Social media in the hotel industry; what W hotels can learn from airlines like KLM.

With the evolvement of internet, the web changed from a ‘read-only’ medium to web 4.0, also called the emotional web. Internet as we know it now is not just seeing and hearing through images and videos, but also smelling and sensing through, for example, virtual reality. Nowadays the web is more social than ever, and this has some advantages and some disadvantages for companies. The social web related to customer engagement management contributes in areas as: conversations, the development phase, the orientation and selection phase, the transaction itself, and lastly, the after sales phase (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

Social media are one of, if not the most important part of the new web. Already in 2014, 92% of marketers agreed that social media was vital for their business, and also 92% stated that their social media effort generated more exposure to their business (Hubspot, 2014). Social media for companies has proven to: increase brand recognition, improve brand loyalty, provide more options to convert, result in higher conversion rates, decrease marketing costs, better Search Engine Rankings, enrich customer experiences, and improve customer insight (Forbes, 2014). Yet, when looking at the tourism industry we could give multiple great examples of airlines that are doing it right, but not many hotels. Why is it that hotels clearly find it more difficult to implement social media than airlines?

Ilya Pozin wrote an article for Forbes in 2014 called 20 companies you should be following on social media. Within different categories he names companies that he thinks are worth mentioning. In this list he states Jetblue in the category customer service. However, nowhere in his list are any hotels stated. In the Netherlands, airline company KLM went viral with their social media campaigns many times. No hotel has ever gone viral with a campaign.

Talkwalker (2015) analysed the 40 best airlines regarding their social media. An example of KLM’s great social media skills is that they respond to almost 90% of the tweets they are mentioned in. KLM quickly responds to trends, they interact with their customers, they create amazing and relatable visuals, they use a lot of humour in their posts, they not only respond to their customers, but they also respond to other companies, and they use the newest technology to show their customers a look behind the scenes (De Beste Social Media, n.d.).

Even though W hotel New York – Times Square was home to one of the first ever Instagram photography exhibitions, and is known for connecting with travellers through social media (Trust You, 2014), compared to some airline companies they are nothing. Yuyu Chen (Clickz, 2016) analysed W hotels’ social media use and noticed some points that should, and can easily be improved. Some of W hotels’ posts were difficult to read due to random and irrelevant hashtags, they are not very responsive and don’t keep conversations going, are not inviting their customers to engage in their social media posts, they post the same thing on all their social media channels, and post irrelevant content.

My advice to W hotels would be to take a very good look at what KLM is doing. I think that KLM is thé frontrunner when it comes to using social media. I don’t know many companies that make their customers engage in the way that KLM does it, and I think that hotels like W hotels could learn tons by simply using them as an example, as long as they give their personal touch to it.

 

References

10 redenen waarom KLM een van de beste merken op social media is. (May 20). Retrieved October 8, 2016, from http://debestesocialmedia.nl/10-redenen-waarom-klm-beste-merken-op-social-media-is/

16 Stats That Prove Social Media Isn’t Just a Fad [New Data]. (2014, June 6). Retrieved October 8, 2016, from http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/social-media-roi-stats#sm.001a4sycd1636d21vt514d37dnkl1

20 Companies You Should Be Following On Social Media. (2014, March 6). Retrieved October 8, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ilyapozin/2014/03/06/20-companies-you-should-be-following-on-social-media/#713e891751b3

Peelen, E. (2013). The online environment. In Customer Relationship Management (R. Beltman, Trans.) (2nd ed., pp. 296 – 321). United Kingdom: Pearson Education.

