Web care 2.0 for the hotel industry: engage in the online conversation.

The time that an organisation was the main influencer of a conversation and that conversations were mainly between organisation and consumer are over. Now-a-days consumers have easy access to sharing information creating conversations between customers as well. Therefor one of the basic aspects of a conversation has become more important for organisations namely; listening. Why listening is so important and different approaches can be found in the blog ‘Social listening is the first step of digital arena success for the hotel industy’ by Noortje Matos Fernandes.

Fortunately, technique is developing rapidly and several tools have been developed that make listening easier (think of Hootsuite). These tools tell you what is being said and where the conversation is taking place. Leaving more time open for organisations to engage in the conversation.

However, there are some attention point when it comes to engaging in the conversation.

  1. Be transparent: Indicate who you are (use real names, even the name of the web care agent), inform relevantly without pushing, provide clear information or feedback. It is an activity that influences the general reputation and trust, but can also be aimed at helping individual customers (often when they fail to get through by using more traditional channels) (Peelen & Beltman, 2013)
  2. Be authentic and honest: Staying true to the brand values will create a consistency and contributes to the trustworthiness. Being honest is a part of this and also creates more transparency.
  3. React on time: Griffith wrote “A study by Lithium Technologies found that 53 per cent of people expect a brand to respond to tweets within an hour. Unfortunately, recent research by Brand Watch found that only 11.2 per cent of brands respond to questions within 60 minutes, so there is work to be done.”
  4. Contribute with factual information: By doing this you will stay out of the emotional discussions, but influence the opinion, the attitude and the nature of conversations in which people engage. (Peelen & Beltman, 2013)
  5. Adapt tone of voice: when appropriate use humour it shows a different side that only the business approach. However also know when to undertake serious action. Is a conversation going in an unpleased direction do not be afraid to take it private or withdraw instead of engaging in the negativity.

Once these attention point are clear we can look at where you can use social media for your hotel in a very practical approach.

Development phase: During the development phase social media can be used for co-creation. How co-creation works look at this blog: ‘Co-creating in the hotel industry, the principles and a real-life case on how to approach it.’ You can use social media in the process by opening a discussion forum on social media or even more simple by creating a voting system with the ‘like’ button on Facebook.

Orientation and selection phase in the buying process: During this phase it is extremely important that you are at the top of the mind of customers. For example, when your hotel is located in London you want someone to directly think about booking a room with you when needing a room in London. Social media can help you with this. An example is described in the blog of Shira Lazar called ‘Hotels that rock at social media’. Here she explains that when she couldn’t find a reasonably-priced hotel the messaged an hotel that she was already following on Twitter. The right respond let her to booking a room. (Lazar, 2011)

The after sale phase: Customers can also help each other after the transaction of a product or service has been completed. They can share experiences and guide other customers to the best supplier, but they can also provide each other with help and support in the resolution of questions and trouble-shooting (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). For the hotel industry the sharing of the experiences and guiding each other is mainly be done by writing reviews. These reviews can mostly be found on review and booking sites. It is important that these reviews are not forgotten in the conversation as they can directly lead to positive or negative positioning of your organisation.

However again, social listening should always be the first step in engaging in the social arena. Without knowing what is going on it will be impossible to engage in a conversation. To be more successful in engaging in the conversation do not forgot the attention points, these count for every phase.

Sources:

Griffith, G. (2015, September 8). Making social media a friend – not enemy. Retrieved from Raconteur: http://raconteur.net/business/making-social-media-a-friend-not-enemy

Lazar, S. (2011, February). Hotels That Rock At Social Media. Retrieved from Entrepeneur: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220645

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer relationship management. Pearson Education Limited.

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How to get to know your hotel guest?

Having knowledge about you guests has many benefits. One of them is that knowing your guest’s preferences helps you to improve your service: E.g. having the favourite drink or pillow type ready for your guest upon arrival. Another benefit is that it helps the marketing department with creating suited offers and promotions. Peelen and Beltman (2013) state that to develop intensive relationships with customers, companies will not only have to form an image of the customer as a buyer, but also as a user and a person or an organisation in their own context. So the question is which data do you need to get to know your guest?

First you start with the identification of the guest. Here you collect the most basic data such as the name, address, city, telephone number and e-mail address. When you have this data you will be able to start segmentation. Segmentation helps you categorise guests in sub-groups and can for example be done on the base of age, origin or sex. “Sub-groups are crucial in order to be able to provide them with a differentiated offering.” (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).

