We all know great customer service has always been (and always will be) synonymous with the hospitality industry. But with Internet-enabled mobile devices glued to the thumbs of modern travelers, the approach to providing customer service is evolving; great customer service has become synonymous with social customer service — providing customer care through your social media channels.
We’ve been blogging a bit recently about guest satisfaction and how to improve it. You’ve probably noticed that those posts have focused a lot on managing your online reputation, including guest feedback on social media. That’s because, thanks to the rise of mobile Internet, online reputation and social media are now inextricably tied to attracting new guests and turning them into repeat customers.
Social media is not just about marketing anymore, it’s about managing customer relationships, too. More and more guests prefer to book their stay online or make first contact with a property via Facebook or Twitter rather than over the phone. Even in-house guests are increasingly likely to turn to the Internet (instead of Front Desk or the concierge) to look for local information or comment on their stay. Social media is an effective customer service tool for establishing a personal connection with guests and contributing to overall guest satisfaction before, during and after their stay.
6 Tips for Doing Social Customer Service Right
- Listen: There’s a lot of chatter out there in the world of social media, so it’s best to utilize a social listening tool that automatically monitors social media channels for mentions (direct and indirect) of your property. There are a number of free social listening tools available online as well as complete reputation management systems like Revinate that will do the job and much more. Set your social listening tool to search for your brand/property name and include abbreviations or alternate spellings/common misspellings.
- Develop a process: In order to maximize the effectiveness of your social customer service, define an official social customer service procedure for you and your staff to follow. Define clear guidelines for handling and resolving complaints via the appropriate social support channels, including when and how to move a conversation out of the public eye (to email or direct/private messaging) when, for example, sensitive information like a confirmation number is required. Consider appointing a member of your team “Social Media Manager” to ensure your social customer care never gets neglected.
- Always respond: Compliment, question or complaint, always respond to direct comments. Whenever a customer takes the time to reach out to you, recognize them to show that you are listening and that you really care.
- Customer complaints – First, be sure to apologize to the customer for the issue. If you feel the problem will be more efficiently resolved off social media (the maximum length of a tweet is 140 characters), ask the customer to contact you by email or direct message. Be sure to respond to indirect complaints, too (complaints that are made about you, but not to you). Never ignore or delete complaints.
- Compliments – Show customers you value them simply by thanking them for complimenting your property.
- Questions – Be just as helpful on social media as you are on the phone with customers asking questions about your property or the local area.
- Respond fast: Consumers expect fast response times on social media so your prompt attention is key for building lasting customer relationships. It shows the customer and the wider socialsphere that your customers are important to you. Monitor your social media accounts at least once daily to ensure timely responses. A quick response time (preferably within an hour) is especially important when it comes to Twitter, which is based on real-time communication. Consider assigning social care responsibilities to more than one staff member in order to provide 24/7 support.
- Be human: Social media is social! So be personable, helpful and caring. Avoid canned responses and stiff formality. End messages with your name or initials to indicate personal care.
- Be proactive (i.e. eavesdrop): In addition to keeping track of direct social mentions, it’s a good idea to listen out for indirect comments about your property, too. Someone may be talking about you without tagging you with the @ sign or posting directly to your Facebook account. You can set your social listening tool to search for indirect mentions by adding your property’s name (without # or @) as a keyword. Politely jump in on conversations about your property, whether a disgruntled guest is venting frustration to their friends or a potential guest is asking other travelers for local information in your area, and voila, you have engaged a customer who otherwise may not have reached out.
Done right, social customer service can satisfy and engage customers even more than a phone call. Customer service through social media has the power to turn guests into real fans — not just Facebook fans — loyal guests who tell all their friends how great your property is.