Personal touch and greetings has always been an integral part for brands in the service industry. Having a fantastic research team will only aid this and allow brands to communicate in a more personalised manner to their customers be it online or offline.
Lesley Tan, director of communications at Shangri-La Hotel Singapore who spoke at Marketing’s recent Research Asia conference said the hotel taps on its research team when it comes to gauging where it stands in the industry as a whole. This is of course, along with understanding what the customers want.
On the research front, Tan said the luxury five stars hotel takes into account data collected from multiple sources such as online reviews, social listening tools and of course the feedback of its return guests. It uses TrustYou Analytics which helps to quickly analyse, respond and improve upon guest feedback in one dashboard. With majority of today’s consumers move into the digital world to voice out what they really want in terms of products and services, it’s not new that online reviews become an important element for marketers to reach out and provide that personal touch, albeit digitally, Tan explains.
Today with savvy customers on the rise, online reviews are already a part of marketing for most businesses.
For Shangri-La Hotel, this is no different. Currently, travel website Tripadvisor is its biggest source when it comes to breaking down consumer insights, said Tan. Speaking from her personal experience, Tan added it’s critical to respond to any review, be it positive or negative. The hotel sees a jump on customer booking when it responds to online reviews within 48 hours. She said:
It increases your booking, as long as you reply to review between 24 to 48 hours.
But when it comes to dealing with bad reviews on Tripadvisor, Tan said it’s important for marketers to be objective and inform the unit under ‘investigation’ to not taking things personally.
“We try to take it offline. It’s a matter of crafting the response well. Most guests will take it offline, using the given email address, usually addressing to general manager,” Tan said. In some cases, Tan said its hotel would invite guests to come back with its compliments depending on the reviews as part of its reputation management strategy. That said, internally, Tan said marketers will also need to communicate with the operations team - which in Tan’s case is likely be the hotel GM- how research can be beneficial for all parties involved.
“Show the GM not just numbers, but also explain it on how we can close the gap in terms of understanding the analysis. It’s our responsibility as marketers to break down data for GM to understand and explain the need to respond to negative reviews,” she added.
However, as much as it’s important to bank in on research and data, it does have its limitations. Sometimes, guests don't fit the usual profiles and as such, no research should be depended on 100%.
“We had a guest who wouldn’t necessarily fit our guest profile if I just relied on research 100%. He was 21 years old, a Millennial, a medical student who stayed for three nights with both his paternal and maternal grandmothers. While you have hotels that cater to Millennial, ours is a very traditional hotel. But why did this young guy love our brand? This is because of his past experience and as such he expects the same kind of service, smiles and welcome in Singapore,” she said.
At the end of the day, while research and data forms an essential part of marketing, brands should not forget that it is also about the people and the basics that matter to customers when interacting with the service industry.