Last week’s Wall Street Journal article about hotels monitoring Twitter to the delight of guests got a lot of buzz. Granted, I work for a technology company in Silicon Valley and the vast majority of the people I work with have already embraced social media and developed strategies for monitoring their brands and engaging with customers, but is there really anything controversial about brands adopting new ways to improve their service levels?
This morning ehotelier.com ran an article called, “Why Hoteliers Should Avoid Social Media.” The title alone scared me. If you are a brand conscious company and you know that guests are talking about their experiences on social networks and review sites, wouldn’t you, at a minimum, want to know what they’re saying? Of course the author, Jeremy Wagstaff, doesn’t really mean that hotels should avoid social media as the title states. He later says,
Now I’m not averse to hotels and other companies using Twitter and Facebook to keep an eye on what people are saying about them. That’s good, and, frankly, it should have happened a long time ago.
So if you’re a hotel who is heeding Mr. Wagstaff’s advice and monitoring tweets, wouldn’t it be great to engage when you see the opportunity to smooth over an issue? The author says that because the response from the hotel is usually to tweet asking the guest to send a direct message, thereby taking the issue offline, nobody wins. Frankly, I have no idea why this is an issue. As a consumer, I understand that businesses need to make money and use discounts when needed to win customers, and incentives when needed to maintain loyalty. That’s how business works. By responding, hotels are showing the public that they care. I don’t expect them to publicize their responses, or offers, for the world to see. I know they’re taking care of their customers and understand why it’s prudent for them to take it offline.
It’s also curious that Mr. Wagstaff doesn’t appreciate the value of social media posts about experiences at hotels. He states
The value in social media-in any network-is the information it’s carrying. Whines about the view from one’s room isn’t information. It’s a whine.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I love it when my friends let me know about their experiences, good and bad, at hotels. That’s the very best sort of feedback I can get on whether on not a hotel is right for me. A personal, first-hand account is not only more valuable to me than impersonal brand advertising, it’s also more important than online reviews from people I don’t know.
One gentleman I engaged with in a LinkedIn forum about the WSJ article said that he was concerned that Twitter places unrealistic service expectations on hotels. I understand exactly where he is coming from. As a stickler for great customer service, I know how important it is to meet expectations. Many brands suffer because their service offerings don’t hold up to customers’ needs. Luckily, I think Twitter, today, is still in the ‘surprise and delight’ phase. In fact, almost all the folks in the WSJ article that received a response were surprised and delighted. They didn’t expect a response. So the good news is that hotels have a bit of time to get their monitoring team in place before consumers expect a higher level of service. But they must act now and put the systems in place so they’re ready when consumers expect to use these channels for communication.
Monitoring and responding is not brain surgery and it’s not a crazy, costly endeaver as Mr. Wagstaff suggests. Many products exist to monitor Twitter, and Revinate’s TweetConcierge feature allows our clients to monitor all mentions of their brand (or any keywords they choose) across not only Twitter, but the entire Web.
Rather than using the vehicles that already exist, Mr. Wagstaff’s solution is to develop rapid responses internally – a instant messaging service only accessible to guests, say, or a texting service.
To this I say, “What?? and Why???” Whether you like it or not, people are on social networks and they are talking about your brand. 55 million tweets go out every day and 300,000 people join Twitter every day. With the rapid adoption of innovative, new social communication channels, it’s becoming more futile every day to try and force people to use closed, specialized systems. Social media is not going away any time soon so don’t fight it… embrace it and watch it pay off.