How to Manage Customer Satisfaction and Engagement Through the Social Media Channels of a Hotel Chain with a Look Into the Future to Web 4.0

Social media plays an increasing important role nowadays especially within the hotel industry. Many hospitality related businesses are using social media to upgrade and personalize their customer service. Social media has changed how potential customers do online research, make decisions and eventually share their experiences. Also the growing importance of customer reviews nowadays during each phase of an individual customer journey makes social media a valuable channel.

This blog is especially focused on the function of social media as a kind of helpdesk for questions and any occurred problems. Especially social media serves this function due to the possibility to response in real-time and relatively quick. However, social media is transparent so it is a challenge to remain finding unique ways to answer possible questions and solve possible problems. How can hotel chains keep surprising their customers and keep acting original in the future?

The influence of social media grew fast in the previous few years and became very important for the hotel industry. But current travellers are getting used to this type of communication via social media channels so a hotel chain has to continually find new ways to keep attracting new and loyal customers. First of all, it is important to post creative and original content; in this way customers will keep remembering you and you will be top-of-mind. Examples of this type of content can be storytelling, original and user-generated pictures and videos. (Mangan, 2015)

Above mentioned user-generated-content and co-creation are forms of interactivity which describe the current phase of the web in a perfect way. We now live in the so called ‘’web 2.0’’. Hotel chains are working closely together with their customers and they try to find out as much customer knowledge as possible to improve their services with the final goal to increase the customer satisfaction.

In the future it will be more easy to keep surprising your customers due to the evolution of the web to ‘’web 4.0’’ or otherwise called the emotional web. This phase of the web should be able to stimulate more human senses and provoke more emotions than the currently phase of the web does. It is not only about audio and video (hearing and seeing) but in the future the customer might also smell and sense things through social media and who knows even taste!

This web will create a more complete customer experience. In this way customers can get engaged even through an almost real feeling about a hotel. Up until now it’s hard to imagine this but we suspect this will be the reality in the near future. Imagine yourself travelling with the bus and to kill the time you are scrolling through your social media timelines looking for a getaway by searching for hotels. Your search will have a direct effect on the background music on the bus and even a smell will be spread via the air-conditioning system to increase the overall experience with the company and eventually the engagement with the total brand. How more the web develops, how more possibilities arise to engage your customers. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013)

Resources:
Beltman, R., & Peelen, E. (2013). Customer Relationship Management (2nd ed.). Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Mangan, M. (2015). The Impact of Social Media on the Tourism Industry. Retrieved from http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4071855.html

Deciding on the Right Channel Combination for Cruise Organisations to Increase the Positive Effect of Multi Channelling on Customer Engagement

Nowadays cruise organisations deal with a multitude of different channels via they can reach their potential customers and engage their loyal customers to their brand. Not only the number of channels but also the increasing effect of the digital- and social media arenas making managing multichannel management harder. New challenges arise 24/7 due to innovations within the channel environment.

Multichannel management is attracting a lot of attention nowadays and is rapidly developing. Each different channel used by the customer can be experienced in very different ways and the way they support the customer’s buying process is also dependent of the channel being used. However there should be a seamless customer experience throughout each channel within the total multichannel environment.

To guarantee this seamless experience it is important to decide on the optimal channel combination by deciding on the range of channels and on which channels to use during which touch points, on the degree of differentiation and on the controllability. By deciding on the range of channels and on which channels to use in which phase of the customer journey it is important to always keep the customer in mind. Factors which influence the preferences of these customers are: personality characteristics, situational factors, risk perceptions, intrinsic interest, trust, et cetera.

These preferences or needs and wants are different for each individual customer, so the question is to what degree is a cruise organisation willing to facilitate different service concepts and different channel combinations for different customers? Of course not every individual customer can be served in their preferences so the cruise company’s task is to seduce customers by making the channels they use more attractive so the customers are willing to make the shift.

