Engaging with customers through social media presents a wealth of opportunities to grow your hospitality business, create opportunities and enhance reputation. It can, however, also be a minefield for reputational mishaps and poor outcomes. The key is to put in place procedures and strategies to minimize risks while capitalizing on the many advantages that social networking brings.
Hospitality and Social Media No Nos
When your business is online in the social media space, like it or not, you are engaged in a two-way conversation with customers, potential customers and whoever chooses to be in that space with you. Inevitably, this creates an invitation for criticism and negative feedback. Some of the more common ways of handling this type of feedback actually do more harm than good and should be avoided. These are:
- Ignoring or failing to respond to negative feedback or complaints.
- Deleting comments by users containing negative feedback or complaints.
- Responding to the negative comments by issuing a denial that the alleged incident or circumstances ever took place.
- Blocking people who have left negative feedback or criticisms on the social networking site.
- Falling into the trap of posting standard responses.
As a general rule, these responses by a hotel owner or hospitality service provider are inflammatory and open the way for even more negative feedback. If the comments are handled poorly, the issue can even escalate into open hostility. So what should be done instead to handle these situations effectively?
What you Should be Doing Instead:
- Respond to feedback in a timely manner.
It is important to prioritize time throughout the day to review social media for new comments and to respond as early as possible. The larger and more visible your business is, the sooner your response time must be.
- Offer to make contact by telephone sort out their issues in person.
Leave a comment acknowledging their concerns and inviting them to privately message their phone number so a member of staff can contact them directly if they would like to discuss the matter. Even if they have no intention of following you up, you have demonstrated to the customer, and to every other customer or potential customer watching online, that you are listening, responsive and that you care.
- Respond and use the situation to show other potential customers that you will do whatever it takes to rectify the situation.
This is an extension of the previous point. If you have taken any remedial action following a complaint, tell people by posting about it online so others can see that you are committed to great service.
- Block users if they are trolling, abusive or being continuously disrespectful.
There is a line that can be crossed and you do not have to allow users who comment on your social media pages in an abusive manner, either toward your business, your staff or other online users. It pays to have a clear social media policy about blocking and make this visible somewhere on your page.
- Never block anyone for their opinion if it’s been given tactfully and respectfully.
Even if the opinion is given forcefully, you need to be judicious in the use of any blocking capabilities. Blocking people just for expressing a contrary opinion sends a signal that you are not open or responsive to customers’ needs.
- Erik Stuebe of the Ballarat Hotel & Convention Centre says “never posting a standard reply. It looks old fashioned. This is a hangover from the standard welcome card, the standard letter replying to a comment card, and the standard guest room amenity (or, as some call it, “expression”). It’s not hard to find one personalizing remark about each comment – and a short but enthusiastic and personal reply, even just one sentence, is preferable to a standard reply.”
Maintaining a professional and well-monitored social media presence is a key strategy in increasing web traffic and conversion. Hotels who seize the opportunity to communicate with their customer base and regularly engage them – in a meaningful and authentic way – are reaping the benefits in terms of enhanced reputation and bookings. Keep the conversation fun and interactive by using tools such as polls, run alongside competitions, in order to ensure you are staying in touch with your customer’s needs, gaining market insights and then using these to maximize your business’ opportunities for growth.
Remember how your hotel used to have brochures and post them out to people? Well, social media is your new brochure. It is constantly changing and like herding cats to keep a grip on, but it’s so much more informative and realistic. Spending some regular time on it is a good investment.
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Over 30 years, Erik has worked throughout every segment of the industry, from motels to 5-star luxury, with experience in design, new build, renovation, rebrand, spa, multi-property management, rebranding, CBD and country properties.
A passionate believer in the power of service to transcend the ordinary and create life’s most memorable experiences, Erik obtained his qualifications in Europe, and has since spent 12 years with Sheraton Hotels, 14 years with Accor Hotels, and most recently created Chateau Élan at the Vintage in the Hunter Valley, whilst also being responsible for overseeing the rebranding of the hotels now known as Ballarat Lodge & Convention Centre and Yarra Valley Lodge.
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