The digital voice of the hotel guest – The success of using Instagram

The social web can be used in a competitive way to create a long-lasting relationship with the customers. To start this relationship or deepen the existing relationship, the company needs to do something that inspires the customer or draws attention to the hotel. They need to inform people with relevant information without pushing. The integration of social media seems to be the perfect way to do so (Peelen and Beltman, 2013).

The web provides access to media that stimulate different senses and creates a desire to engage in different activities. The communicative power and the ability to connect people and devices are making the web the place to show the brand of the hotel. Content is becoming more important. People have a desire for interesting, engaging content and media that people will connect with, engage in and share with others. (Peelen and Beltman, 2013). But why are most hotels only sharing content on social media platforms instead of using it as a place for co-creating with possible guests?

The success of co-creation depends on the DART principle. DART stands for Dialogue, Access, Risk and Transparency. An open dialogue encourages knowledge sharing and mutual understanding. Therefore hotels need to offer access to resources, information, tools and assets. A risk analysis should be made due to the fact that customers demand more information about the potential risks associated with the co-creation. Lastly, transparency builds trust between the hotel and the individuals. Trust is one of the most important things you need to create in order to have a good relationship (Seppä and Tanev, 2011). So how should hotels use the social web in order to co-create?

We have seen that Twitter and hotels can be a good fit in my previous blog about the social listening strategy of the first Twitter hotel in the world: Sol Wave House. However, a recent study found that Instagram and the hotel industry seem to be a perfect match as well (Gaggioli, 2015). Tourism products are experience goods. These are products or services whose value can only be determined by consuming or experiencing them. It is not something people buy regularly and without really thinking. People need to be 100 percent convinced (Collier, 2012). Therefore Instagram is the perfect tool to capture the attention and inspire future guests.

Instagram provides the opportunity to expand a brand’s story in a different way than other social media platforms. Yes, Facebook and Twitter can tell one side of the hotel’s story as well, but Instagram takes it a step further. They tell the story with an image (Gaggioli, 2015). If you had the choice between reading a text about the beautiful white-sandy beaches and incredibly blue ocean or looking at a picture of this stunning destination, which option would you choose? I bet you would choose for the image. Great photos grab attention and convey a sense of desire to travel. They don’t require text because they are worth a thousand words itself (Review Pro, 2015).

Furthermore a study from Forrester Research (2014) found that Instagram conveys 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and even 120 times more engagement than Twitter (Review Pro, 2015).

The Hamilton Hotel in Australia is a good example of a hotel using Instagram to create a long lasting relationship and co-creation. The hotel is known for its tropical scenery and uses Instagram to show this beauty to the world. Normally the hotel would upload photos themselves to show this, but they did it differently. They started the program “InstaMeet”. For this program, 25 individuals were selected to come to the Hamilton Island for a weekend. They received the possibility to see the beauty in real-life and capture these online on Instagram with which they reached over 815.000 followers alone. The pictures were shared on other social media platform as well (Hamilton Island, 2012).

This event increased the resort’s Instagram followers from 269 to 9.028. Their Facebook followers increased as well, from 18.478 to 22.791. Notable is that it didn’t stop after this event. Another similar event was created a year later.

As you can see, they add value by using user generated content. User generated content is seen is important to many people and one way of co-creating with customers. Social media is becoming more important every day. In today’s world, it can make and break your hotel.

 

Bibliography

Collier, N. (2012, April). Experience Goods, Credence Goods, Search Goods | NSCBlog. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from http://www.nscblog.com/miscellaneous/experience-goods-credence-goods-search-goods/

Gaggioli, A. (2015, November). How the Hospitality Industry Wins on Instagram – Cloudbeds. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from https://www.cloudbeds.com/articles/how-the-hospitality-industry-wins-on-instagram/

Hamilton Island. (2012, October). Ultimate Instameet | Stories from Hamilton Island. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from http://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/blog/hamilton-island-s-ultimate-instameet#moXkiJIuYva2AGxY.97

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. United Kingdom: Pearson Education Unlimited.

