Social media has become so ubiquitous it now feels alien and remote to imagine a world where a business does not know what its customers think. Sharing news, reviews, insights and experiences the days where a customer base is only contacted via an annual survey are long gone. Now a customer is more likely to search through reviews and offers online before they book accommodation or at a restaurant.
A survey by Embassy Suites Hotels has revealed what customers are looking for online and how it is shifting their buying and booking habits. One of the main benefits customers are looking for online are discounts and deals. Be it flight or hotel offers, hiring a car or the chance of an upgrade, increasingly customers are looking to apps, daily deals sent directly to their inbox or Facebook and Twitter promotions to get wind of new deals. The ability to connect with a brand they use frequently is also important, according to the survey. Following or befriending a brand on a social network ensures the customer is kept up to date on news and developments. This also helps to promote the particular brand as news is shared quickly. Lastly reviews are increasingly significant. Peer review sites like TripAdvisor make it much easier for a customer to share exactly what they think of a service they have used or a place they have stayed.
This sea-change has had a major impact on how those in the business travel market communicate directly with their customers. Advertising on social media as well as providing regular updates and offers via networks such as Facebook and Twitter have become increasingly important. Instead of going through a middle man, businesses can talk directly to their customers, showcasing their offers but also responding instantly to their concerns.
It isn’t necessarily all positive, however. Many businesses rely on social networks as a form of customer feedback. Customers pose complaints or responses via social networks. If they don’t respond effectively or efficiently then the business risks damaging its brand. A negative review can damage a travel business beyond repair.
So what’s the solution? No communication at all and a travel business is not able to reach the potential benefits of this new generation of interactive technology. Do so without a strategy and they could be exposed to more criticism and risk harming their brand. Knowledge is power and asking customers directly what they want, while also staying in touch with the regularly is a vital third solution.
Clarendon has teamed up with a third party company, FEEFO to gain a better understanding of its customer base and what they want. A guest satisfaction survey will enable guests to rank the stay they have at one of Clarendon’s serviced apartments. Offering a mark based on a four point scale, as well as feeding back any comments, helps guests to evaluate their stay. The survey is sent to them at their end of their visit, while it is still fresh in their minds. The information helps Clarendon to constantly improve and monitor its service, eliminating any problems or issues before they get too serious. It helps the customer stay in charge of the level of service they get. If anything has gone wrong during their stay they can comment privately and swiftly, so they know it will be remedied. Guests can also search through customer reviews, empowering them to find the most suitable accommodation for their needs.
Clarendon also uses a mobile app where customers can review the locations they are staying in and find activities and attractions nearby. This helps customers settle into their new surroundings quickly and have a happier and more fulfilling stay.
Many in the business travel industry can run scared from new technology. Customers becoming more powerful, able to review places they have stayed and visited more rapidly is a daunting one for a firm that hasn’t put its customers at the heart of everything it is doing. But not responding to the shift is impossible. Customers increasingly look online to make decisions about where they want to stay. So online the business travel industry has to be. For Clarendon, customer feedback enables the business to improve their offer and is seen as a vital part of customer service, keeping open the line of communication between accommodation and guest.