Need a Margarita by the pool? Four ways to engage customers using social media

In an industry where economic uncertainties and pricing struggles have made it increasingly difficult to attain profitably, the one thing that can differentiate us is hospitality. Indeed, hospitality is what our industry was built on and what our customers expect, writes Ed Perry our guest columnist and Worldhotels’ social media evangelist.

Social media is the next key to enhancement of the concept of hospitality to drive profitability. We are all acutely aware of the impact of staffing on our bottom line. We are sensitive to staffing requirements at our properties but are hesitant when staffing exceeds our current budget, even when looking at our future budgets. What if we could use social media to enhance the guest experience? What if this guest experience could equate to a hotel’s ability to charge a higher rate? Here are a variety of ways we can use social media to gain customer loyalty, even if it means a few dollars extra per night:

1. Social media as a pre-guest leverage: We all have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Why don’t we leverage them as an instrument of service? Providing customers an outline of our social media services on making a reservation sends a very powerful message to the customer that you ‘get them’ and understand their needs.  Instead of crowding the concierge desk upon check-in to provide restaurant and sightseeing suggestions, how about offering your hotel’s Concierge Twitter screen name when clients complete their guest booking? The person manning the Twitter address has time to offer the best options based on the social media profile of the client. She is also able to customize options that serve the guests and can be best monetized by the hotel.

2. Social media as a guest service ‘call button’:We are all acutely aware of the damage that one negative tweet can have from someone with a high Klout or Kred score. How about if we divert clients off our main Twitter address and offer them a personalized Twitter screen name to contact us during their stay? Need extra towels? Just tweet it. Then you mobilize your social media team to arrange it for the client. Want advice on what restaurant to go to? Just tweet the question and be sent a list of suggestions. At the pool, need a margarita, but no staff member is to be found? This can also be accomplished with a well-connected social media professional. The key here is that people that use social media don’t necessarily want to talk to you in person. Some will walk away disappointed rather than engage you personally. Why not enhance your hotel’s guest experience by making it easier for them to engage you on their level?

3. Social media as guest connection: There are many travelers that would like to meet other people and share experiences on their trip. Even encouraging guests to come together during happy hour in a hotel lounge to drink and mingle can add monetary value to a hotel’s bottom line. What if hotels began providing a personalized Twitter hashtag to guests to connect with one another during their stay? As an example,  #beingsocialRegency could bond together interested people to share their travel experiences while staying at the Regency Hotel.  Hotels could facilitate this by providing a running hashtag stream of messages from #beingsocialRegency in the hotel lobby.

4.Connecting with clients after departure: Assuming we attain permission from our guests to use their Facebook and Twitter addresses after departure, have we used social media to thank our guests? In the case of resort properties, have we offered to send a copy of a photo we took of them during arrival or departure (all voluntary, of course) to them via Facebook or Twitter? This act costs absolutely nothing but it solidifies the guest experience and enables our properties to be shared and retweeted by our guests to friends and family: all future clients.

As you can see, social media can be used to leverage available resources to serve an additional purpose at a property: add value to the customer experience. By properly marketing free services that make a guest’s stay better at your property, hotels are able to better differentiate themselves and charge slightly higher than their competitors that are unable or unwilling to use technology to their advantage.

Edward Perry is a guest columnist and Global Senior Director of Social Media, OTA Partnerships and Innovation Projects at Worldhotels

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