5 Types of Hotel Technology You Should Know

The hotel industry is a barometer for the innovation and changes taking place in the world of tech. If you want to see what’s happening with new technology, take a look at hotels.

Virtual Reality? There’s Marriott and Best Western, to name a few. The Internet of Things? Marriott again, as well as Virgin, and Peninsula Hotels. Uber’s ride-sharing app? Try Starwood, Hilton, and IHG.

Even with these innovations at a guest’s fingertips, the sharing economy’s vacation rental model, embodied by AirBnB, is still a threat to hotels. It’s easy for travelers to sidestep the rising rates of hotel rooms and snag a cheap night’s stay at somebody’s house.

Homeowners and renters are motivated to share their space because they can make an easy dollar. Although the ubiquity of the AirBnB model is enabled by technology—in the form of the internet and apps—hi-tech accommodation isn’t the first thing on a vacationer’s mind. People are looking for a good old-fashioned stay in a comfortable place for a minimal price.

One of the advantages to vacation rentals is that booking a stay for a week can cost a third of the price of a hotel. Additionally, guests have more locations to choose from, and houses come with inherent privacy and security.

Guests can take advantage of the amenities—such as laundry and kitchen facilities—at no extra charge. A downside, however, is that guests don’t get the cleaning services provided by maids. And there have been inappropriate incidents at AirBnB homes, which may make travelers uncertain as to what type of situation they’re getting into.

Still, hoteliers need to be equipped with technologies that can give them the upper hand against vacation rentals. The following technologies are changing the conversation, making way for a brand new level of hospitality.

Cloud-based Property Management Software (PMS)  

Also known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), this type of PMS enables guests to check-in through their mobile device, among other conveniences. Guests who have used a vacation rental app in the past (they went straight to the rental property and settled in after arranging it online) will be happy to find out they can go straight to their room without having to check in first.

The Fontainebleau Miami used cloud-based PMS and saw 20-40 percent of guests select mobile check-in. In the first 30 days, the Fontainebleau was also able to achieve 141 percent ROI from late check-out offers.

Mobile PMS also lets guests communicate with staff wherever the staff member is in the facility, and allows the hotel to collect data on guests for personalization during their stay.

Social Listening Software

Guests who frequently use social media are bound to talk about their experience at your hotel. Likewise, potential guests will express their likes and dislikes when it comes to hospitality. NetAffinity offers a list of social media monitoring tools for hotels:

  • Hootsuite: Allows you to manage all your social media accounts in one place via streams
  • Social Mention: A free tool with which you can find out what people are saying about your hotel on over 100 networks
  • Mention: Input keywords related to your offering, and Mention will send you alerts from “billions of sources in more than 40 languages”; this is great if you’d like to make international inroads
  • Curalate: Lets you listen to the image side of social media by filling you in on the images your audience engages with most
  • Sproutsocial: Connect all of your social media accounts in one place with this tool’s ‘Smart Inbox’
  • Tagboard: If your hotel has a branded hashtag, this is the tool for you; also lets you monitor competitor tags
  • Radian6: For enterprise-level hotels, this tool analyzes 650 millions sources and presents you with curated insights
  • Buzzsumo: Find out what the most shared content is on social networks

Through social listening, you’ll understand what your target guests want before they arrive. Paradoxically, if they’re looking for a low-tech, comfortable hotel, you’ll know that because of technology.

Streaming TV

Imagine a guest is pretty much hooked on a Netflix program, and quite frankly, they’d like to be able to continue watching it on the big screen while they’re on vacation. It’s not uncommon to see a WiFi-enabled TV in someone’s home—that includes vacation rentals.

Why can’t this be available in a hotel room? Marriott has already partnered with Netflix for streaming HDTV, while Starwood did it with AppleTV and Amazon. Imagine free WiFi and streaming big-screen TV in all of your hotel rooms. Now that’s a game-changer.

Keyless Entry

If guests can check-in via mobile PMS, why not enable them to sidestep the front desk entirely and access their room with a smartphone? In June of 2016, 160 Starwood Hotels in 30 countries were offering SPG Keyless entry, and chains such as Hilton and IHG have also created their own keyless options.

Three out of four Hilton loyalty members who use mobile check-in also request keyless entry, and Leisure travelers who use Hilton’s Digital Key rate their overall experience 5 percentage points higher than those who don’t.

