it hit me. Encouraging staff to connect with guests is the most important thing a hotel can do. I will overlook a lot of imperfections if a staff member exceeds my expectations or makes my stay memorable.

And, as I explained to the executive, technology can play a roll. I showed him examples of hotels that were using Facebook and Twitter as an e-conierge and, as a result, surprising and delighting guests. One of my friends recently had a terrible experience with a large luxury brand and as soon as he tweeted about it, he was contacted and told that the situation would be handled immediately. He then tweeted how impressed he was with the brand. He was willing to forgive, and even promote the brand, because of how the situation was handled when he returned home.

What do you think? Can Facebook and Twitter help drive connections between guests and hotels? Will hotels be able to differentiate in this way?

Michelle Wohl is the VP of Marketing at Revinate. Based in San Francisco, Michelle has worked in technology marketing since graduating from Cornell University.

2 Responses to “Using Social Media to Differentiate on Service”

  1. Anna Pollock

    As your web site has shown, the answer to your question is YES. But success depends on whether there is a genuine culture of support and interest in guests as people and not “share of wallets”. The Elysian management clearly trust their employees to “show they care”. The technology can then be used appropriately.

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  2. Mhraba

    Twitter yes. Facebook no. This is why:
    http://www.hrabaconsulting.com/blog/2010/09/01/facebook-brand-pages-community-interaction-what-do-we-know/
    Facebook isn’t irrelevant, but it’s certainly nothing more than a voluntary desire to sport a brand that increases users’ social equity, without ever wanting anything to do with a proper dialogue or two way communication between guest and brand. But I am cynical – some people tell me that the day will come that Facebook is useful and solid. I am left doubting that.
    Twitter, for sure, for all the obvious reasons people chat about. Conversion, brand management, problem resolution, lead generation, etc.
    But as for hotels… no hotel is identical to another, be it market placement, etc. Service is *NOT* defined by the hotel, and the guest will define you based on their needs. Some markets (roadside Topeka hotel? a business traveler hotel?) do not need luxury and service and define hospitality as efficiency and low barrier to getting into a room.
    It will be defined by the market, not the hotel. If a guest wants a kiosk and quick check in… then that’s what they will get.
    I think you simply tell the manager to be a hotelier, control your brand, and only enter markets that will understand or grow to appreciate the level of luxury and service you wish to provide.
    Whether or not you choose to listen to your guests, no matter what market, is really the only thing that is NOT an option… which is why I am using you guys. In fact, you saved me enough time today I can prattle on blogs. =)
    THANKS (and pardon that first comment – I messed it up!)
    Michael
    @hhotelconsult

    Reply

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