After the identification and segmentation, it is also important to determine in an early stage what the guests’ communication channel preferences are. Knowing what their opinion on different channels is and when they are active on which channel helps you to reach the guest more easily and decreases the chance that your messages are seen as disruptive.

The above mentioned information will help you to create a first insight on who your guest is and how to reach them but it is also important to know what their connection is with your company. First you can look at the transaction history and customer value. Information such as: which services are previously used? How much have they spend in the past? How recently do they purchase? Etc.. help you to gain a deeper understanding of your guest. According to Peelen and Beltman (2013) “direct marketing practice has taught us that historical buying behaviour is one of the best predictors of future purchase behaviour.”

Communication history is important to be able to conduct an on-going dialogue in which repetition can be avoided. A communication summary can offer points of reference in determining the method which might be used to achieve increased depth in the conversation so that more personal data can be exchanged (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Also, the communication history should make it possible to see the complaint history. Analysing what complaints there have been in the past, how the company dealt with them and how the customer responded helps you to prevent making mistakes again and in case a mistake is made again you will know how to react.

Furthermore having an insight on events in a guests life will give you the opportunity to make offers to the guest at exactly the right time. E.g. when you know a guest’s wedding date you can make an offer on the bridal suite for their wedding night, or you can make an offer the years after to celebrate their anniversary. Gathering data on events is difficult but some of this type of data can be procured from third-party organisations.

Last but certainly not least important in getting to know your customer is knowing how satisfied they are. Satisfaction can be measured overall but it is also very useful to know how satisfied they are with certain elements of your service. This knowledge will help you to improve the service according to the guests wishes.

Collecting all this information will help you to get to know the buyer, the user and the person within your hotel guest and enables you to improve your service and helps your marketing. Which will eventually lead to happier guests that are more likely to return or to spread positive word of mouth advertisement about your hotel.

Sources:

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer relationship management. Pearson Education Limited.

Co-creating in the hotel industry, the principles and a real-life case on how to approach it.

Engage the customer in the development process through co-creation has many benefits. Co-creating saves costs and will reduces the time to market. Furthermore, it will reduce risks of failure due to low market acceptance and the need for expensive last-minute adaptations to customer needs is also reduced, since the potential users have already been brought on board in the early stages. Research has proven that organisations who involve users in an active role during the innovation process are more successful than organisations that do not. Many reasons to start co-creating! (Peelen & Beltman, 2013)

Hospitality is all about interaction with customers it makes an ideal environment for co-creation. – Pieters, 2015

The DART principles of Co-Creation

An explanation by Peelen and Beltman (2013)

D – Dialogue: Really engaging in dialogue goes well beyond speaking and listening. It involves interactiv- ity; commitment; dedication of attention and resources; caring for each other’s interests; and having a genuine intention to act.

A – Acces: Opening up each other’s world permits faster, more efficient and better solutions to problems, as well as more engaging and meaningful experiences.

R – Risk: We are used to stressing only the positive aspects of marketing propositions and communications, but in this situation, it is essential that all risk is honestly and freely addressed. It is one of the core principles of the co-creative process.

T – Transparency: Transparency is another precondition for co-creation success. While consumers are generally well motivated to participate if they see the co-creation process as being mutually beneficial, they lose that motivation if they feel that the process will only benefit the company.

Steps to guide the co-creation process

Weber (2011) has used the DART principle among others to construct a series of rules and a sequencing of steps to guide the co-creation process. We will take a look at these steps with the example of Marriotts platform Travel Brilliantly.

A precise question (Dialogue, Access)

Although Weber (2011) states that “successful co-creation starts with formulating one central question because an overload of ideas and suggestions made timely processing hard. The vague outline produced vague responses, making it hard to distinguish between good and bad ideas.” Marriott has chosen another approach; with their online platform they allow co-creators to submit ideas in a wide range of categories. To make the distinguish between good and bad ideas easier, Marriot created a voting system where other participant can vote for the ideas they like best.

Proper phasing (Dialogue)

Marriott allows their participant to vote on each other ideas by one simple click. Ideas are online for voting one year and by the end of every year a team of specialists reviews the ideas with the most votes. After each year, one or multiple ideas are assessed and used within one of multiple Marriott hotels.

Involving the right people (Dialogue, Risk)

“During the idea generation phase, it can be interesting to include a number of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. However, as soon as it comes to prototyping and testing, the number of people involved will need to be more limited and their background more classically oriented towards the requisite expert knowledge.” (Peelen & Beltman, 2013) Marriott is following this example by allowing everyone to submit and vote for ideas during the first phase but when an idea is being executed they test it only on selected customers and hotels.