Texting Concierge Service

When someone stays at a vacation rental, let’s just say their concierge is nonexistent—the closest thing is a personal assistant on a smartphone. With texting concierge you can set yourself apart by giving guests the option to text their questions and room service requests. In Philadelphia, 30 percent of the guests at Four Seasons Philadelphia use Zingle—a “mobile concierge service”—to communicate with staff.

The software routes all texts to a webpage, from which a central dispatcher expedites service. If the dispatcher can’t respond to texts within a set period of time, urgent messages are automatically routed to the manager on duty. This type of technology ups the ante of communication at your hotel by giving guests yet another option to satisfy their needs.

 

It’s important to think like a customer who is deciding between a vacation rental and your hotel. Social listening will help you get into their headspace, while the other tech on this list will help you improve communication with your customer and offer maximum convenience.

In the end, if it’s clear you’re operating on a different level—you’re fully attuned to their needs—it will be tough for any vacation rental to beat your offer.

How To Grow Your Business With a Hyperlocal Website

‘Hyperlocal” may seem like another buzzword, but targeting the local market can be just as essential as marketing to travelers.

With search queries including the words “near me” doubling in the past year and 82% of smartphone users using a search engine when looking for a local business, adopting a localized marketing strategy is imperative.

Here’s everything you need to know about growing your business with a hyperlocal website.

What is Hyperlocal Marketing?

At its core, hyperlocal marketing is finding and keeping your best customers by marketing your business to a location niche: usually a region, city, neighborhood, or zip code.

By creating a hyperlocal website, you can capture the attention of customers who are searching specifically for your region rather than generically for their travel needs.

Why Your Travel Business Should Use a Hyperlocal Approach

The shift towards hyperlocal content is a result of the increase in mobile usage and a consumer push for more targeted and authentic search results.

By focusing on your geographic area and creating content around it, you can join other hyperlocal hospitality websites that are enjoying the benefits of this strategy at a higher rate than anyone else.

Growing Your Business With a Hyperlocal Website

Step 1: Create Content With a Local Focus

The hyperlocal approach benefits both your bottom line and Google. By focusing on the customer and creating quality localized content, you help Google improve the user experience, and in return, your website’s ranking.

To optimize your business for a location, incorporate your proximity to interesting things in the city.

Travelers don’t visit a city because of a hotel; they visit because of what is around the hotel. You can capitalize on this.

How to make the most out of localized content

Create a page or entire blog post that is dedicated to your region or neighborhood.

Integrate high-ranking, travel-orientated keywords in your local area such. Examples include restaurants, street location, nearness to notable landmarks, and proximity to local transportation hubs.

By creating useful localized content, you help travelers get a better picture of where your business is located in context to the places they want to visit.

It also helps them understand how to get around the city from your location.

Local guides provide the opportunity to link to trusted sources that will improve your website’s SEO along with your position as a local expert.

Step 2: Use Your Hyperlocal Website To Highlight Your Key Differentiators

To capture potential customers’ attention, you need to stand out in a saturated market. This is especially true during the evaluation process when travelers are comparing local businesses.

To swing their vote in your favor, create hyperlocal content that highlights what makes your business unique.

These key differentiators will capture travelers’ interests and help you to carve out a unique position in the market.

For example, if you have the highest bungee jump in the area or are the only hotel with a scenic outdoor bath – mention that everywhere in your copy and relevant blog posts.

As it’s one thing to have baths in your hotel, it’s another to have a bath on the edge of a cliff.

Step 3: Network With Your Businesses in Your Area

To create a successful local blog, you need to set aside time to network with like-minded people.

Find people in the local community that have an established following, and partner with them.

Team up with museums, festivals, restaurants and other non-competing local businesses to prove your authenticity in your neighborhood.

You could offer free advertising on your website in exchange for social media promotion on their website and platforms.

Alternatively, offer to pool your resources together to buy bigger advertising spots and run cross-promotional campaigns.

One of the hot trends in the hotel industry is to collaborate with local artists and craftsmen to sell their products on site, offer unique welcome gifts or create local events like an art show.

Step 4: Make Sure You Are On Local Listing Sites

If you don’t have a high advertising budget, local listing sites are a cost-effective way to boost the number of highly-engaged users to your website.

Listing services like Google My Business make it easier for local companies to compete with larger and more established businesses.

Google My Business listings appear on the first page of Google search results which is extremely helpful if your company is struggling to compete with more robust brands and websites.

MAke sure your business name, address, phone number, and website are correct and complete across all local directories.

Thie helps search engines verify your business is legitimate and also helps with SEO.