Review Pro. (2015, August). Instagram for Hotels: Why to Get Active and How to Be Effective. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from https://www.reviewpro.com/blog/instagram-for-hotels/

Seppä, M., & Tanev, S. (2011, March). The Future of Co-Creation | TIM Review. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from http://timreview.ca/article/423

How can hotels transfer customer knowledge to an unforgettable customer experience?

Nowadays “big data” is becoming more important with the increase of the desire for personalized experiences. In order to personalize experiences, hotels should acquire information about the customer. Therefore it might be a good idea to set up a database. Although, it becomes clear that a database costs money and time, because relevant data needs to be gathered and managed continuously (Peelen and Beltman, 2013). Is it worth it?

According to Peelen and Beltman (2013) customer knowledge will help building relationship with the guests, because once you know your customers, you will be able to improve the value of the relationship between you and your customer. So what will it take to use this database and customer knowledge to create an unforgettable customer experience?

In order to create this experience, hotels need to build a relationship with the customer. With regard to this, it is important that hotels look at the customer from different perspectives: as a user, as a buyer and as a person or organization in his or her own context. Only focussing on the customer as buyer will lead to implicitly implementing either product leadership or operational excellence from the value disciplines of Tracy and Wiersema (1998). Customer intimacy is the third value discipline involved in this strategy and needs to be taken into account as well (Peelen and Belt, 2013). To counterbalance this properly, data needs to be collected via third parties, because the transactional activities of your guests only will not lead to that “unforgettable hotel experience”.

Well you might think that using social media to acquire this information is easy, but this is far more difficult than often is assumed. These other types of data have less to do with the behaviour and more to do with the real characteristics of the customer, which makes it less objectively measurable. Besides that, a person’s personality and values are abstract and hard to sense. It is therefore a real challenge to measure and keep track of this specific data. Communication may contribute to the personalization of relationship management (Peelen and Belt, 2013).

Let’s look at the Sol Wave House hotel in Mallorca. This hotel is the world’s first “tweet experience hotel” and they represent holidays which are made for sharing. The Sol Wave House incorporates the social media platform Twitter wherever possible: guests can check in through the hotels designated Twitter app, they can socialize with other guests through this app, and even order room service using a specific hashtag (Newenham, 2015). They are creating this unique and unforgettable experience thanks to their customer database, which is richly filled with important information. So how do they do this?

The Sol Wave House hotel is letting the customers give their information to them instead of trying to figure out their interests, wishes and demands, because Everything is just a tweet away. The staff of the hotel can follow all the chats customers have with each other in the tweet community they created. Furthermore, they organize a competition where they ask for people their favourite holiday memory. Also, guests can order their favourite cocktail by using the hashtag #poolbarorder. The next time they stay in the hotel there might be their favourite cocktail waiting for them at their hotel room. All this information, which is placed by the guests themselves on Twitter, can be used to create an unforgettable experience (Sol Wave House, n.d.).

Next to this, The Sol Wave Hotel is the perfect example of using good social listening strategy by using a twitter community. Social media listening is more than just watching people mentioning your company and replying when you need to. It is a process of tracking conversations and then use them to discover opportunities to create content for those audiences (Beese, 2015). The Sol Wave House can track conversations easily by searching for specific phrases or words that guests can use when they stay in their hotel or have stayed in the hotel.

It is important for every hotel to practise social listening. When hotels only monitor mentions with the “@”, they risk missing out on over 30 per cent of negative and positive feedback (Beese, 2015). This information should not be missed. So to keep this massive amount of data together, it is important to have a database, collect data properly from different sources and analyse it frequently. Take advantage of all the touch points with the customer and it will be possible to create that unforgettable customer experience. It might cost time and money, but it will be all worth it.

 

Bibliography

Beese, J. (2015, November 18). What Is Social Listening & Why Is It Important? | Sprout Social. Retrieved September 29, 2016, from http://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-listening/

Matthews, D. (2016, September). How connected data is targeting consumers – Raconteur. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from http://raconteur.net/business/how-connected-data-is-targeting-consumers

Newenham, J. (2015, April). MeetingsBooker.com | The 7 Most Innovative Hotels On Social Media in 2015. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from https://www.meetingsbooker.com/blog/post/2015/04/01/some-of-the-best-hotels-to-follow-on-social-media-in-2015

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer relationship management (2nd ed.). United Kingdom: Pearson.

