In the News

Using Voice-of-Customer (VOC) to Drive Operational Improvements and Optimize Experience is Social Media’s Proverbial Pot of Gold

June 13, 2012
Source: GlobalHotelNetwork.com

Customer experience is the building block upon which the hospitality industry is founded. For decades, traditional customer surveys, mystery shopping, quality assurance audits and the like have been used to root out and resolve problems. A customer raises an issue and the hotel responds. Given this dynamic, it is no surprise hotels have adopted reactive measures to deal with the explosion of social media and consumer-generated reviews.

Increasingly, your customers are talking in cyberspace about their stay at your hotel. Facebook boasts some 900 million active users worldwide, 140 million active Twitter users send 340 million Tweets everyday. Yelp has surpassed 66 million monthly unique users, and the number of check-ins recorded by the more than 200 million Foursquare users has topped 2 billion. And with tens of millions of hotel reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Travelocity, your reputation --- as defined by your customers --- is out there for the world to see.

The impact these reviews and recommendations have on travelers’ decisions to stay at a certain hotel is profound. According to PhoCusWright, a global travel market research company, travel review websites and hotel reviews through online travel agencies are among the influential forces cited most frequently by travelers when shopping for travel arrangements. Further, research by the Opinion Research Corporation found 80% of travelers perform research prior to
booking, and 84% of Americans say their buying decisions are highly influenced by online reviews.

Given the trust consumers put into the wisdom of the crowd, online reputation and ranking on social media sites appear to be playing greater roles in your hotel’s success. Even with ongoing skepticism around fake reviews both positive and negative, many in the industry agree the better your reputation, the higher your rank; the higher your rank, the more exposure your property receives. And, the more positive exposure your property receives, the more likely trip planners and researchers will be converted into paying customers.

Customer opinion is clearly of significant value to those who own or manage hotels. If the crowd says your hotel provides great experiences, can you expect bookings to follow? How do you ensure you’re attracting the right customer to your hotel and optimizing the experience you deliver once they are there? Customer insight. Armed with the proper analytical tools, hoteliers can evolve well beyond reactive measures to consumer-generated media (CGM). A deeper level of customer insight can bring your customers closer in terms of understanding who is talking about your hotel, the author’s credibility and reach as well as the specific operational categories requiring attention to best serve your target audience. Enabling hotels to proactively create and implement VOC-driven operational improvements to optimize the customer experience (and, as a result, increase positive reviews) is social media’s proverbial pot of gold.

The Value of Social Media Feedback

To date, most hotels look at social media feedback through a marketing and public relations lens, using it to either engage one-on-one with the customer or coordinate reputation management. Social media, however, has even greater impact from an operational perspective. As a recent blog post on Social Media Today pointed out, “Social business will only succeed if we can produce measurable business benefits.” Being able to pinpoint what your customers might be looking for and uncovering themes and emerging trends are, according to the post, examples of social media’s greatest value.

As an industry, hotel and brand operators are just now beginning to tap into social media’s larger potential. Online conversations give hoteliers an under-the-hood look at not only what their customers are saying about their stay – but, why they are saying it and how it impacts their business strategy. Listening platforms are gaining wider acceptance, but many focus on social media monitoring as a means to aggregate basic metrics and star ratings and lack operational relevance.

By reading and understanding the entire untapped and unsolicited potential of CGM and translating it into location-specific operational data, newBrandAnalytics goes well beyond customer engagement and reputation management. Our technology lets hoteliers listen to and understand – from the customer’s point of view – the real operational issues that impact the local customer experience and help engage customers in your brand and earn their loyalty.

Let’s take a deeper look at a few key ways in which the possibilities for social media are evolving within newBrandAnalytics social business intelligence platform:

Syndication: Syndication is a multi-part process first comprised of harvesting and storing the ocean of social media unstructured comments and reviews about all branded hotels and relevant independent hotels globally. Tagging customer intent in each review to identify detailed operational insights about industry specific categories as well as using loyalty measures such as intent to return and recommend is the second step. Our ability to look across CGM and create
rollup statistics by chain scale segment is the true power of syndication.

In addition to gaining customer intelligence specific to their own properties and brands, hoteliers can perform a similar analysis for their competitors. This expanded view enables operators and brand leaders to also look at hotels they want to emulate and aspire to be like, and to gauge through their particular customer lens their rank in the chain scale, across an entire market or brand, and against the industry overall.

Our official launch into hospitality was in January 2012, and we are already finding our proprietary database is a valuable resource for corporate and property needs including but not limited to:

• Strategic Planning
• Franchise Development
• Acquisitions
• Quality Assurance
• Competitive Intelligence
• Operation Reviews

This is only possible through the syndication of the entire lodging space.

Integration: Integrating solicited and unsolicited data is another key area of focus. For years, companies have been collecting and using structured data about their customers to make their marketing campaigns and offers more targeted, relevant, personalized, and meaningful. There is also a wealth of traditional satisfaction metrics, quality assurance audits, and employee surveys available for each hotel. Combining unstructured social media feedback with customer data, historical performance data (occupancy, room rate and RevPAR) and more traditional customer feedback reveals insights to help hoteliers enhance performance. We are integrating these data sources to supply hoteliers with a comprehensive picture of hotel performance and a holistic view of customer intelligence. Understanding the interplay between consumer-generated content, traditional customer satisfaction, and future bookings and RevPAR across each chain scale segment is anticipated to bring a new level of sophistication to the industry.

Creation of New Customer Loyalty Metrics:

It is widely believed that customers may be more segment loyal than they are brand loyal. Customer intelligence gleaned from online feedback provides great insight into the primary drivers of a number of key customer loyalty metrics --- such as intent to return and recommend. According to Bain & Company, people who engage with brands via social channels have a deeper emotional commitment to those brands, spend between 20% and 40% more than other customers on the products and services offered by the brands, and have higher Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Across 12 companies studied, NPS among
engaged customers was 33 points higher on average than the NPS for unengaged customers.

Intuitively, it is not surprising to see loyalty programs having little impact on the luxury segment. Looking broadly across CGM, this theory holds. Soon, newBrandAnalytics will be releasing a white paper comparing and contrasting drivers of intent to return and recommend by chain scale. Social media voice is at its infancy, and we are watching closely how feedback and customer loyalty are evolving by channel.

Given the current focus on using online customer feedback to inform marketing strategies centered on engagement and reputation management, hoteliers are only scraping the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the real value social media can deliver. By analyzing unstructured customer commentary, both solicited (internal) and unsolicited (social media), hotel operators will be able to use this wealth of customer intelligence to evolve from a reactive to a proactive
mode. This shift enables them to develop VOC-driven strategies to propel their operations forward, optimize the customer experience, and garner the ratings, reviews and exposure that drive bookings ….. and the bottom line.