If your travel business has been ignoring social media or doing it in a half-hearted way, now is the time to change your approach.
Instagram recently hit one billion monthly users. Arch-rival Snapchat has around 200 million daily active users, while Twitter boasts of having nearly 340 million active monthly users. Social media is a critical element for both promoting your company and creating an easy way for customers to approach you for bookings, to find out more about your organisation or to leave feedback.
While the immediacy of these channels can appear challenging for management, their immediacy also represents an opportunity to respond to customers in real-time.
Travel businesses, in particular, can leverage technology to digitise the conversation between management and customers in a genuine and authentic way—and ultimately establish meaningful connections that drive loyalty.
This could be as simple as identifying guests posting about special occasions and surprising them with a bottle of wine, or recognising loyal customers and giving them a shout out.
Social media is becoming the main way that customers communicate their likes and dislikes with an organisation. Research has shown that one in three customers would rather contact a business through social media, instead of the phone, while 71 per cent of customers who have a positive service experience through social media are likely to recommend that company to their friends and family.
But with those numbers comes great responsibility. The same research points to the fact that only 36 per cent of customers who ask for assistance via social media report getting effective service. Clearly, there’s a long way to go in improving the way organisations use social media for customer retention.
When it comes to social media, staff matter
Hotels and travel agents should be using social media as a tool to map every step of the customer journey, from inspiration to booking, pre-stay, during stay and post-stay. To do this, you need to think beyond the marketing team and instead pull together a cross-functional task force that can leverage the power of social media to better connect you to your guests at every stage of their journey.
One of the most effective strategies you can use is to upskill all your staff on the use of social. Instagram, Facebook and other platforms have become important channels for customer relations teams, loyalty departments, sales teams, IT departments and even security teams.
By giving all your staff the keys to social media, and training them appropriately, you can ensure that you meet the needs of your customers, and meet them where they are.
Respond to your guests in real-time
By upskilling your staff, you can also improve customer satisfaction by responding to their wants, needs and ideas in real time, rather than after the fact. Customers that receive good, responsive customer service via social media are likely to spend 21 per cent more than customers that get poor service. In fact, 73 per cent of top-performing companies have stated that customer service is one of the main reasons to engage in social media.
Customer service used to be based on high touch, highly personalised contact—anticipating your customers’ needs as they are expressed, and over delivering at every touchpoint. It still is. But in the era of online, those needs and expectations have changed—and so have the points of contact.
The window of time to build a connection with customers is a short one. What’s required is a new culture of managing customer communications – one that makes use of real-time technology whether engaging on social media or through other feedback channels.
The impact of real-time service recovery and action cannot be understated. Instant feedback and instant communication leads to service excellence – and this is how brands can build stronger and more meaningful relationships with customers.
Sara Axelrod is Chief Operating Officer of Local Measure, a leading location-based customer experience platform in the tourism and hospitality sectors.