While it is important to be on big directories such as Google My Business, Google+, Yahoo Locating, Yelp and Bing Places, it’s necessary to spend time researching niche listing sites, too.

For example, it’s a good idea to list on sites like Booking.com as well as regional accommodation sites for your city or country.

In Conclusion

If you want your business to benefit from hyperlocal marketing and be recognized as a trusted local expert, it’s important to start incorporating local marketing into your online marketing mix.

By following these four steps, you can attract engaged consumers who are actively searching for you online.

You will benefit from a boost in bookings or sales, and your customers will benefit from authentic localized content that improves their experience with your brand and city.

Hyperlocal is here to stay. Is your business ready to take advantage of this digital marketing tactic?

The Importance of Listening to Your Customers

Superior products and exceptional customer service is important to the success of any business, but you’re still prone to failure as a company if you don’t know how to listen to your customers.

Making an effort to reach out to your customers and effectively listen to their feedback can have a positive affect your profits and revenue.

How you choose to listen and interpret customer feedback is essential to improving customer experience and contributing to the success of your business.

Check out these tips to learn about the importance of listening to your customers and ways you can reach out to your patrons.

listening-to-your-customers

1. Recognize Customer Individuality

Each one of your customers is a unique individual with distinct needs, wants, socioeconomic backgrounds, household sizes, etc. and your job is to fulfill those basic human needs with your products.

In order to supply the types of products that will be in demand by each customer, you have to recognize that each of your customers has a voice and an opinion they want to share.

When you have the right technology to listen to these customer experiences and conduct business in a way which shows you truly listened, your customers will feel more satisfied and your service will surpass that of your competition.

2. Encourage Active Listening from All Employees

Every employee in every department has a different interaction and relationship with your customers which means each of those employees has an opportunity to actively listen to what your customers are sharing.

Encourage all of your employees, from the sales team to your IT support, to be taking in customer feedback and reporting findings.

Research suggests that we remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear, teaching your staff to actively listen by paying full attention, engaging in discussion with customers, and even mentally repeating to themselves what customers are sharing will improve their active listening skills.

Because of this, trends will be identified quicker and customers will feel happier with their consistent treatment and service from employees.

3. Offer Various Ways for Customers to Provide Feedback

Customer touchpoints can be all over the board which infers that customers prefer various different ways of communication.

In order to gain feedback from as many customers as possible, take time to build a strong outreach campaign offering multiple ways for customers to answer your questions.

Some ways to do this are:

  • Handwritten or online surveys are great for collecting quantitative data from those willing to participate. Consider offering incentives like coupons or discounts for completing the surveys to encourage more participation.
  • Focus groups where you get your best customers together to discuss future services and products to allow for in-depth feedback.
  • Build feedback gathering into every customer interaction. Disney trains their employees to constantly ask questions which gives them a better understanding of the customer’s needs and wants throughout every interaction which creates immediate customer feedback.
  • Technological and social media feedback opportunities allow customers to conveniently share their feedback. Whether it is through online review, voice comments, or a video message to your brand, having the appropriate technologies in place to take and analyze this type of feedback is essential to how you listen.

How your business listens to its customers, matters. The more you invest in listening to your customers, the more feedback you will receive to make educated strategic decisions for your company that leads to success.

Author Bio: Brooke Cade is a freelance that enjoys learning more about InMoment.com—her CX platform of choice, as well as reading books/articles on industry news, engaging on twitter, and exploring her local neighborhood coffee shop.

10 Mobile Marketing Strategy Ideas for the Travel Industry

Mobile devices are essential elements in our daily lives. Despite starting out as a way to keep in contact, phones have evolved into a key information source.

Conversion rates have increased by 88% on mobile travel sites. A mobile marketing strategy is no longer optional.

Here are ten ways you can innovate your mobile travel marketing strategy in 2017:

  1. Location Based Services

Location data is one of the essential tools for businesses in the travel industry. With 56% of smartphone users making local searches, optimizing your business to be discovered is a must.

Make sure your business is also discoverable on Google, Instagram, or Foursquare. Travelers take advantage of a variety of location-enabled features on social media platforms before and during a trip.

Whether to find the nearest restaurant, read reviews, or take part visual trip inspiration, localized search results play a big part in a consumer’s decision-making process.

  1. Mobile Service

With 40% of millennials preferring online customer service, the way businesses provide their services to consumers needs to evolve.

Guests often no longer want to deal with a person. Instead, they want a self-service experience that allows them to book a tour at midnight or order food directly from their phones without a language barrier.

