Social Customer Service can help hospitality businesses exceed customer expectations, resulting in both sales, repeat visits and referrals. Customers now expect to be able to interact with your business online and customer service teams must be trained to provide this online presence.
Traditionally, marketing departments have held the reins for their organisations’ social media presence. However, increasingly, other business functions are required to unite with marketing to ensure an integrated and consistent online brand presence. This is particularly true for the hospitality industry, where excellent customer service is one of the most important ingredients for success.
As a consumer yourself, you know how irritating is it when you want to reach out to a business by phone, only to be kept on hold listening to panpipes. Now consumers can choose whether to contact a business via telephone, in person or publicly online, changing the way customer service functions need to resource and train their staff. Social media is about 2 way dialogue, so in many ways customer service personnel are naturally better at communicating on social media than their marketing counterparts who may fall more easily into the trap of just promoting their own campaign messages with little thought to the conversation.
Robert Raunch, President of RAR Hospitality has written extensively on the subject of WOW customer service for the hospitality industry, “Service today consists of four levels: basic, expected, desired and WOW. Basic service can be found at the post office whereas expected service can be found at most fast food restaurants and many businesses. Desired service is often found at good hotels and restaurants but WOW Service is the only way to ensure repeat business. By creating an impressive, unique guest experience that exceeds all expectations, you are able to capture the customer.”
To truly create WOW customer service for the modern consumer, you need to incorporate online social customer service. Your customer service team need to have an online voice, answering queries to guide your customers through the cycle of purchase and repeat purchase.
When I completed my Hospitality Business Management BSc, all students needed to study Hilton as an example of best practice for customer service, we even completed Hiltons own Customer Service award as part of the degree. 15 years on, communication channels have changed, but Hilton are still a company to look at for inspiration.
In the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, Hilton won top honours in the hotel-industry sector and were described as “significantly ahead of the industry” (David Van Amburg, managing director of ACSI). Hilton spends millions of dollars each year training and rewarding employees in customer service and then surveying customers to measure how well it all works. The company is convinced that the investment pays off and in their words believe people are the key to providing an outstanding hospitality experience. This is also core to any social media strategy: in order to be truly social, it has to be about the people behind the brand. Have a look at some of Hilton’s Twitter accounts to get some ideas on how to improve your own customer service function online.
Whether a small or large hospitality business, good customer service is the key to your success. So make sure you are optimising the opportunities that social media gives you.
This Christmas time, when you are extra busy, remember to keep your customer service function exceeding expectations, to help with repeat business throughout the year and have a very Merry Christmas!