Choosing the right format (Dialogue, Access)

By organizing their co-creation process online, it allows guest from all over the world to feel involved and to interact with each other. Making it more likely from them that ideas generated through this process are going to be accepted in different markets.

Motivating properly (Dialogue, Access, Transparency)

Motivating your participant is key to the success of your co-creating process. In Marriott’s case their competition model is motivating participant to come up with their best idea in order to win. As a general rule, quantity should not be rewarded when the goal is quality.

Deploying appropriate techniques (Dialogue, Access)

The modern technique used by Marriott is the first step in their process to innovation. With this website with voting system, in combination with all the promotion made, they have showed that they right choice in technique makes all the difference.

Providing feedback (Dialogue, Access, Risk, Transparency)

In Marriott’s case feedback is mainly given by other people involved in the co-creating. Hereby people motivate each other to rethink their given input or even motivate them to also submit their own ideas. Final feedback is given by Marriott expert while they select a yearly winner.

 

Marriott’s Travel Brilliancy has brought Marriott more than just the ideas they have been provided with. It was used as a marketing tool to re-establish them as an innovative and modern company. Which is just one of the many benefits a hotel can have from co-creation. So why wait, when you can co-create?

Sources:

Marriott International. (2016). Mariott Travel Brilliantly. Retrieved from Mariott Travel Brilliantly: http://travel-brilliantly.marriott.com

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer relationship management. Pearson Education Limited.

Pieters, M. (2015, January 8). Co-creating the Hospitality Experience. Retrieved from LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/co-creating-hospitality-experience-maarten-pieters

Vivion, N. (2013, June 17). Marriott steps (un)squarely into Starwood territory with rebrand and co-creation platform. Retrieved from Tnooz: https://www.tnooz.com/article/marriott-steps-unsquarely-into-starwood-territory-with-rebrand-and-co-creation-platform/

 

A defensive CRM strategy, what is it and what is needed for a defensive strategy?

An important first step is understanding what a defensive strategy is and knowing the alternative, an offensive strategy. You might know the terms defensive and offensive strategy from the sport field and no different than in sports, in marketing, these terms somehow represent each other’s opposites. An offensive strategy focuses on the conquest of market share, the acquisition of new customers and ridding oneself quickly of any competition. The defensive strategy, on the other hand, focuses on maintaining and defending one’s position. Barriers are thrown up to keep the competition at bay. (Peelen & Beltman, 2013)

Overall the defensive strategy is more focussed on the customer which makes it more suitable for the hotel industry. The strategy aims for an increasing customer commitment by increasing the customer satisfaction and focusses on customer retention. Goals that are very much related to the service industry and the hotel business.

However, as a hotel you will only able to implement a defensive strategy when the stage of customer intimacy as researched and explained by Treacy and Wiersema (1996) is reached. “The customer intimacy strategy is characterised by the fact that companies build up a relationship with customer. It is not so much the market that becomes the centre of attention, but the individual wishes of customers that count.” (Peelen & Beltman, 2013)

Unfortunately reaching this stage is not as obvious as one would like. According to Peelen and Beltman choosing one discipline never allows a company to totally disregard the other two. A basic level on other stages has still to be reached. “A product leader has to be at least operationally excellent to the level of most competitors for it to be seen as a reliable organisation, offering state of the art products and services at a realistic price.” (Peelen & Beltman, 2013) However, in their studies Treacy and Wiersema do recommend that the three value disciples described above should not be combined. Since it is difficult to excel in every area and moreover because excellence in all three of the dimensions would create conflicts between them.

In conclusion; However a defensive strategy is highly recommended for hotels due to the focus on customers rather that competition and marketshare, it is important to realise that aiming for a defensive strategy is only realistic once state of operational excellence and customer intimacy are achieved. The infrastructure created by this will give the opportunity, once further developed, to expand knowledge of the individual customer and using it in contact with this individual. “By keeping track of communication and transactions, the supplier increases its insight into the customer. They supplier can truly benefit from customer knowledge it acquires during its interactions with the customer, and in a relatively inexpenciseve way; it can supply more customisation, bid farewell to the transaction orientation, and focus on increasing the value of individual customers.“ (Peelen & Beltman, 2013)

 

Sources:

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. Pearson.

Treacy, M., & Wiersema, M. (1996). The Discipline of Market Leaders. HarperCollins.