To take advantage of this trend, think about how to take your offers online and make them more mobile-friendly for consumers.

  1. Mobile SEO Practices

It is essential to have strong SEO practices in place along with a mobile-friendly website to remain relevant and competitive.

Here are some of the most important ways to optimize for a positive mobile experience:

  • Responsive web pages. A responsive site design optimizes the layout of your website for mobile users and prevents a frustrating user experience.
  • Enable dynamic serving. Dynamic serving allows a server to detect the type of device and then loads the appropriate content onto that URL.
  • Keyword and content optimization. Choose keywords that are mobile user-specific and make sure the length of your content is optimized for mobile devices.
  1. Personalisation

In November 2010, KLM Airlines decided to surprise its customers. Using social media, their flight attendants tracked down guests who mentioned they were flying with KLM that day.

Then, using information flyers provided on social media, the flight attendants surprised their guests with a suitable gift.

Creating a personalized experience does not need to be an as in-depth as KLM’s social experiment, but it does show the untapped power of social sleuthing.

Spend time getting to know your customers and making it a priority to form relationships with them.

By doing this, it will help create a personalized experience that will delight your customers and make them want to share their experience with the world.

  1. Problem Solving

To delight our customers, we need to anticipate their needs and provide solutions to unanticipated problems.

Think about your customer’s journey and the problems they might encounter – even if it does not directly relate to your services.

For example, when a traveler lands in a new country, their first obstacle is usually getting to their hotel.

Hotels can provide guests directions in the local language, an interactive list of transport options available or help guests avoid being ripped off with cab fare estimates.

  1. Incentivize with Social Media

With nearly 80% of social media time taking place on mobile, being active on various platforms is an excellent way to stay connected to your customers.

Businesses in the travel industry can use social media use to encourage users to check-in, post photos, or leave reviews. If you are struggling to get organic interaction – incentivise your consumers.

Restaurants, hotels, and tour operators can give discounts if a user leaves a review on Facebook, tags and uploads a photo on Instagram, or retweets a post on Twitter.

  1. Mobile-Friendly Offline Functionality

The need to provide offline functionality on mobile devices has become increasingly more important.

While traveling through a foreign country, Wifi is not always available, and expensive roaming charges leave many mobile devices permanently on airplane mode.

For businesses in the tourism industry, it is important to think about how offline functionality can solve your customer’s problems.

Hotels could provide a detailed offline destination guide or an interactive map of nearby attractions.

By taking the time to assess your guest’s needs, you can come up with a valuable piece of offline content that will enrich their experience.

  1. Mobile AdWords Strategy

If you own a hotel, you might be in a hotly contested battle on Google AdWords for keywords like “hotels in Las Vegas,” and you are probably not seeing any desirable results.

The reason for this is because you are focusing on how people travel instead of why. No one books a vacation because of a hotel; people travel to experience a destination.

By targeting consumers while they are searching for an experience or an event, it will open you up to unique, low competition keywords and it will get you in front of your customer before your competition.

  1. Target Impulse Buyers

Armed with the power of a smartphone, consumers are free to make last-minute bookings any time of day.

According to a study by Phocuswright and Adara, almost 25% of availability searches take place on either the same day or next-day check-in.

This information represents a huge opportunity to businesses in the travel industry to take advantage of the “we want it now” culture.

One of the best ways to do this is to ensure your mobile app or website has online booking functionality.

You want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to make that purchase and give them no reason to leave for a competitor’s website.

  1. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is revolutionizing the travel experience. It gives guests the chance to plan their journey in a seamless, interactive manner straight from their mobile device.

AR allows a user to take a virtual tour of a hotel room, browse menus by interacting with the menu and check out amenities like swimming pools and spa facilities all from the comfort of their own home.

Augmented reality allows consumers to plan in a much more interactive way and gives them a tangible way to experience their vacation before they arrive.
By taking advantage of the mobile marketing tips and innovating your strategy, you can capitalize on unique opportunities and differentiate your brand in one of the most saturated and competitive industries.

 

Author Bio: Shawn Parrotte is a musician, photographer, and digital marketer. He manages all the branding and marketing efforts at Designli, a custom mobile app development agency located in beautiful Greenville, SC.

What Kind of Reviews Can Be Removed From Yelp?

Have you ever wanted to remove an unfavorable review from Yelp?

The following infographic is designed to better help business owners understand how to identify negative reviews that can and should be removed.

The idea behind creating this is to help small business owners understand that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations so damaging yelp post should not be ignored.