The Top 10 Benefits Of Social Media Marketing. (2014, August 11). Retrieved October 8, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/08/11/the-top-10-benefits-of-social-media-marketing/2/#4fd423fa5232

The Top 40 Airlines: Who is the Star on Social Media? – Talkwalker. (2015, July 21). Retrieved October 8, 2016, from https://www.talkwalker.com/blog/top-40-airlines-social-media

Top Hotels for Social Media Lovers. (2014, March 13). Retrieved October 8, 2016, from http://www.trustyou.com/miscellaneous-it/top-hotels-social-media-lovers?lang=it

Why W Hotels is dying a social death on Facebook and Twitter | ClickZ. (2016, January 7). Retrieved October 8, 2016, from https://www.clickz.com/why-w-hotels-is-dying-a-social-death-on-facebook-and-twitter/90936/

 

Engaging your customer by using the perfect persona – a hand guide for hotels. 

 

The ultimate goal of customer engagement management is building a relationship with your custome. This has proven to engage them with your company. In order to build a relationship with your customer, you need to know them. Therefore, why companies should track their customer’s data, and why they should keep records of conversations for example. (Peelen and Beltman, 2013)  Since no customer is the same, companies usually put their different customers in different segments. This process is called market segmentation. In an ideal world, market segmentation would put each and every customer in his or her own segment. Realistically this is unfortunately not yet possible, since it would simply be very unprofitable to start with.

Within market segmentation there are usually four strategies that companies can decide to focus on. These four different strategies are based on: behavioural factors, demographic factors, psychographic factors, and geographical factors (Business Dictionary, n.d.). This means that companies could choose to put customers with, for example, the same age in the same segment so that they can target them better.

Hotels tend to segment their customers in four different groups. These groups are: backpackers and solo travellers, couples, families, and business travellers (Capozzi, n.d.). Of course there are almost to no hotels that decide to focus on all four segments, and just use different marketing approaches, since the segments are so different that they would never be interested in the same products. No matter how good the marketing is, someone who travels for business would never be interested in the same ‘holiday’ as parents traveling with their kids. Once a hotel has decided which segment or segments to focus on, the next step is for them to create a persona. But what is a persona, and how can hotels create the perfect persona?

Ardath Albee (2012) described a persona in the following way: ‘’A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.’’ (Content Marketing Institute, 2012). Companies are advised to make 3 to 5 personas in order to cover all customers (Lee, 2015).

Kevan Lee (2015) came up with a guide to create personas, which he wrote a blog about for Buffer. HubSpot (2015) even has templates available for which companies would only have to fill in some data. Hotels should go through their customer data, for example through google analytics (Buffer, 2015), in order to come up with demographical factors. These demographics should include: Age, Gender, Salary / household income, Location: urban / suburban / rural, Education, and Family.

The next step for hotels is to interview their different customers. In this interview they should get to know them better. The different categories questions should be based on are: role of the customer (job), company the customer works for (industry, size), goals of the customer (responsibilities, what does it mean to be successful regarding these responsibilities), challenges, water holes (social networks, what blogs do they read), personal background (education, career background), and shopping preferences. Don’t forget to also ask why they give this answer to a question (HubSpot, 2015).

Next up is using your data to create a persona. You start off by filling in your customer’s basic demographic information. After this you share what you’ve learned about the customer’s motivation. You obtain this information by asking why with every answer they give. Make sure to include some real quotes from the interview in the persona. This makes it easier for the sales team to reach your customer. Also tell people how to communicate with your persona about your product. This is necessary in order to let everyone within your company talk in the same way. Lastly, don’t forget to give your persona a name, and include an image.

personaSource: Kevan Lee, Buffer (2015)

References

Capozzi, C. (n.d.). Consumer Segments in the Hotel Industry | Chron.com. Retrieved October 2, 2016, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/consumer-segments-hotel-industry-13764.html

Lee, K. (2015, February 27). The Beginner’s Guide to Creating Marketing Personas | Buffer. Retrieved October 2, 2016, from https://blog.bufferapp.com/marketing-personas-beginners-guide

Peelen, E. (2013). segmentation and selection. In Customer Relationship Mangement (R. Beltman, Trans.) (2nd ed., pp. 147 – 159). United Kingdom: Pearson Education.

Peelen, E. (2013). customer data management. In Customer Relationship Management (R. Beltman, Trans.) (2nd ed., pp. 117 – 134). United Kingdom: Pearson Education.

