Harnessing the new word of mouth - online advocacy - Insights

Harnessing the new word of mouth – online advocacy

Insights

There are many touch points in the journey of a customer through your operation, often referred to as “moments of truth”. These positive interactions or advocacy are the point at which you can leverage your customers positive sentiment to deliver promotion – historically known as advertising through “word of mouth”. 

Take for example the moment a guest arrives in their suite at a beach-front resort in an idyllic location. This is the point of climax following their research, booking, pre-arrival anticipation – including their discussion with friends and colleagues about their long awaited trip – tying up loose ends at work before their holiday begins, their flight and transfer to your resort, and finally, (hopefully) a warm welcome and efficient, friendly check-in process. They arrive in their beautiful suite, which has been prepared and presented to maximise the wow factor. They are excited, thrilled and just want to tell their friends and family back home about how wonderful it is to be on holidays and how idyllic their room, beach view and their experience has been.

This is the point at which you can make or break your opportunity for “free” promotion.  Here are two scenarios that will capture this promotion, or block it and turn your guest delight into distress:

1. Your guest reaches for their phone/tablet/laptop, and being in a foreign country,  connects to your WiFi – quickly and efficiently, with no charge and no password required. They take a selfie of themselves in their suite with the beach in the background and then proceed to Tweet, email, post to Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and any other social or communications media they are a member of. They #yourresort and tell the world how wonderful you are in the moment of sheer exuberance.

2. Your guest reaches for their phone/tablet/laptop, and being in a foreign country, attempts to connect to your WiFi.  It either: a) doesn’t exist at all, b) doesn’t have coverage in their suite, c) is expensive, or d) has a confusing registration process that prevents them from completing the process through sheer frustration. They put their device down in frustration and head for the pool/beach/bar.

The difference between these two scenarios is twofold:

1. In Example One, the guest has experienced further satisfaction in a simple, efficient process that meets or exceeds their expectation – one that you would normally expect to replicate anywhere in your property that you provide a guest interaction, from the booking process to the bar.  In Example Two, you have  now introduced your first point of dissatisfaction (hopefully there have not been previous ones) .

2. More importantly, in Example One, you have captured your guests point of advocacy and transformed this energy into promotion – potentially to thousands of prospective guests globally.  Example Two clearly hasn’t.

Simple?

You may be thinking that my property is not a resort, not in an idyllic holiday location and therefore I don’t need to worry as this does not apply to me.

Consider….

On a recent business trip to Europe, both of the hotels I stayed in offered free WiFi with good coverage and no registration process. My motivation on arrival was to get checked in, get to my room, and contact my family, particularly after 36 hours in transit. I was delighted that the properties supported my requirements and I have recommended both to friends and colleagues. I would definitely consider returning to both on holidays or for a future business trip. With the new Bleisure trend, more of your guests may be combining both business and leisure in the same stay.

Back to our examples.  How well do you engage with your guests between the point of booking and the point of arrival?

The cruise industry focus on effectively engaging with their passengers during the pre-cruise period.  It is during this time that they engage over social media and email, to deliver services and build the relationship even prior to stepping on board.

If you have your guests’ email, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter details in your system and you have connected to the guest prior to their stay, you can identify whether they have promoted you on social media and leverage their advocacy to extend your promotion.  Cruise lines make a point of engaging guests through count downs, social media roll calls, upsell, cross sell, and other special offers that generate excitement and anticipation prior to the cruise

Consider that you could also stimulate this promotion once the guest has arrived, through methods we use every day in other areas of our properties – such as:

1. Post your selfie on arrival and tag us to receive your first free drink in the bar.

2. A welcome email from you to the guest with your promotion and social media details, (They will receive this more efficiently if your WiFi is free and they are logged on.)

3. Include your promotion and social media details on the television on arrival, on your room key card/folder or a tent card in the room.

4. Contact the guest on social media!

You must ensure also that your delivery processes are well thought through.  Given that most of our guest services are delivered by people, such as reception, food and beverage, housekeeping and maintenance, not by systems themselves, simple promotions that are not facilitated through systems are often the most effective. Overly complicated systems tend to thwart efficient promotions rather than support them when it comes to customer service, such as food and beverage promotions.

If you systems are integrated online and contain the guests social details, and you offer as an efficient guest experience online as you do in your property, transforming advocacy into promotion at numerous points in their customer journey becomes a continuation of your customer delight, and a new form of “word of mouth”.

About the author
Matthew Stephens is the Vice President of eHotelier. He has 20 years of experience in both General Management and IT roles in the hospitality industry. Read more about his background in the About Us section of eHotelier.

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