Remove Negative Reviews Guide from ReviewPush

 

3 Amazing Examples of Customer Service on Social Media

Group of Business People with Social Media Concept

Social media is no longer merely a platform for socializing.

Its accessibility and open sense of communication provide great ways for customers to engage with their favorite — and even not so favorite — brands.

Whether used for the purposes to promote, complain or admire from afar, social media will continue to soar in use.

With that in mind, companies have an opportunity to build and maintain relationships with customers and prospects alike.

However, there’s also the issue of responding to customer service issues. While this practice can sometimes prove difficult, it must be handled appropriately.

Here are examples of brands that do customer service on social media right.

1. Delta Hotels

Today, there are a number of social platforms where your brand can receive mentions, both positive and negative.

In order to respond to complaints, correct false accusations, and remain aware of what your customers like and dislike, it’s important to monitor discussions.

By using tools like Mention or Google Alerts, brands can easily be notified when and where users, well, mention them and then respond accordingly.

For example, Delta Hotels does a great job addressing both positive and negative feedback.

A Delta hotel customer recently tweeted something not so nice about the view from inside his hotel room.

Even though the guest didn’t tag the hotel or ask for anything, Delta picked up on it and quickly responded.

Not only did Delta provide the guest with a new room, but the Marriott-owned hotel chain also offered him candy and a handwritten card.

From there, the hotel guest shared his positive experience with the brand on social media later that same day.

Through this, Delta was able to turn a seemingly innocuous but negative situation into a positive one, which can be especially important in hospitality.

2. Jet Blue

Today, one of the most common — and effective — ways customers can relay customer service issues is through social media.

Due to the wide reach of social media, this practice can be concerning for companies.

JetBlue failed to provide a functional TV on a passenger’s recent flight. The passenger, in turn, complained about the issue on social media.

JetBlue representatives could have ignored the issue, but had already developed a plan when faced with this type of issue: tweet their apologies and offer a credit for an upcoming flight.

Talk about empathy and a fast, friendly approach. The result? The JetBlue customer tweeted again, praising Jet Blue’s prompt and courteous customer service.

The importance of this pre-set plan can be applied to any industry.

Hospitality, for example, thrives on fast and friendly service that caters to guests’ specific needs.

Thus, formalizing actions and responses to customer service issues can save you time when these issues arise.

3. Starbucks

In business, social media is all about customer engagement — and brands should take advantage of this practice to better appeal to and satisfy their customers.

Starbucks has already made it big. But how can the coffee chain continue to widen its appeal? Well, Starbucks turned to its customers to answer that question.

By rolling out the My Starbucks Idea campaign, which is supported by a dedicated Twitter account, Starbucks encouraged customers to post unique ideas about to make their coffee experience better.

Starbucks collected more than 200,000 ideas — installing solar umbrellas to charge smartphones and introducing morning coffee delivery — and effectively utilized the reach of social media to provide customers with better service.

Social media is a great opportunity for brands to form and build relationships with their customers.

If handled correctly, companies can get to know their customers better, come up with unique experiences, and improve their overall level of service and attention.

Namaste: How Yoga Retreats are Leveraging Digital Marketing

Many businesses are stuck in the last century when it comes to marketing. This is especially true in the yoga retreat industry around the world.

New customers are the lifeline of any successful business, and the yoga industry is no different.

Yoga marketing is essential for retreats and studios to attract new clients and increase brand loyalty. By implementing proven marketing techniques, you can develop a competitive edge over 95% the competition who are still stuck.

The few doing well are employing unique ideas to attract customers from all over the world. Many implement cost-effective marketing strategies that generate measurable results.

With these ideas, the respective yoga businesses modernize their retreats and subsequently increase profits as a result.

yoga-retreats-marketing

As an example, The Power Living Retreat in Australia became the more preferable choice over India’s traditional yoga retreats because they kept up with the changing times.

Here are some of the specific ways progressive yoga retreats set themselves apart:

Brand via Email and Social Media

Most people who visit a website leave without doing anything (like buying, calling, or signing up for a newsletter). And once they are gone, you have lost your chance to market to them in the future, too.

To increase conversion rate, offer a free giveaway and add a clear call-to-action on your homepage, or provide a link to sign up for a free offer.

Employ a lead capture method such as asking for their contact information in return for the offer. As a yoga center, the free giveaway for sign-up could be a yoga or meditation training series.

yoga-retreat

Or it could be a free video that gives a short tour of your retreat. If they choose to sign up, you have just turned a visitor into a lead. Now you can start a dialogue with them over email.

