Strategies for delivering social customer service on the property level.

Parsippany, NJ: The evolution of social media from a marketing platform to a customer service platform has been widely noted. Social media marketing and social customer service are really two different disciplines within a brand’s organizational structure and need to be treated that way. These separate disciplines now need to mesh to create a cohesive online presence that also promptly handles customer service issues.

How can hotels accomplish this? By changing their view of social media as a means of marketing and assembling a dedicated team of associates whose singular goal is to provide social customer care – customer service and engagement across their social channels.

Customers Problems on Social Media – A Call to Action for Hoteliers

Booking inquiries, questions from potential guests and guest complaints (both on-site and post-trip) are shared on social more and more. Hotels cannot continue to ignore that consumers have chosen Facebook and Twitter to voice their issues and seek answers. Nor can they leave these comments to be handled by their Marketing Departments.

Hoteliers must view this shift as a call to action.

The departments that should be involved on social media today reach beyond marketing and into customer service. Providing a positive guest experience online requires a hotel to invest in social customer care.

Hoteliers need to assemble a team of dedicated personnel to manage the issues and engagement on social media and deliver the customer service required to stay connected in today’s world.

These social customer care agents need to be:

1. Knowledgeable – Both of the hotel’s policies as well as the offerings throughout the local area. They need to answer questions about whether any early check-in is possible or the particulars of the pet policy as well as recommend great family-friendly destinations nearby or the best Mexican restaurant within a few miles.

2. Responsive – Establish policies and allocate resources that ensure agents respond within a certain period of time, really as immediate as is possible. The correlation between prompt response times and brand loyalty, or at least a favorable view of a brand, is real and supported by numerous statistics. Cultivate brand loyalists with responsiveness.

3. Empowered – Provide social customer care agents with the ability to “make it right” with customers who have taken to social media to complain as well as access to resources and an escalation system for critical issues or those outside of the scope of what can be realistically resolved online.

4. Advocates – Agents need to be the voice of the customer with the brand and have a vested interest in improving the guest experience while still uploading brand objectives.

5. Authentic – Like all customer service associates, agents should be human and provide personalized compassionate service. Encourage agents to use a signature, or initials on Twitter, and think outside the box to avoid cookie cutter responses. Agents are the “boots on the ground” in bringing a brand’s story to life.

“The bar has been raised for hotels on social,” says DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive. “Between the call for consistent, fresh content and the increase in questions, on-site issues and experiences shared on channels like Facebook and Twitter, it’s no longer just a place for a hotel’s marketing department to just push out content.”

The upside to a dedicated social customer care team is that a property’s online reputation and channels are handled around the clock. Additionally, the average lifecycle of customer service issues is shortened and problems that surface will often lessen in severity. Added benefits include a positive impact on third-party review sites as well as a growing base of social media champions for a hotel.

Lodging Interactive offers, Social Voices, the only 24/7/365 social customer care service created specifically for the hospitality industry. A dedicated team of listening agents monitor, identify and respond to engagement and outreach opportunities for hotels and resorts, providing a personalized guest experience online that is always on.

To learn more about how to deliver social customer service with Social Voices, or for additional resources on how to engage guests on social media including Lodging Interactive’s social customer care guide for hotels, please visit the company website.