Sol Wave House, (n.d.), Sol Hotel Majorca | Wave House Mallorca, Retrieved September 30, 2016, from http://www.wavehousemallorca.com/en/sol-hotel-majorca.html

The future of the hotel industry: personalized hotel rooms

Imagine yourself: You are going on a trip to your favourite destination. You picked out a hotel of which you thought it would suit you best. When you enter your hotel-room, you see pictures of your family and friends on the wall. Your favourite music is playing as background-music, and the pillows on your king-size bed give you a neck massage to trigger a magnificent nap. An unexpected surprise, completely based on you. Personalized hotel rooms: it is the future of the hotel industry.

Ian Pearson showed that the hotel software is going to make it possible to have a personalized hotel experience from the first moment the hotel guest sets foot in the hotel room. All information is based on peoples’ social media profiles. Some hotels are already slightly active with the personalization of the hotel experience. Conrad for example, a part of Hilton, has a special app with which customers can personalize for example bath articles when they are in the park for jogging. Also the Regent Hotel in Hong Kong has a tablet with which guests can arrange their preferences for light, curtains and temperature. But this is all just the start (SkyScanner, 2015).

As you can see, the technology is changing rapidly. However, customers’ needs and demands are changing as well. Customers expect a personalized hotel stay. Everything should be based on them. Hotels can do this by practicing mass customization. Gilmore and Pine stated that mass customization is about customers who are providing unique information which can be used to tailor products to their specific needs and wishes (Peelen and Beltman, 2013). Gilmore and Pine divide this mass customization into four approaches: cosmetic customization, transparent customization, collaborative customization and adaptive customization.

In order to create personalized hotel rooms, different approaches of customization can be used. First of all, transparent customization. This means that only the products are adjusted. The representation stays in tact; It provides individual customers a unique service, without explicitly informing them that these products and services have been customized especially for them (Peelen and Beltman, 2013). Based on the social media profiles of the guest, the room can be designed.

Cosmetic customization can be used as well. With this type of customization, the product is the same but the representation is different. The Regent Hotel in Hong Kong is a good example of using cosmetic customization in their restaurant. They personalize napkins by stitching everyone’s name on it (Regent Hotel, n.d.).

Then adaptive customization offers one standards, but customizable product that is designed so that users can alter it themselves (Peelen and Beltman, 2013). Hotels can use this types of customization by considering the light systems. Each hotel guest is provided with a tablet in their room which can help guest program different effects for, for example romantic moments or quiet evenings of reading.

Lastly, collaborative customization, also considered as co-creation (Peelen and Beltman, 2013). Hotels talk to individual customers to determine the precise product offering that best serves the customer needs. This could for example be an early check in or a preferred type of bed.

All this together will result in a high profit and loyal customers. Hotels are building an emotional bond with their guests and consequently people will become loyal customers (Straker & Wrigly). The technology will surprise and maybe inspire the world. Wherever you travel to, you will feel like your home. But aren’t we going too far to create this personalized experience? We are living in a transparent world where everybody can see what we are doing, what we like and who we are. Is that really what travelling is all about? Traveling for me is to escape from the daily life, be unknown, and be inspired by all the beautiful things in the world. It is about not being placed in comfortable situations, but facing the reality. It helps you realizing and learning who you are. Is this future of the hotel industry not swiping away the real beauty of traveling? Many unanswered questions. A fascinating thought which is scary at the same time.
Bibliography

Peelen, E., Beltman, R., (2013), Customer Engagement Management, second edition

SkyScanner, (2015), “De toekomst van het reizen – 2024”, retrieved at 21 September, 2016, from http://www.skyscanner2024.com/

Straker, K., Wrigley, C., (2016), “Designing an emotional strategy: strengthening digital channel engagements”, Business Horizons, (59) p. 339-346

Regent Hotels & Resorts. (n.d.). About Regent | Regent Hotels & Resorts. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://regenthotels.com/corporate/about-regent

What does the new ‘customer relationship’ mean in the hotel industry?

“Everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it” – David Laniado.