The next step is to setup an auto-responder email sequence using pre-written emails that get sent at pre-determined intervals. These offer more value over time. Keep these emails text based, short, and chatty.

Use content that appeals to your target audience – something on the lines of: “It’s time to give yourself a break from your busy lifestyle” or “We would love to spoil you by giving you a treat you will remember.”

These are the type of emails we receive from our friends and colleagues and they feel more familiar and less “salesy.”

It often takes 7 points of contacts to build trust, so don’t just jump in and ask to be hired straight away. After 10 value emails, you could offer a time sensitive discount on your services.

Only do this when you feel they have received a lot of value from you and you have succeeded in building their trust.

Social media for yoga studios is also essential in creating an effective online presence. Incorporating offers into your social media messaging helps spread the word about what you offer and the value you provide.

If you’re not sure how to grow your email list with social media, there are numerous ways to do that also.

Introduce Freebies

People love freebies. Yogi surprise addresses the benefits they achieved through giving away the free e-book The Art of Self-Love as an incentive for signing up for their subscription box.

art-of-self-love

As a yoga retreat, you may be the only center giving away something to first timers. Even something brief or small can be enough for potential customers to understand the quality of your service and come back again.

Ask your customers what they expect from your retreat, and give them exactly that. Yoga Bowl is one yoga company offering free trials to their customers before providing their paid services.

As a retreat, you can employ the same technique and offer a 3-day free yoga session, or a 2-day free stay at your resort.

Effective Copywriting

Writing effective content is probably the most important of all internet marketing strategies.

Video scripts, blogs, emails, and direct mail marketing are all entail strategic copywriting.

Think of your typical prospect or customer and write as if you are talking to that one person over coffee. This makes the reader or viewer feel more involved.

Retreat Relax Release is an excellent example how yoga retreats can promote and represent themselves using unique content.

The customer is always thinking “what’s in it for me?” So tell them. Instead of using the word “we,” use the word “you” a lot. This helps them connect with your brand.

Market with Video

This is a marketing strategy that can have a striking difference to your business. Did you know YouTube gets over 5 billion daily views and is the third most-visited website on the internet?

80% of people will watch a website video, compared to 20 percent who prefer to read content on the same page.

Anyone who runs a yoga retreat business knows that they have plenty of exotic locations, awe-inspiring services, and features they can cover in videos.

You could create videos about yoga, meditation, detoxification, the scenic view, and many other services you offer.

People are 73% more likely to be attracted to what you have to offer after watching a video.

Make sure your video is above the fold so visitors do not have to scroll down to see it. Keep website videos short (around 90 seconds) and to-the-point.

Blue Spirit Costa Rica and Burren Yoga use great videos to attract customers.

yoga-retreat-video

These are just a few powerful marketing ideas to help boost your yoga retreat business.

When implemented carefully, these ideas will help you stand out from the crowd and win over new customers.

 

Author Bio: Alma Causey loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences, and express herself through her blogs.

Twitter’s New Customer Service Tools Take Hospitality to the Next Level

Providing customer service via Twitter is commonplace for the hospitality industry.

Who can forget when entrepreneur Peter Shankman jokingly tweeted Morton’s Steakhouse requesting they deliver a steak to him at the airport?

Upon landing in Newark, Peter was greeted by a Morton’s server with a 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, shrimp, potatoes, and bread.

Pulling something like this off is no small feat – Mortons’ social media manager had to get approval, place the order, and ensure it was prepared in a timely manner then made it to Peter at the airport.

Peter covered this on his website and it immediately went viral. Calling it “the greatest customer service story ever told,” Peter outlined the story and why it was impressive.

Not only was this a win for Morton’s Steakhouse, but it also showcased the sheer power of Twitter and the effect it can have on customers when executed correctly.

According to research conducted by Social Bakers last year, more than 80% of customer service requests on social are happening on Twitter, not to mention there has been a greater than 2.5x increase in the number of tweets to brands and their customer service usernames in the past two years (or had been at the time of the study).

Many large hotel brands already have separate Twitter accounts specifically designated for customer service. For example, in addition to their regular brand channels, Hilton has a @HiltonHelp Twitter account and Hyatt has @HyattConcierge Twitter account.

In an effort to emphasize its position as a critical tool in delivering top-notch customer service, Twitter recently introduced new display options and tools.

Companies can set hours they’re keen to monitoring their accounts (and thus, responding to inquiries) which will help set expectations in terms of when a reply may be received. A profile badge will indicate when they’re available to respond to messages.

