Hotels: Are You Keeping Customer Service 'Social'.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Exclusive Column
Wednesday, 7th September 2011
People are talking about you, and your business; are you clued in to what they're saying?

Even if you're not part of the popular social media circle, your hotel is being tossed around the party. How are you going to react? This is precisely the premise behind social media engagement - how you engage, and respond, is what will keep your hotel in the elite crowd.

We hear over and over again the same saying: "Twitter is all about engagement." But how you engage is equally as important as the concept of engagement itself. Good customer service is based on quick responses, easy fixes and friendly faces. So how does this transverse to Twitter?

If your hotel isn't focusing on online customer service via social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, it might be missing out on some great branding opportunities. Additionally, if your hotel is on Twitter, make sure it's managing customer relations right. The difference can mean a booking at your hotel, versus being badmouthed at the party held at your competitor's hotel. Here are three essentials for your hotel to practice in an effort to maintain good customer service on Twitter:

Keep it together: You might be the only person in the hotel who believes in the success of social media, but doesn't mean you should be your hotel's only online cheerleader. Whether or not the other employees and executives agree with the social media craze, they need to be onboard with your efforts to engage the online crowd. This means making sure that all lines of customer service - the phone, the website, and the social media accounts - have the same information and answers to questions.

Keeping all three of these customer service channels together will ensure that your clients are always provided the most accurate information when answering their questions and solving problems. A good test: list out the 10 most popular questions asked via your website and Twitter or Facebook. Now, make sure everyone has the same answers to those questions, including information found on your website. If your hotel website has inaccurate information, now is the time to update the website!

Let them be heard: People like to hear themselves talk just as much as they like seeing their name in print, or having their favorite hotel personally thank them in front of all their social media fans. Let the people be heard! Allow customers to talk about you on Twitter and Facebook, but be timely in your response. Good customer service means responding to the good and the bad (and sometimes the ugly) comments.

If someone has negative to say it's likely they'll take it to Twitter (how often have you seen tweets about a dirty hotel room or bad in-room dining?). Remember: everyone's expectations are different, and one person's contentment is another's frustrations. Responding to these tweets in a public forum shows that your hotel is open to constructive feedback and solving the problem (even if it is in a public space). Bottom line: your customers want to be heard.

Take it offline: There will inevitably be some online rants that simply won't end. Instead of engaging in a re-tweeting war in front of all of your followers, simply take the conversation offline. Request that customer's email address via direct messaging, or provide them with a name and phone number of someone at the hotel who can help.

If that customer insists on keeping the tirade public, have another member of the hotel staff read the issue and see if there's anything more you can do. Otherwise, chalk it up to someone wanting their five minutes of Twitter fame. If a customer is genuinely interested in making matters right, they'll work with you and the hotel in any means necessary to resolve the issue.

Hotels: What customer service tips have you found helpful on Twitter?

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusivecolumn for 4Hoteliers.com
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