No Overnight Success: Refining Brand Reputation Management for Hotels

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If travel experiences could be condensed into neat little packages and whisked away by suitcase, there would be no need for souvenir shops. Instead, tourist traps the world over bustle with opportunists who deal in kitsch and provide travellers with mementos that speak louder than pictures. Unfortunately for those in the hospitality business, travellers’ experiences, good and bad, can become permanent fixtures online.

Travel review sites have enjoyed a huge spike in popularity in recent years, forcing hotels to roll out a brand reputation management strategy capable of keeping up with the stream of feedback. If that weren’t enough, social media sites have become a must-have member of every business’s entourage. But hotels, and to a lesser extent hostels, have a lot at stake in the reputation game, especially with most consumers travelling less in the weak economy and being more selective when they do venture out.

image of hotel management softwareWhether hotels like it or not, the trend is toward online. That means if social media monitoring and engagement haven’t shown up on your radar by now, no amount of pillow mints and free shampoo bottles in the world can make up for the lost time. While someone looking for a pair of jeans might shirk off a bad review they saw, choosing to take a gamble and investigate firsthand, travellers are more risk averse – and rightfully so considering the larger investment of time and money at play. Until a hotel will let you walk into the lobby and inspect a room before deciding whether to stay, things look destined to stay the same.

No need to make that journey alone

With the high volume of feedback, coming in from sources like a customer experience survey as well as in unsolicited form through social media, hotel staff are understandably feeling overwhelmed. Being able to manage brand reputation and customer satisfaction from a single, centralized system can help ease that burden, and indeed many hospitality-based businesses have gone that route.

The sheer volume of channels makes social media monitoring, not to mention engagement, a hefty task. And customers increasingly demand quick, thorough and satisfying responses to their grievances, holding all companies to the same high standards despite varying resources.

Even a bad review, when handled tactfully, can be an opportunity to make a positive impression online. Consumers today are savvy enough that they don’t expect perfection at every turn, but there’s simply no excuse for a bungled response to a customer complaint, let alone no response at all. If they see that your business is serious about customer service and that a complaint was unjustified or just an aberration, the situation doesn’t have to spell doom for your brand’s reputation. Even if you choose to resolve an issue in private, a personalized apology and invitation for further discussion left on a public forum like Twitter or Facebook will show your interest in customer feedback.

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Even though a single person or team may be responsible for launching ideas and messages into cyberspace, social media engagement should ultimately be a collaborative effort. Effective engagement requires constant updates with fresh, interesting content, something that can be too demanding and draining for one person to handle alone. It’s also a good way to keep in touch with frequent travellers, who can become some of your biggest brand advocates. Fortunately, travel and hospitality are areas rich with potential for compelling content, even on a regular basis.

A message for all seasons

With too many voices it can become difficult to keep brand reputation management on the same page. But by funneling all social media engagement through a designated marketing team or person, one with intimate knowledge of the brand, you can ensure a strong and consistent message.

In many cases, guests of a hotel will have an opinion to share but might just need a little coaxing. A customer experience survey can entice that opinion to the surface and provide valuable feedback, even if it’s for your eyes only. This form of engagement also makes it easier to target certain areas that you might have worries about, whether customer service at the front desk or the level of cleanliness in the rooms.

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And if the tide of negative opinion appears too strong to fight against, you can always just stop swimming. The self-proclaimed worst hotel in the world, Amsterdam’s Hans Brinker Budget Hostel, took its brand reputation management strategy in a fresh direction, choosing to embrace its renown for being substandard at every stage. Then again it’s hard to imagine anyone being interested in the world’s second worst hotel, so you’ve really got your work cut out for you.

With a selection of brand reputation management and customer satisfaction tools available, GoalLine Solutions helps hotels and travel agencies maintain a positive connection with their customers. boostCX, a customizable software program for customer experience management, adds the critical social media monitoring and engagement functionalities to the equation, which makes it easy for you to tune in and add to the conversation about your business.

Jun, 04, 2013

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