Brands will also be able to explicitly note that their profile provides support. The accounts with this option will boast a new, large ‘Message’ prompt displayed on their profile.

This larger Direct Messages button — which takes over the full space where the “Tweet to” and “Message” buttons used to live side-by-side — encourages users to start a private conversation with the business instead of publicly tweeting at them.

Hotels, restaurants, and airlines should most certainly peruse their settings and adjust their support information accordingly.

If you take a look at United’s Twitter account, they already have the feature enabled noting that they’re responsive around the clock:

In an industry plagued by vocal customers (what’s more frustrating than a delayed flight?), the fact that airlines are pro-actively conveying “We’re here, we’re listening, we want to listed, around the clock” says a lot about otherwise “traditional” brands and the shift occurring in the social sphere.

The always-progressive Hotels.com also already has their responsive settings integrated, too:

Although this ‘responsive indicator’ feature is new, Twitter has been pro-actively inching toward being a customer service leader for some time.

In fact, Twitter’s customer service playbook advises business to establish a customer service strategy specifically for their platform.

When developing your strategy, Twitter emphasizes the importance of distinguishing three different stages of customer service that can be delivered on the platform:

  1. The reactive stage occurs when a customer’s tweet directly mentions customer service issues, using phrases such as “@[brand]” and @care.” This invites a direct personal resolution from a customer service representative.
  2. The proactive stage includes messages that describe resolutions for broad customer service issues. This stage might involve sharing a solution to a known software bug, for example.
  3. The final stage has general posts that engage your entire following with relevant content, which anticipates potential customer service issues before they arise.

As an example, airline-related tweets are remarkably common to come across:

jetblue-twitter

In the above example, JetBlue nicely displays an example of the process outlined in steps 1-3 of Twitter’s customer service strategy.

First, a customer aired a grievance regarding his delayed flight. JetBlue then responded in a timely manner to obtain more information, then ultimately provide an update.

Although Ryan’s flight was still delayed, the level of responsiveness and personalization shown by JetBlue undoubtedly altered his negative mindset in that moment, even if only slightly.

@JetBlue is a pristine example of a travel brand that combines friendly customer service with fun travel content, such as its #FlyingItForward initiative to provide fliers with tickets to spread goodwill.

Providing customer service through Twitter isn’t new, but it’s certainly evolving.

It’s inspiring that Twitter is taking steps to make the process more seamless for travel brands to connect with consumers and vice versa.

 

This post was originally written for Maximize Social Business.

How Customer Service Representatives Impact Your Business

When offering a service to a customer, you want to deliver the best experience possible.

Your customer service representatives are the people your customers will encounter when first entering the doors of your establishment or when they have an issue that needs to be addressed.

Making sure that your employees are greeting your guests warmly and genuinely is important in maintaining a hospitable environment.

As a business owner, it is critical to establish a working environment that allows them access to the tools that they need to be successful, to feel safe in their working environment and the know-how to provide the high caliber of service you expect.

Knowledge Is Power

It is true that the more you know, the further you’ll go.

Consider doing a training to set the bar for what you expect out of your staff so they don’t just assume that what they’re doing is working.

Offer some ways that your employees can improve your guests’ experience, such as opening the door for them as they are coming or going, greeting them by name when possible and remembering small bits of information about them.

Showing this level of care will make customers feel valued for their patronage.

Tools for Success

It may sound like a simple concept but when you are busy running a business, small things like office supplies and minor details get pushed aside.

If your front desk does not have a properly functioning computer, it may be time to invest in up-to-date technology.

When updating your technology, consider equipping your staff with ear pieces or two-way radios.

It allows them to convey information in real time to better serve your customers.

By giving your staff an easier way to communicate with one another they can better serve your clientele as a team.

Safety = Comfort

It is also important for your staff to feel safe in their work environment.

To aid in that sense of security, install security cameras around the building and property.

When your guests see that there are measures being taken toward securing the building they are entering, it also allows them to relax and enjoy the experience you are providing.

Performance Reviews

Your employees can’t be sure that they are providing the best experience for your guests without receiving feedback from their manager or boss.

Guests typically will not tell the person giving the service if there is a problem – that information is given to their manager or boss after the service or event has already occurred.

Routine meetings allow for both the manager and customer service representative to share their thoughts and ideas of how they can improve the guest experience.

This is the time to correct any mediocre behavior and help develop a better professional working relationship with your staff.