Besides that, the cruise organisation has to handle the controllability to the extent that it is still reinforcing the customer experience, manageable in terms of costs and accessible in terms of performance. If accessibility or the quality of the customer experience is soaring, it may be best to limit the range of channels and the degree of differentiation. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013)

A cruise organization that is actively and continually working on their multichannel strategy is CruiseCo. To achieve profitability on every trip, CruiseCo’s management sought innovative ways to streamline the company’s entire marketing process. Equifax, a company that is specialized in tracking data modelling and data analysis, was invited to participate in the search for better ways to reach the most likely buyers with timely and attractive offers.

First, they analysed the customers database and made a segmentation based on personality characteristics, situational factors and intrinsic interests. As a result CruiseCo created well thought-trough customer profiles. Not all customers are equal, so CruiseCo uses the segmentation to decide on the multichannel mix. Now they know exactly for which customer, which approach works the best.

The results for CruiseCo after implementing the system are accessibility to customer data 24/7, clear segmentation in customer categories, the customers gains a personalized approach and finally due to better processes and better target marketing CruiseCo fills more cabins. To conclude, this shows that implementing multichannel management in the right way can have a positive effect on an entire cruise organisation. (Equifax, 2008)

Resources:
Beltman, R., & Peelen, E. (2013). Customer Relationship Management (2nd ed.). Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Equifax. (2008). Case Study: How can a cruise line book more passengers? Data experts from Equifax launch a creative solution. Retrieved from http://www.equifax.com/pdfs/corp/EFS-839-ADV_CruiseCo_CS.pdf

Business to Business Value Creation Through Airbnb’s Own Community Centre

Within Airbnb’s business-to-business market there is a need for the hosts to increasingly share knowledge and get information from one another. One-to-one communication with the company is nowadays old-fashioned and over and is changing towards online peer-to-peer communication. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013) This will increase the number of long-term relationships between the hosts and Airbnb and the engagement of the hosts with Airbnb as a brand. Airbnb’s community centre supports the maintenance and development of these relationships. According to research existing (business) customers are more profitable due to the less needed amount of effort and money. So it is valuable to create loyalty, commitment and engagement with your brand. (Cremers, 2013)

Brand communities, such as Airbnb’s community centre, consist of three basic principles:

  • Shared consciousness or commitment with others within the community.
  • Rituals and traditions.
  • The feeling of moral responsibility to the community members.

Due to all the online, internet related innovations brand communities became more and better accessible due to the always and everywhere connectedness of the members. The internet provides the infrastructure for the improvement and development of activities within the community, increases the reach of the community, makes the communication more effective and provides additional opportunities for interaction between the members. In short, the internet makes it possible for online brand communities to exist.

For a B2B brand community such as Airbnb’s community centre it is important to involve people throughout the entire organisation. Because they can all on an individual basis affect the commitment within and effectiveness of the community. The final goal of this kind of community is brand loyalty; this means that in this case the host will continue to offer his accommodation through the channels of Airbnb. (Cremers, 2013)

The main goal of Airbnb’s community centre is to engage accommodation owners with each other. To achieve this goal these owners can share stories with each other, can ask for advice and will receive more general updates from the Airbnb team. This kind of platform is of course also very beneficial for Airbnb because of the gained knowledge about their business ‘’customers’’.

Due to this gained knowledge Airbnb’s community centre is able to personalize some parts such as highlighting relevant conversations based on among other things the used language and the location, also popular tips, topics and responses are easy to find within the platform. The community centre is a huge success among the accommodation owners and daily tons of questions are asked and advice is given by their fellow owners. A way to further engage these owners to one another is by the self-organised and world-wide meetups. (Airbnb, 2016)

A company that can learn from this best practice is an indirect competitor of Airbnb named Wimdu. They connect their guests and hosts with each other worldwide but yet don’t connect on a business-to-business level such as Airbnb. This is a missed opportunity because nowadays it is important to create engagement throughout all the parties. Loyalty, commitment and engagement are key elements in the current touristic industry.

