In the News

Three Key Steps to Help Hotel Marketers Mine Social Customer Feedback Intelligently

by Ashish Gambhir, Founder & EVP, newBrandAnalytics

June 9, 2011

Source: Hotel Online

Customer surveys. Mystery shopping.  Printed comment cards.  Inbound emails.  Website comments.  Call ins.  Not too long ago, marketers relied on these traditional forms of feedback as the primary methods to gauge customer satisfaction.

But times have changed dramatically. As feedback volume from these traditional sources continues to decline - response rates from these channels has fallen from 50% in 2007 to 28% in 2011 - mentions per brand, region, and even store (or product) per year on social feedback channels are increasing exponentially.

Social media feedback is rapidly growing, has tremendous reach, and is unbelievably influential.  As Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying, “Make a customer unhappy in the real world, they might tell six friends.  Make a customer unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” One good or bad experience can be easily shared and broadcast to thousands of existing and prospective customers, magnifying its effect within minutes. 

With more travelers turning to the web for travel advice, hotels are undoubtedly paying close attention to this channel.  In their recent survey analyzing consumer behavior, Travelzoo found that 81% of travelers turned to hotel review sites to help with their decision-making. Half of those polled said online reviews from previous guests are the most influential.  TripAdvisor puts that number a bit higher - stating recently that 87% of travelers read reviews when planning their next trip

Knowing what customers are saying online and putting all of the social media activity to work in a productive way is a business imperative.  Mining and translating the rich information embedded in online customer mentions arms brands with the unfiltered, real-time, voice-of-the-customer insight they need to enhance customer satisfaction and earn their loyalty.  In some ways, the web has turned every customer into a “shopper,” focus group participant, or any other source of guest satisfaction traditionally used.  But instead of getting a few dated insights as a part of the analysis, you receive thousands, in real time, and all unsolicited.

The question on the minds of most hotel executives, however, is HOW to leverage the feedback.  There are several ways one can study the feedback.  Here are some tips for getting started on how best to mine social media feedback intelligently:

Understand the distinction between operational and marketing opportunity with social customer feedback.  When customers generate substantial feedback about business processes, it can potentially serve as the basis for making operational improvements. For example, Hersha Hospitality Trust has found that intelligently mining online guest satisfaction has enabled their hotel executives to get "back in touch" with the day-to-day operations.  Through a flash report, they were able to identify a critical mass of feedback requesting towel racks in the bathroom at one of their hotel properties.  The executives made the quick call and authorized the addition to the hotel.  This was an issue that the GM was familiar with but had overlooked as there are hundreds of competing priorities --  but it became priority because of customer feedback. 

Furthermore, since this data lives online, there are even stronger marketing-based opportunities. Content on the web is read hundreds if not thousands of times over by potential customers.  If customers read those comments about, say, a slow checkout process online, they are likely to maintain that impression about the business until convinced otherwise – presenting a tremendous opportunity for strategic marketing efforts.

Realize that each mention online presents a unique value proposition.  Not every mention on the web is created equally.  Certain authors possess tremendous reach, others are well-respected on certain topics, and more are relevant within certain social graphs.  Understanding the context of how “far” information on the web is traveling is a key insight into determining the most appropriate internal or external response.

In addition to context, the mere fact that guests are talking about your hotel means little unless you can also unearth the credibility and sentiments of the comments.  For example, look at these three posts:

  • “I loved staying at Hotel XYZ.”
  • “If the beds were cleaner at Hotel XYZ, I would have loved it.”
  • “I loved staying at Hotel XYZ, but it’s tough for them to beat out Hotel ABC on location alone.”

Three comments that all talk about LOVING HOTEL XYZ ---- but three postings with very different meanings.  The only way to arrive at true insight into these comments and gain an understanding of the giant free form textbox that is social media is by using industry specific natural language processing (NLP) engines to read the feedback for you.  An effective NLP engine is the equivalent of having a team of 100 analysts read through every single mention about your hotel on the web word by word, extracting themes, anomalies, opportunities, successes, failures, etc. 

Recognize the opportunity of unsolicited feedback online.  Hotels, for the most part, are not out there asking questions about the hundreds of topics guests discuss online, such as: location, room amenities and comfort, cleanliness, service, staff, maintenance, and parking. Instead, customers are taking the time to express their opinions based on their own motivation in unsolicited forums. 

TripAdvisor alone attracts more than 41.6 million users a month, and features 40 million reviews of hotels and restaurants worldwide. This data set, along with several more on the web, has tremendous value because it represents the most important elements of the experience as defined by the customer.  Furthermore, if a certain topic is not generating much traffic, that becomes a finding, too.  Why would customers choose to talk about Topic A and not Topic B?  All fascinating findings that can be extracted with unsolicited data.


About the Author:
Ashish Gambhir is the Executive Vice President of newBrandAnalytics, the leading provider of social business intelligence solutions.  newBrandAnalytics uses social media feedback to provide companies with an unparalleled level of insightful business intelligence. Blending social media feedback, customer satisfaction, and enterprise business intelligence, newBrandAnalytics suite of comprehensive business intelligence soutions capture a complete, real-time view of customer feedback online, synthesize it into the richest customer insight, and equip executives with the actionable insights needed to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, increase revenue, and drive sustainable bottom-line results. (www.newBrandAnalytics.com)