When your employees are comfortable and secure in their position, it helps them offer those same warm feelings toward your guests.

How to Keep Negative Reviews from Becoming a PR Nightmare

Despite your best efforts to please all of the people all of the time, instances arise where that isn’t the case.

These can prompt the posting of a long, nasty and perhaps even unfair online review. It may well-written, it’s on a prominent social site and you’re 99% sure it’s going to influence would-be customers.

How do you deal with this kind of blow to your reputation?

Well, the first thing to remember businesses are run by people. Even with as much as experience as you may have, you’re only human.

And sooner or later, you have to deal with confrontation and figure out how to handle a negative situation.

When push comes to shove, here are five helpful tips for transforming a painful negative into a positive one for your business:

1. Kill with Kindness

First of all, any sign of negativity on your part will only have a negative impact on those reading it.

The moment you put your defenses up, it’s obvious you’re doing so because you know you’re in the wrong.

It’s an error that’s never been better-illustrated than in the case of the now-infamous Amy’s Baking Company.

How did the brand’s boss respond to customer criticism?

amys-baking-co

Cue the media backlash that went viral worldwide.

Which is precisely why the ‘kill them with kindness’ rule is one to live by in such instances.

Think about the kind of offer that they’ll absolutely be unable to refuse, at least in the instance that their complaint is true and just.

Apologize for their dissatisfaction and request that they call YOU directly to arrange something compensatory.

In doing so, you not only show willingness to listen, but absolute commitment to righting wrongs.

It’s also a good way of displaying customer trust, confidence and respect.

2. Act Fast

If a nasty complaint about your hotel hits TripAdvisor or any popular social channel, it will be the first and highest-impact comment readers will see.

Once it falls a few spots, its influence plummets accordingly. But at the same time, so does your opportunity to turn a thumbs-down the other way up.

Promptness is of paramount importance and is precisely why most larger brands hire full-time reputation management teams, or at least utilize the appropriate software systems.

A point painfully illustrated by British Airways:

british-airways

Hassan Syed made his thoughts abundantly clear after BA lost his father’s suitcase in transit. So how did the airline respond?

british-airways2

They didn’t. At least not for eight hours, by which time the original Tweet had been viewed more than 76,000 times.

The real beauty of getting right in there as early as possible with your response is that it shows how dedicated you are to customer satisfaction; constantly monitoring the airwaves and listening to the chatter.

It shows that negative experiences are not something you’ll tolerate and nor will you allow problems to go unresolved or drag on.

How you respond matters, but it’s of equal importance to when you respond.

3. Open Dialogue 

Be sure to always make it clear that person writing the response is an individual in a position of authority, while at the same time providing direct contact details.

The key being to never under any circumstances make it appear as if the comments you are making close the case.

How not to handle customer care dialogue? Just ask the chef at Boston’s (now closed) Pigalle restaurant:

customer-service

Customer excellence 101 – calling diners “uneducated, unintelligent, unpolished human beings.”

The truth is though, even the sincerest apology in the world won’t always do the trick.

It can give the impression that you’re saying “Yes we messed up, sorry, won’t happen again,” and essentially hanging up the phone.

Great customer service is all about showing how you’re keeping the conversation going and are committed to reaching an amicable resolution.

4. Reach Out

Don’t forget that while the web might be the communication method of choice for the masses, there’s nothing to stop you attempting to contact the complainer in person.

In fact, this is something you absolutely should do in all instances.

Exchanging messages via a public forum is one thing, but it simply makes sense to get things resolved as quickly as possible.

Should it all go to plan, there’s no harm in asking them politely to a) request that the comment be removed or b) post their own comment to confirm the matter was resolved favorably.

If it doesn’t, at least you tried.

5. Empathy Vs Acceptance

Last but not least, it’s important to be very cautious when it comes to the fine line between empathy and acceptance.

Stray unwittingly into acceptance and whatever it is you’re being accused of, you’re telling the world it’s correct and you’re guilty.

Which makes it a tricky balancing act, given the fact that outright denial is also not always a good way to go.

The key lies in empathizing with the ‘plight’ of the disgruntled party, so much as to show that you’re unhappy that they’re unhappy and would like to do something about it.

You express interest, you give them every opportunity to reach an amicable resolution and you effectively leave the ball in their court.

And if all else fails, you could always return to point number-four and have a second stab at getting in touch with them directly!

Author Bio: Eddie Jones is the lead content creator for the UK’s Oxford Home Study College that provides hotel management distance learning opportunities.