In recent years, consumers have become increasingly comfortable with expressing praise and concern via social media. Thus, as external behaviors evolve, so must internal service strategies. Within the hospitality industry, Best Western and its properties have seen an uptick in occupancy rates that can be directly correlated to their social engagement efforts."We are a membership organization, so empowering individual properties to engage with social reviews has always been a good fit for us," says Michael Morton, vice president of member services for Best Western. "We also believe it helps properties build trust and loyalty with their guests. Logically, it makes sense that when you engage your customers with genuine responses and interactions, creating and solidifying relationships, they will choose to return to your brand, which results in increased occupancy and RevPAR."
To quantify the impact of its engagement strategy on revenue growth and customer satisfaction, Best Western partnered with Medallia to examine customer and business data from more than 4,400 of its independently owned properties. The study supports the claim that hotel properties that actively engage with social media reviews grow occupancy at double the rate of properties that don't.
"The study found that properties which responded to over 50 percent of social reviews increase their occupancy rates faster, and increase customer satisfaction more over time, as well," Morton emphasizes. "Among several takeaways, this study tells us that there's value in engaging with guest feedback at the frontline, where team members have direct insight into guest issues and are well positioned to use that feedback to deliver better experiences in the future."
Overall, those properties that increased their social responsiveness by more than 50 percent saw double the occupancy rate growth of those that neglected to boost their responsiveness:
- 50+ percent increase: 6.8 percentage point growth
- 30-50 percent increase: 3.7 percentage point growth
- 10-30 percent increase: 2.2 percentage point growth
- 1-10 percent increase: 3.2 percentage point growth
Properties that responded to more than 50 percent of social reviews also saw their Net Promoter Scores (NPS) increase, while all other properties saw their scores decrease:
- 50+ percent response rate: 1.4-point increase
- 30-50 percent response rate: 0.3-point decrease
- 10-30 percent response rate: 1.5-point decrease
- 1-10 percent response rate: 1.7-point decrease
Speed also impacts occupancy rates, as properties that responded in less than one day saw an average occupancy rate of 12.8 percent higher than properties taking longer than two days:
- Responded within one day: 52.3 percent average occupancy rate
- Responded in 1-2 days: 49.3 percent occupancy rate
- Responded in more than two days: 39.5 percent occupancy rate
Morton notes that being in touch with your guests is an essential component of delivering on one's brand promise and, consequently, growing your business. Hotels need to engage with their guests in a place where they're sharing their experiences, which happens to be social media. To do so effectively, Morton recommends that others in the hospitality industry keep these objectives in mind:
- Developing accurate and timely analysis to draw out important insight the entire organization can then use to improve customer strategy at every stage of the guest's journey.
- Ensuring the delivery of feedback to frontline staff in real time.
- Empowering frontline staff to take immediate action when addressing guest issues, providing them with the proper training, and trusting them to make the right decisions.
Ultimately, this study indicates that, while most companies currently use social media to raise awareness of their brand, social engagement also has the power to drive organizational learning and increase staff accountability. Deep down, consumers simply want to be heard, which is why so many now take to public platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to express their discontent. Companies must open their ears--or eyes, as the case may be--if they are to continuously improve experience and boost satisfaction.