Monday, September 11, 2017

10 SM Resources for Hospitality Customer Service

Why does social media matter for those in hospitality? A Google search for "hotel" turns up 3.1 billion (that’s billion with a b) results in 1.05 seconds. A similar search on "restaurant" turns up almost 1.9 billion in 1.56 seconds. And the top results will be for such places as Hotels.com, Expedia, Trivago, Kayak and Restaurants.com.

Social Media for Hospitality

For most users those top results will be all they need. But for others the search will be slightly more involved or the decision to click will take a few seconds longer. The difference? Loyalty to a brand or recollection of another person’s great experience.

What can help businesses in hospitality (hotels and restaurants, for example) earn those few seconds of extra consideration?

Social media – it is the very key for industries whose biggest driver is word-of-mouth marketing.

But how? And, perhaps more importantly, why? According to a 2015 article on Harvard Business Review:
  • "Consumers under 35 spend almost four hours per day on social media, and more of that time is being spent engaging with brands."
  •  "17% of people older than 55 prefer social media over the telephone for service."
And, of the four stages of the consumer decision-making process – need recognition, information search, evaluation and decision – social media increasingly plays a role in the first three….

So how should those in hospitality – particularly on the customer service side – use social media to attract, assist and retain loyal customers?

10 Social Media Resources for Hospitality Customer Service

The article 5 Social Customer Service Best Practices from Cision suggests restaurants and hotels graduate their social care customers to a more reliable communications platform such as SMS or email, get all employees on board with appropriate social responses and understand that customers expect a near-immediate response on social media.
  • Key takeaway: "Today, 39 percent of social media complainers who expect a reply want it to come within 60 minutes, yet the average response time from businesses is 5 hours,” says social media expert Jay Baer in the piece.
In Social Hospitality: How 8 Hotels Engage Guests On & Offline (from Sprout Social) author Jennifer Beese suggests that social media allows hoteliers to be an Invaluable resource beyond just providing accommodations, to be attentive during guests’ stays and a to extend the experience after the stay.
  • A key takeaway: "Knowing where your guests communicate online will help you provide a better customer service experience while enabling you to reach the right people at exactly the right time."
The grandly named The Complete Guide to Social Media for Restaurants & Bars (also from Sprout Social) gives advice on creating relevant posts (i.e. understanding the difference between engagement vs. promotional posting), how to find optimal times to post and what it takes to get your social efforts to a higher level.
  • A key takeaway: "If you’re not visibly active on social media, then you’re missing out on a large customer base."
The question and answer website Quora might be a great resource for those in hospitality according to Quora: How to Generate Leads for a Hotel says an article on the Social Media Explorer site. It suggests such strategies as being on social to provide solutions, searching social platforms for questions to answer and resisting being promotional in social posts.
  • A key takeaway: "A boutique hotel could easily muscle in on the big boys’ territory with well-thought out answers to travelers’ queries. In the process, you’ll build authority and possibly carve out a niche for your brand."
The eHotelier.com piece How the hospitality industry is embracing social media offers a series of "insider tips" for those in hospitality and their use of such platforms as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These include Facebook promotions and working with bloggers.
  • A key takeaway: "Ninety one per cent of retail brands use two or more social media channels, and the hospitality industry should be no different."
Conversocial, a website that looks at various aspects of social media and customer service, offers Customer Service for Travel, suggesting that hospitality brands standing out as leaders in social customer service are making major investments in this area, expanding their teams and marketing budgets. The piece offers tips on deepening connections to customers and making the right impression on social channels.
  • A key takeaway: "More than other customer service channels, social lends itself to creating memorable experiences for customers."
7. Customer service in its broadest sense means offering something of value on social to current and future customers. So the post 10 Examples of Great Social Media Content for Restaurants on the EnPlug Blog offers tips including the obvious "Share mouth-watering photos” and the not-so-obvious "Get your employees involved."
  •      A key takeaway: Show your customers that you’re on social for more than just pushing out promotions. Whether you’re answering questions, addressing concerns, saying thanks, or just responding with wit, your responses will go a long way."
Top social media management tools for hotels and the hospitality industry from TravelTripper.com offers a list of 10 social media management tools for the hospitality industry with explanations of features and pricing.
  • A key takeaway: "From streamlining content creation and posting to social listening and analytics integrations, social media tools come with a range of innovative features …."
Are there downsides to social media for hospitality businesses? Some would say negative reviews on sites such as Yelp, but RestaurantEngine.com – in How to Respond to Negative Restaurant Reviews – says "…not all negative reviews have lasting consequences…. It’s what you do with the review that sets you apart and defines your restaurant."
  • A key takeaway: "Not only are you fighting for the reviewer’s business, but you’re fighting for everyone else who reads the review."
And of course I’d be remiss to not mention all of the various infographics that boil down social customer service to its key elements. I’ve created a public Pinterest board called Social Customer Service that may prove useful to those in hospitality. The graphics range from how to use social to deal with negative comments to using social to build loyalty and trust with future and current customers.

Bonus: If you’re looking for some thought leaders in the area of social media and hospitality you might check out The Top 16 Leaders in Hospitality to Follow on Twitter from Capterra.
                Is social media here to stay as a fact of life for customer service in social media? For sure. Will it evolve and grow as a series of customer service channels? Absolutely. What do you think?

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