Resources:
Airbnb. (2016). Wat is het Airbnb Community Centrum? Retrieved from https://www.airbnb.nl/help/article/1183/what-is-the-airbnb-community-center

Beltman, R., & Peelen, E. (2013). Customer Relationship Management (2nd ed.). Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Cremers, M. (2013). Online brand communities voor B2B: theorie en praktijk. Retrieved from https://www.heuvelmarketing.com/blog/bid/86587/online-brand-communities-voor-b2b-theorie-en-praktijk

The Importance Of Online Personal Selling Within The Holiday Park Industry

Despite all the technological influences on the touristic sector nowadays and the increasing number of new channels via you can reach your (potential) customers due to the influence of digitization the physical arena remains important to engage your customers to your holiday park brand. However, this physical arena is nowadays shifted to the online environment. The main question of this blog is how personal selling can increase the engagement and eventually the number of sales during each phase of the pyramid of relationship. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013)

pyramid-of-relationships

It is important that personal selling creates value for the customer and is mutually beneficial throughout each phase of the pyramid of relationships. In order to reach these goals it is important that the holiday park really listens to their customers and provide them with personal solutions instead of fixed offerings. So it is important to keep the customer knowledge in terms of needs and wants in mind. Uncover these ‘’hidden’’ needs and requirements makes it possible to offer tailor-made offers to each individual customer. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013)

The first level is the prospect; due to the selling revolution caused by the internet prospects will find the website of Center Parcs themselves nowadays instead of Center Parcs’ effort to search for prospects. Their website is the first presentation and is vital in moving a prospect towards a sale. The website of Center Parcs is easy to use and simple to understand among their prospects, besides that they focus on the key benefits and they unconscious push the website visitors to drive inquiries. The website visitor can also discover their Center Parcs experience by choosing a specific landing page focused on a particular segment such as ‘’with partner’’ and ‘’with young children’’. After the web visit Center Parcs can contact these prospects via for example targeted e-mails or a pop up on the website which recognises potential prospects with the possibility to live chat or even live video chat with an employee. (Young, 2011)

The transition from prospect to customer is supported by Center Parcs through the creation of a ‘’My Center Parcs Page’’ which will consist of personal cross-selling and up-selling possibilities such as additional activities and reservations for a restaurant. After the actual experience took place ideally the customer becomes an ambassador. In this stage it is important to check if the customer is satisfied and resolve any problems faced by the customer with personal selling by e-mailing a questionnaire or asking for an user-generated review. After the final transition the prospect is turned into a partner, a perfect example of a personal approach of Center Parcs is in this stage the cooperation with their customers to create the new brochure.

So when activities such as lead generation, transactions, after sales activities, relationship building, et cetera are well performed in the online world but with a personal touch it is possible to turn cold prospects into warm and long-term customer relationships. Which makes the investment in online personal selling worth investing in.

Resources:
Beltman, R., & Peelen, E. (2013). Customer Relationship Management (2nd ed.). Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Young, T. (2011). A Selling Revolution: How the Internet Changed Personal Selling (Part 1). Retrieved from http://www.vistage.com/blog/marketing/a-selling-revolution-how-the-internet-changed-personal-selling/

Make Your E-Mail Marketing Campaign Succeed by Applying Segmentation

Nowadays accommodation providers increase the number of marketing e-mails they send. However, this increase doesn’t have to result in more traffic to the corresponding website because more effort spend on e-mail marketing doesn’t automatically result in an increase in website traffic and revenue. Nowadays consumers expect inspiring and appealing content and also relevance to your target group is important. If these goals aren’t achieved, then the marketing campaigns of an accommodation provider aren’t successful and effective. (Vos, 2014)

So, again personalization is important in today’s customer-centric economy. The content of the e-mail should be based on the interests and preferences of the individual customer. A way to gain customer knowledge is by segmenting your intern database. This helps you to apply effective one-to-one communication. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013)

