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The Customer in Control - The New Engagement Technology

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March 01, 2010
Technology Engagement
Carol Verret - carol@carolverret.com

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It has been said for a long time that the customer wants to buy but doesn’t want to be sold.  That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to hear from hotels and travel providers – they do want to hear so that when they are ready to buy they have information and sources of engagement with which to make a comfortable decision. However, with the immediacy of social networks and instant communication it may be a matter of hitting them at the right time.

In an article on CNN.com, Pete Cashmore came up with his 2010 predictions for technology and engagement. In it he said “…the Web’s biggest challenge of recent years is that content creation is outpacing our ability to consume it. Information overload has become an increasingly common complaint.  In the attention economy, with its millions of daily status updates and billions of Web pages vying for our time, how do we best allocate that scarce resource?” (See required reading, page 56.)

The question then becomes, how can hotels stand out in the over-contented world of competing messages? Has the technology of engagement changed and which technologies or messages are likely to reach their targets? How do we overcome the limited attention span of the customer that is now in control?

More and more engagement is enhanced by technology – new apps, new processes that enable hotel’s messages to reach their targets.  These rules of engagement technology appear to be changing and propagating as quickly as we get a sense of mastery on the former rules of engagement.  

For example, as I am writing this article a headline appeared in my inbox that Sesame Street now has a Facebook app. Are you noticing that your e-mail marketing campaigns are generating fewer open rates than previously – could it be because it is in HTML and not mobile phone friendly?  Is your Web site mobile phone friendly – is your fan page on Facebook generating more traffic than your Web site? Are you on social network overload? 

Below these issues are addressed in terms of the engagement technology that has the potential to provide solutions to these issues.

Mobile Marketing
There’s an app for that!  Best Western and everyone else has a mobile app for the iPhone®, the Droid and soon for the Google Nexus.  Many franchises now have mobile apps that allow guests to check themselves in and even order room service – not good for people who typically change something on a room service menu item.

Not all independents and smaller properties can afford to hire the big tech company to make their messages compelling and mobile friendly – there’s an app for that and it’s very cheap.  In a blog post Small Business trends identifies a company that develops mobile phone apps for smaller businesses.  A site called MobileAppLoader  (www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/content/3489.html) will build a mobile app for your hotel for just $49.99 to set up the application, plus a monthly fee of $4.99 for maintenance of the app.  At a price like that you can reach your targets, they can find you and probably reach a great ROI very quickly.

Want to know if your Web site is mobile friendly?  Check out this free tool that will analyze your site and provide a complete report that you can share with your webmaster and give visitors to your site from mobile phones a more mobile-friendly experience (http://validator.w3.org/mobile/).  

User-generated content will gain warp speed, and reputation management has never been more crucial.  Hotels will need to listen 24/7 to what the customer says about them on all channels and respond at the same speed.  This applies to the good things that the customer is saying as well as the issues they are having. Immediacy is a tool not only to resolve issues but to appeal to more customers. 

Twitter has an app for that.  Tweet Beep (http://tweetbeep.com) is an app that tracks mentions of a specific keyword, such as your hotel name, on Twitter then e-mails it to you – as Twitter says on its Web site, ‘it’s like Google alerts for Twitter.’  It seems a bit counter-intuitive that it is e-mailed rather than tweeted but it arrives in your inbox nevertheless. 

Social Mention is like a massive Google Alert but also covers every blog on the planet.  It includes all blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn but not Twitter (http://socialmention.com/#).  It even scores your mentions in terms of reach, passion and sentiment that conclude if you have good reach across the Web, if your mentions are passionate in terms of brand advocates, and sentiment in terms of good or bad. It also analyzes key words in your mentions.

Social Media Overload
Many hoteliers are feeling overloaded by maintaining presence on social networks – between posts and discussion groups.  In order to maintain engagement and visibility, posts should be frequent, but between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, the task can be formidable. 

Hoot Suite allows you to post across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as Word Press blogs.  It also has numerous other apps to allow for monitoring and tracking. And it's free. (http://hootsuite.com/) The limitations are that the post must be 140 characters and it is not personalized engagement, but it allows you to maintain a presence at a minimum of effort.

Pushing out special deals on Twitter – trackable but conditions the customer to wait until last minute to book.  Twitter Adder is an automated tool for pushing out Tweets – it has other functionality such as mobile apps, tracking, list building, etc., and for one profile starts at $55. Depending on how important pushing deals out on Twitter and tracking has become to your hotel, it provides affordable, valuable tools for not only pushing out deals, but providing solutions for collecting other information on your Twitter tracking. (http://tweetadder.com/) We now have the technology of engagement that makes the task of staying present and relevant on social networks easier but also allows for better analytics that enable evaluating the return on engagement in social networks at reasonable prices.  These inexpensive or free tools level the playing field for independents as well as smaller hotels. 
Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service. For more about the company go to www.carolverret.net or contact Carol at carol@carolverret.com or phone (303) 618-4065. Visit www.hotelsalesblog.com.  

©2010 Hospitality Upgrade
This work may not be reprinted, redistributed or repurposed without written consent.
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Cashmore's Top Ten

Attention Economy


Mobile Friendly?

Tweet Beep

Hoot Suite

Social Mention


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