Google's Ad Hiccup: Implications for Customer Service.
By Vijay Dandapani ~ Hotelier's outlook on NYC, travel and the industry
Friday, 26th July 2013
The search leviathan's revenue hiccup, which seems to have surprised just about everyone on the street, stemmed almost entirely from mobile advertising eating into its heretofore vertiginous growth in online advertising. 

Mobile ads have been hugely helped by the fact that smartphone penetration in the US is at nearly 60% and climbing (as reported by Comscore).  Add to that the fact that the average smartphone-based search ad costs 40 percent less than one on a traditional desktop.

The above numbers have meaningful implications for businesses due to changing customer expectations for service via the mobile channel. Designing a soup-to-nuts customer service experience likely will involve more than just sprucing up one's apps and enabling more customer touch points. That is gaining currency in the hospitality sector as this report in a recent issue of USA Today details.

From requesting changes in a booking before arrival to ordering tee-times on a golf course apps at many hotels, resorts in particular, have resulted not only in a happier customer experience but also reduced work loads on associates. Most relevantly, apps are being used to convey real time information to customers; most times that is a convenience but can quickly turn into a necessity during extra-ordinary events like a fire.

The foregoing, however, does not do nearly enough to address the vast customer feedback potential that the mobile platform presents due to its ubiquitous presence and real time engagement abilities.That is enhanced by smartphones collecting data about the customer including, like it or not depending upon one's privacy comfort level, preferences gleaned by his/her visitation patterns.

The technological and capital issues sparked by these trends include the need for very high speed internet along with broad WiFi coverage with the latter often an issue in large resorts and dense urban settings. Poor internet bandwidth is a continual challenge faced by hospitality providers due to the ever-increasing number of devices being carried by consumers with many guests operating more than two devices at a given time.

The good news from a delivery standpoint is that all of these are hugely enabled by big-data and relatively low cost open source software with the biggest beneficiary expected to be the customer. Leading the charge in that category is the recently announced Watson Engagement Advisor from IBM, a direct derivation from the machine that memorably bested renowned Jeopardy champions a couple of years ago. 

The Engagement Advisor promises to help "companies make their interactions count by knowing, delivering and learning what each customer wants – in the context of their preferences and actions – sometimes before even the customer knows it themselves." Seems like a dream CRM solution.

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city. Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.

Read Vijay's blog HERE
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