For an accommodation provider e-mail marketing has several objectives: to inform the target group, to inspire the target group, to increase the brand awareness and to provide the customers with a better overall service. Of course is the main business objective from the suppliers’ perspective to increase conversion and revenue. For all the above mentioned objectives it is important that the content of the e-mail is relevant; the offer or e-mail in general must match with the personal interests and needs of the individual receiver. To identify those personal needs and interests you need data! (Vos, 2014)

When collecting valuable data, the quality of the data is more important than the quantity. Qualitative data is namely crucial for an effective e-mail marketing campaign. By segmentation of the total database it is possible to determine which segment of individual customers you want to reach. For example, a hotel chain with many wellness facilities wants to approach prospective parents through an e-mail campaign. By using a so called lifecycle e-mail campaign, they can send valuable e-mails at the different life-events during the pregnancy and afterwards when the baby is born. These personal mailings contain interesting and relevant information and specific deals and offers for the parents during the different phases of their lives. This can only be done in an effective way when you apply segmentation. (Vos, 2014)

By creating a division in groups, you can match the content a particular segment will receive with the individual characteristics and interests of this segment. So you use segmentation for applying relevancy in your message. With segmentation you do not have to be limited to basic information like the address, gender and declared interests. Based on the click within the mailings you can see which content is most read and which products will be shown the most interest in. It’s also possible to use a form of cross-selling or up-selling within such a marketing e-mail by stimulating the total booking amount to grow and finding out on new customers’ interests. So to conclude, segmentation helps an accommodation provider to approach the individual customer in a more personal and specific way which makes the total success rate of the marketing campaign increase. (Vos, 2014)

Resources:
Beltman, R., & Peelen, E. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. (2nd Ed.). Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Vos, J. (2014). Effectieve e-mailmarketing, hoe pak je dat nou aan? Retrieved from http://www.marketingfacts.nl/berichten/effectieve-e-mailmarketing-hoe-pak-je-dat-nou-aan

One Cannot Personalize What One Doesn’t Know; Gaining Customer Knowledge by Applying Data Mining

The current touristic industry is a customer-centric one and based on the available customer data or even knowledge. Daily millions of people travel all around the world, so that makes customer relationship management an important topic for every touristic organization and for hotels in this case in particular. For a hotel it is important to maintain a customer-supplier relationship by analyzing the available customer knowledge and their current guests’ profiles.

One instrument that helps the hotel industry to create a better understanding of customers’ profiles and turning them into personalized offers and/or seasonal campaigns is data mining. In this way the customer is the ‘’key success factor’’ of the hotel industry. Data mining is about finding patterns and connections within a huge database, an example for the hotel industry is a connection between the booking history and the future purchases. (Akçetin et al., 2016)

There are different so called learning types within data mining as a whole topic. The first type is association learning; this means that the particular hotel discovers a relationship between two or more characteristics of the tourists’ behaviour. An example is that a data mining technique determines a connection between guests who have an interest in shopping also want to stay in a hotel with a city centre location.

Another type is classification learning, this is a way of segmenting your entire database in smaller and more specific target groups. One characteristic to distinguish the diverse target groups of each other in the hotel industry is for example the booking history. Based on that one segment are the so called ‘’big spenders’’ who book a luxury hotel room and book many other extra services during their stay and another segment are the ‘’low spenders’’ who stay in a basic room and book no extra services. By using these types of data mining it becomes possible to adjust the way of approaching your customers and offer them special offers based on their personal customer knowledge. (Bose, 2009)

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of applying data mining within your hotels’ website is the sentence: “people who booked/viewed this product also bought this/viewed this” followed with a list consisting of a number of recommendations that the customers may also like. This items are always adjusted to the customers’ personal wishes. Hotels can also keep track of special requests from their guests within their databases. If for example a customer always asks for an extra pillow or a particular drink in their minibar you can add these requests to the booking screen by applying cross-selling.

