Humanising a hotel brand in digital era

I have had a privilege of being associated in leadership capacities with great hotel companies, privately owned hotels in, Finland, USA, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Egypt and United Arab Emirates. All of these companies and hotels in these countries had several things in common, to provide memorable and unique experiences for their guests.

My favourite experiences without a doubt were on Phuket Island in Thailand, where I managed a luxury hotel. The vision of the hotel was to create ¨the heaven on earth and uplift the human spirit ¨for our guests.

Our aim was to provide guest experiences touching the human five senses, Seeing, Hearing, Tasting, Smelling, and to lift the human Spirit . We gathered talented staff to come up with ideas how we could delight our guests. Some hundred staff came to the hotels meeting room, enthusiastically contributing with their ideas.

On five flip charts one for each sense we asked the staff to write down key words, that could be translated to actionable experiences. We tried to hit all the touch points from the arrival experience, lobby experience, in room experience, restaurant and bar experiences, to the departure experience. It included the beach experience also. At the end of the session we ended up with hundreds of ideas, which could be implemented.

Our guest were pleasantly surprised and many of the touches became popular talking points. Mostly our customer were surprised when they arrived to the hotel. We used to get thank you mail to highlight what was the special touch guest liked the most. We had the old school approach of sending in press release material to magazines and newspapers to make people aware what we were up to.

I wish in hindsight I would have had the same access to Social as hotels have access today.

Turbo- Charge the Word of Mouth with Social Media

Fast forward today the digital space is a different world, continually changing and evolving. The Social media is now the norm how people exchange information, to post pictures and videos. The posting is fast with the mobile devices. People are using their mobile device to check social media posts.

Can you imagen if we have had the social media toolbox at our disposal in Phuket? We would have been posting daily on Instagram Stories, Snapchat Stories, even do account take overs. Do Facebook Live broadcasts about the behind the scene action of the hotel, and engage with the viewers. Do Periscope broadcasts distributed through Twitter, later available on our YouTube Channel. We would have handed over the Snapchat account and mobile device to one of our talented associates, to tell some uniques stories, as they happened in the hotel and nearby community. We could have literally reached millions of people, all potential guests of the resort.

Challenge and the Opportunity

The challenge and the opportunity for the todays hoteliers are to stay in tune, and up to date, with the consumers on Social media. It is so important to monitor social media, to be able to respond more quickly. Richard Branson in an recent interview said; ¨Customers today have an increased sense of urgency; responding to customer complaints properly today means responding quickly. Which means you need to hear those complaints in the first place, and right away; they’re often offered via social media and you have to be paying attention.¨ Successful hotels and airlines are very active monitoring comments on Twitter. It is hard work, it is direction the world has gone, and it is important to stay on top of it.

A small hotel chain, lets call it Cool Hotels, took the monitoring to heart and mobilised under the leadership of the company CEO a Twitter monitoring campaign. They wanted to find out what people said about their hotels, good or bad. The individual hotel teams including the General Managers and the CEO started to look for feedback about their hotel. In fact they put a search out with hashtags #Coolhotelsucks, and learnt a lot, what people shared with their friends. The comments amplified with the hashtag, helped them to reach out and connect with the unhappy guest, to resolve the service issues, with a nice offer.

¨If you make customers happy in the physical world, they might tell 6 friends. If you make your customer unhappy on Internet, they can tell 6,000 friends.¨ -Don Crowther

To Be or Not to Be is the Answer

I am still surprised how hotels, restaurants and bars still have the idea that Social media is used as a sales tool to post packages and promotions, menus, sort of replacement of the brochure, the package promotions, and the menu board. Of course there is a place to provide information about the offerings, but there is an even more important function, that is developing relations and creating a community of friends on Social, which in turn will turn to visits. Some hoteliers claim they do not have the resources, others outsource to marketing agencies, with Social Media Managers or Community Managers who may not fully understand the DNA of the hotel. Others argue it is difficult to analyse the data. Actually all the platforms now have analysis tools, so this is not an excuse to go all in with Social.

I would argue that the hotel in todays social media world need to be present and active in the Social media platforms, where the customers are active. Also be ready to move to Social media platforms your customers are using. Ted Rubin a leading Social Marketing Strategist, was once asked to give 5 reasons about Social Media. He said;

Why in Social Media

  • To build relationships
  • Friendship
  • Community
  • Influence
  • Access

Here are the five things you must do to be active in social media:

  • Be present
  • Be engaged
  • Build relationships (You need to learn how to LIKE before you can be LIKED)
  • Look people in the eye digitally
  • Remember to be you

Five Don’ts

  • Simply broadcast content
  • Ignore outreach
  • Think Press L= Making a friend
  • Start a conversation and walk away from it
  • Ask a question and do not answer it.

So is the Social Media the key to humanise the hotel brand?

Yes it is, perhaps not the only key, but it will help to create a connection while you look people in the digital eye, and the true test comes after all when you meet the guest face to face at your property.