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Hotels should use Twitter for customer service, not marketing

Instagram has become the “hot” social media network for hospitality brands due to its highly visual platform and large engagement. But what of its predecessor, Twitter? Is it still useful for hotel marketers?

If a hotel brand is using Twitter the same way it utilizes Instagram and Facebook, then the answer is “no.” When it comes to sharing content, Twitter is less effective than other social media platforms. But with more than 284 million monthly users who are hashtagging and utilizing the mentions/replies system, Twitter still reigns as the platform for listening, conversing, and starting real-time buzz.

Therefore, Twitter is most useful for customer service, not marketing.

The industry’s poor track record

Research shows hotels are pretty bad at using Twitter for customer service. Hospitality brands have been overwhelmed by the volume of inquiries and complaints delivered via social media. A 2014 study indicates, on average, hotels take more than seven hours to respond via Twitter, with less than 20% of @ mentions receiving replies.

While a prompt response demonstrates a company is listening, extended silences implies the opposite. Part of the problem is there are more messages to sift through on social media than traditional phone or email channels. Hotel staff may not possess the necessary skills to respond since replying to tweets differs from in-person customer service.

Going above and beyond

While the industry as a whole might lag in using Twitter as a customer service tool, certain hospitality brands are doing it better than competitors. Some hotel groups have dedicated social media teams, while others integrate social channels within larger customer service departments.

Starwood has received a great deal of praise for its social media efforts. The brand’s 33-minute average response time on Twitter is approximately 42x faster than the industry average.  It’s made possible with 3,000 customer service representatives in 10 offices across the globe. Starwood’s staff replies quickly, and they keep their eyes peeled to “surprise and delight” new and returning guests, remembering that even small, personalized gestures leave positive, lasting impressions.

Hilton also impresses with prompt response times, aiming to reply within an hour and resolve within a day. The global brand has expanded from providing mere response management to proactively offering recommendations in 120 cities. Managed by a decentralized team to offer the best local travel tips, the hotel group launched the @HiltonSuggests handle to provide valuable, authentic information. Users, whether they are current customers or not, can reach out to the account for personalized expert advice.

One final noteworthy brand is Hyatt, which takes the platform’s listening function to a whole new level. The brand recently hosted the “world’s largest focus group” on Twitter to receive feedback on guest experience, and used the findings to implement on-site improvements.

Proactive customer service

Hotels can use Twitter for proactive customer service. This strategy involves listening to travel issues of people in the area, complaints about competitors, and reacting accordingly. For example, if a traveler tweets “X hotel overbooked and doesn’t have a room for me now” or “help, we’re stranded in Boston because of travel delays,” a hotel brand can jump in and assist.

Proactive customer service presents massive opportunity for hotels to gain loyal new customers. Follow these tips to develop a proactive Twitter strategy:

  • Set up custom Twitter feeds to follow mentions of your competitors + certain keywords, like “frustrated” or “disappointed.” If you see an opportunity to respond, reply directly to the tweet.
  • Set up custom feeds to monitor for stranded travelers who might be in need of a room. Use combinations of words such as “flight + canceled + stranded + (your city).”
  • Monitoring combinations of hotel names + “I” or “I am” or “I’m” will reveal tweets expressing personal sentiment.
  • Not everything has to be about complaints. Similar to @HiltonSuggests, you can delight first time visitors to your city. Look for combinations like “first + time + travel + (your city).”

Tweet your way to success

Ultimately, it’s clear Twitter is more effective for listening and conversing versus broadcasting. Take a page out of some of the global hotel brands’ books and go a step beyond basic response management. Implementing preemptive tactics on Twitter could be the key to publicly demonstrating outstanding customer service, bringing in more business, and nurturing a valuable new generation of social-savvy brand loyalists.

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