Traecy and Wiersema (1996) introduced the classic three value-disciplines model which explains that companies can choose to excel in either operational excellence, product leadership or customer intimacy (Peelen and Beltman, 2002). It becomes clear that most hotel chains focus on this last value-discipline. But what exactly is it and how can hotels strive to do this? What does ‘the new customer relationship’ mean?

Customer intimacy is about building, as a supplier, a long-term relationship with your customers. Everything is designed around the customer. The individual wishes of the customer count (Peelen and Beltman, 2002). A part of customer intimacy is creating memorable experiences. These experiences need to be unique and personalized. Customers need to know they matter beyond the money they pay for their stay (Ritz-Carlton, 2016).

So how is the hotel performing with this customer intimacy value-discipline? The GI Insight 2013 Customer Intimacy Index gave insight in the performance of the hotel industry in relation to the customer intimacy value discipline. The index approached people from different age-groups in the UK and asked in relation to communication of hotel chains whether they felt “being treated like a total stranger” or “as if they know me like a close friend”. Surprisingly, the outcomes of the research showed that too many people felt being treated like a total stranger.

So how should hotels then build relationships? You don’t want to bother your customers with immense questionnaires which ask too much personal information. At the same time you don’t want to be perceived as creepy when you know too much information they did not give to you personally. In order to create that one specific memorable moment, hotels need to move from thinking of customer service as a transactional activity to a personalized customer service. Without any personal or emotional connection, hotels will never be able to connect with customers (Ritz-Carlton, 2016).

The hotel chain “Ritz-Carlton” and their “Ritz-Carlton Destination Club” is the perfect example of excelling in the customer intimacy value-discipline. This hotel chain really gives customers the feeling that they matter. Ritz-Carlton personalizes services with the help of special employees, which they call Member Experience Concierges (MEC). These concierges design specific member experiences by diving deep into the messages send and received via various channels and seek out the details that will assist them in providing a surprise and “a feeling that I matter” to specific members.

Let’s look at an example of what they are doing so good. Not long ago there was a family that was travelling for the first time to a certain destination. The MEC of Ritz-Carlton hotels exchanged many e-mails with this family by which they learned a lot about them. They found out their son was going to celebrate his birthday at this destination and that his favourite sport was football. Based on this they created a personalized soccer-tournament on this birthday, after which he received the match-ball with many autographs. The smile on his face couldn’t be swept away for the next days. Next to that the MEC found out that his dad made a reservation at a sushi restaurant for that evening. And guess what? The Birthday Boy’s favourite food was sushi. The MEC arranged a special plate for the boy. He was blown away by the surprise, just as the rest of the family (Ritz-Carlton Leadership Centre, 2016).

The MEC of Ritz-Carlton is the example of staff who is responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of guests. It is not enough anymore to only send personalized e-mails or smile to the customer all day. It goes a lot further. We cannot just be interested in the customers anymore. We need to be, so called, “customer obsessed”.


Bibliography

Customerfirst (n.d.), “Van Customer Intimacy naar Customer Obsession in 2016”, Retrieved 13 September, 2016, from http://customerfirst.nl/nieuws/2015/12/van-customer-intimacy-naar-customer-obsessed-in-2016/index.xml

GI Insight, (2013), The 2013 Customer Intimacy Index

Peelen, A., Beltman, R., (2002), Customer Relationship Management

Van Belleghem, S., (2014), “Niet meer kiezen tussen operational excellence en customer intimacy”, Retrieved 13 September, 2016, from http://www.marketingfacts.nl/berichten/niet-meer-kiezen-tussen-operational-excellence-en-customer-intimacy

Wood, A., (2013), “Hoteliers need to do more to develop customer intimacy”, Retrieved 13 September, 2016, from http://www.hotel-industry.co.uk/2013/12/hoteliers-need-to-do-more-to-develop-customer-intimacy/

Ritz-Carlton Leadership Centre (2016), “The value of personalized customer service”, Retrieved 14 September, 2016, from http://ritzcarltonleadershipcenter.com/2016/07/the-value-of-personalized-customer-service/

Ritz-Carlton Leadership Centre (2016), “Creating Magnetic Connections with Customers Without Crossing the Line”, Retrieved 14 September, 2016, from http://ritzcarltonleadershipcenter.com/2016/06/creating-magnetic-connections-with-customers-without-crossing-the-line/