Vaughan, P. (2015, May 28). How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business Retrieved October 2, 2016, from http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33491/Everything-Marketers-Need-to-Research-Create-Detailed-Buyer-Personas-Template.aspx#sm.001a4sycd1636d21vt514d37dnkl1

What is market segmentation? Definition and meaning – BusinessDictionary.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2016, from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/market-segmentation.html

Co-creation in the hotel industry – how the Marriott hotel chain is doing it wrong.

 

According to Peelen and Beltman (2013) the definition of co-creation can be read within the word itself, namely: ‘’the creative contribution of more than one person or entity’’. It has many social advantages because people from all different kinds of backgrounds are brought together and it makes people engage to the thing they are co-creating, or the company they are co-creating with. This last reason is why many businesses nowadays find it useful to use co-creation. It can save costs, reduce risks of failure due to low market acceptance, and reduce the high last minute costs that come with the final adaptions to customer needs. But how are hotels using this tool in order to engage their customers?

An example of co-creation is the Starwood’s Marriott Travel Brilliantly initiative. This platform invites guests to submit their ideas and vote on other people’s ideas (Travel Brilliantly, n.d.). However, according to TheCoCreators (2015) the Marriott concept is nothing more than an online suggestion box. While the hospitality industry is the perfect industry for co-creation, since it is focused on interacting with the customer, most of the hotels are not doing a very good job. Hotels are focussing on ad hoc co-creation instead of making it a continuous process within the organization, making it nothing more than a marketing tool.

Based on the DART principles by Prahalad and Ramaswany, Weber (2011) came up with a series of rules and steps to guide the co-creation process. The first step in this process is formulating a precise question. In the case of Marriott hotels they don’t have a clear question. They simply invite their guests to come up with any ideas they might have based on their personal preferences. These ideas could be literally in regards to anything. A good example of co-creation based on a question is the Klaus K design hotel in Helsinki, Finland. This hotel wanted to redecorate, so they asked their customers what they wanted to see (Klaus K Hotel, n.d.).

The next step is proper phasing. The Travel Brilliantly platform clearly shows how customers are involved in the idea generation and selection phase, but after this the company is not so transparent anymore and doesn’t show their customers anything about the following phases. Of course they cannot let everybody test the prototype, but surely they could show their customers how the prototype is being tested via, for example, something simple like YouTube.

The next steps that Weber came up with are rather irrelevant for the customers, or the people helping in the co-creation process. However, the last step, providing feedback, is an important one again. Marriott hotels doesn’t give any feedback to their customers. They let other customers do that for them.

For the Marriott hotels the co-creation stops after customers come up with ideas and vote for the best idea. But don’t the customers deserve to see what happens after? Does the company even use these ideas? Marriot hotels has something in hand that could potentially be turned into something great. They just need to use it more effectively.

References

Co-creating the Hospitality Experience – TheCoCreatorsTheCoCreators | Creating Value with Customers. (2015). Retrieved September 25, 2016, from http://www.thecocreators.com/co-creating-the-hospitality-experience/

Design Hotel in Helsinki | Klaus K Hotel. (n.d.). Retrieved September 26, 2016, from http://www.klauskhotel.com/en/

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). The customer proposition. In Customer relationship management (2nd ed., pp. 208 – 213). Edinburgh Gate, United Kingdom: Pearson Education.

Reinvent Marriott Travel | Marriott Travel Brilliantly. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2016, from https://travel-brilliantly.marriott.com/

 

Are robots taking over the hotel industry?

Within the marketing industry you should, according to Treacy and Wiersema (1996), try to excel in one of three value strategies, namely: product leadership, customer intimacy, or operational excellence. While some hotels focus on creating an intimate bond with their customers, others try to innovate and come up with concepts that might or might not be accepted by their customers. One of the most recent innovations within the hotel industry is the use of robots.