Customers will be happy surprised with the personalized booking options and will appreciate that the hotel remembers their special requests. Customers nowadays expect this personalized approach from especially hotels. They don’t want to repeat their personal wishes over and over again but they expect that companies already know this information by using data mining.

Resources:
Akçetin, E., Kiliç, A., Yurtay, N., Yurtay, O.Y., Öztürk, E., & Şahin, O.A. (2016). DATA MINING: USAGE AND APPLICATIONS IN TOURISM INDUSTRY. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/9070001/DATA_MINING_USAGE_AND_APPLICATIONS_IN_TOURISM_INDUSTRY

Beltman, R., & Peelen, E. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. (2nd Ed.). Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Bose, I. (2009). Data Mining in Tourism. Retrieved from http://www.irma-international.org/viewtitle/13687/

How Cross-Selling via Available Data Helps to Continue the Customer-Supplier Relationship

An important instrument to guarantee the continuity and the further development of a valuable customer-supplier relationship during the growth phase is cross-selling. This is the third phase when developing a customer-supplier relationship where interaction processes between both parties continue and more resources are exchanged whereby the mutual dependency increases. The main goal of cross-selling is to further develop the relationship and prevent the phase of decline to happen where continuity of the relationship becomes an issue. Because cross-selling helps a holiday park to hold on to their current and maybe even loyal customers. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013)

the-relationship-life-cycle

Furthermore, customer relationship management is one of the successes of Center Parcs. Center Parcs sees their customers really as ‘’one-of-a-kind’’ so it is about their needs and wants. One of their business objectives is to actively offer personalized services at different contact moments before, during and after the stay at the actual holiday park. According to research, guests who participate in more extra activities are more likely to return. To summarize, Center Parcs wants to retain the ‘’good’’ and loyal customers and stimulate them to increase their total expenditure. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013)

Center Parcs saves and maintains all kind of customer knowledge, so they can decide what to exactly offer a specific customer according to their preferences and values. This kind of database helps the holiday park to develop valuable cross-sell products. One instrument that helps Center Parcs to achieve their goals in the field of customer relationship management is the implementation of SPSS PredictiveMarketing. The ability of SPSS PredictiveMarketing is to determine the most profitable cross-sell offer at the moment of interaction. This is crucial to successfully achieve Center Parcs’ objective to use diverse online channels to cross-sell additional packages, such as leisure facilities, dinners, etc., to customers at the moment they book their stay. (SPSS, 2004)

From the customers’ perspective every holiday park offers a number of unique facilities and activities that fit the visitors’ preferences. Besides that, Center Parcs current customers can book or request information anywhere and anytime through their ‘’My Center Parcs Page’’. This ‘’My Center Parcs Page’’ contains the two different points of view on cross-selling; based on the product history because customers can glance over their booking history of extra services and in this way book these services again for a new stay at the holiday park. The other view is based on individual preferences so when the customer is being reached proactive they receive personalized cross-sell offers. Examples of these offers are: to plan and book additional activities, to reserve a dinner at one of the restaurants on forehand, to order your groceries in advance, et cetera. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013)

So to conclude holiday parks can boost the transaction profit by applying cross-selling and as a consequence this transaction gives the relationship a boost as well. Cross-selling helps to reduce the likelihood of customers ending the relationship before the supplier has had the chance to earn back its investment in the customer. And the customer gets the opportunity to discover the advantages the holiday park has to offer and to ease the transition to the above mentioned saturation phase. (Beltman & Peelen, 2013)

Resources:
Beltman, R., & Peelen, E. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. (2nd ed.). Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Chetwynd, C. (2016). How to measure customer experience. Retrieved from https://raconteur.uberflip.com/i/708792-customer-experience-and-loyalty

SPSS. (2004). Customer Case Study: Center Parcs Europe. Retrieved from http://www.spss.ch/eupload/File/PDF/PredMark_Parks.pdf