According to the British Automation and Robot Association (n.d.), there are four reasons for using robots instead of humans. These reasons are: quality improvement, improvement of working environment, better cost effectiveness, and the flexibility to change. With the hotel industry, robots could possibly be used in order to improve the working environment by taking over some of the heavier tasks like cleaning or carrying heavy bags. Furthermore, robots could save a hotel a huge amount of money.

The first hotel that started working with a robot was the Aloft Cupertino Hotel, in the heart of Silicon Valley. His name is Botlr, and he can, without any help from humans, come to your floor to assist you with items you forgot (Forbes, 2016). Hilton quickly followed by developing robot Connie, who can help you with visitor requests and give travellers more information to help them with their trip (The Street, 2016).

The Henn Na hotel in Japan even took it one step further by employing ten realistic robots to replace their staff. The robots set the lights, change room temperatures, set alarms and inform you about tomorrows’ weather. From the check-in staff to the concierges and porters, at the Henn Na hotel all these human jobs have been usurped by the newest technology trend. The robots come in different forms, from normal humans to a dinosaur (Telegraph, 2015).

However, even in the Henn Na hotel humans are not completely irrelevant. Behind the scenes there are ten humans working to quickly fix technical problems that may arise. Robot expert Chris Warmenhoven (2015) explains that robots are superior at fixing problems within their own area of expertise.  However, even though robots are so called ‘self-learners’ it will never understand a problem outside of its area, simply because it doesn’t even understand that there are other concepts or areas (Hospitality Management, 2015).

For the hotel industry another major problem arises. Personal contact is extremely important for the experience a hotel customer has. It can literally make or break a customer’s trip. Related to the service-profit model, Grønholdt and Martensen (n.d.) state that: ‘’companies that achieve higher employee attitudes also achieve higher customer loyalty and are rewarded by higher profitability.’’ With this information, the question might shift from: are robots taking over the hotel industry? To: do customers wish for robots to take over the hotel industry?

So are robots really taking over the hotel industry? Chris Warmenhoven states that he thinks it might take another 200 years before robots can completely operate without the intervention of humans. Next to this, when we look at the importance of human interaction in the hotel industry, the question arises whether robots could ever fully replace humans. I personally doubt hotel customers in the future would rather talk to a robot than to a real life human. From my personal experience I know that it have always been the people who made my holidays incredible.

Whether or not robots are going to be used in hotels, they are and will always be a fascinating part of technology, and are definitely worth researching further.

References

Gaan robots de hotellerie veroveren? (2015, September 30). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.hospitality-management.nl/gaan-robots-de-hotellerie-veroveren-11997

Grønholdt, L., & Martensen, A. (n.d.). The service-profit chain: An empirical analysis in the hotel industry. Marketing Trends congress1, 1 – 10. Retrieved from http://www.marketing-trends-congress.com/archives/2016/pages/PDF/GRONHOLDT_MARTENSEN.pdf

Meet Connie, the Robot That Could Make Your Next Vacation Easier – TheStreet. (2016, March 9). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from https://www.thestreet.com/story/13488387/1/meet-connie-the-robot-that-can-help-travelers-on-their-next-trip.html

Robots could take over hotel industry by 2020 as travellers welcome assistance from automatons. (2016, March 10). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/robots-could-take-over-hotel-7529303

Technology Invades Hospitality Industry: Hilton Robot, Domino Delivery Droid, Ritz-Carlton Mystique. (2016, March 18). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2016/03/18/high-tech-hospitality-hilton-robot-concierge-dominos-delivery-droid-ritz-carlton-mystique/#7225e1d27c72

Treacy en Wiersema; Product leadership; Customer intimacy; Operational. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from https://www.strategischmarketingplan.com/marketingmodellen/waardestrategieen-treacy-en-wiersema/

Video: Robot hotel: inside Japan’s Henn na Hotel – Telegraph. (2015, July 16). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/hotels/11743467/Robot-hotel-inside-Japans-Henn-na-Hotel.html

Why use Robots? | BARA. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.bara.org.uk/robots/why-use-robots.html