Geoffrey Ryskamp

Global Head of the Hospitality Practice

Regardless of the industry, we should have the same reaction when a customer publicizes a problem – respond to their concern, diffuse the situation as quickly as possible, and try to address the root cause, especially when that complaint is shared on social media where it can reach hundreds of thousands of users in seconds. To ensure your customers feel understood and cared for, it is important to go beyond simply responding to negative feedback.

Medallia recently partnered with Best Western to study data across nearly 4,000 properties to understand the impact of social media engagement on the business. We looked at reviews on TripAdvisor and customer feedback data collected directly by its hotels. We found that hotel properties that didn’t respond to reviews on TripAdvisor saw their Net Promoter Score (NPS) decline, losing ground to their competitors. Hotels that responded to more than half of the reviews not only saw an increase in their NPS, but also outperformed local competitors by 4.9 points in TripAdvisor ratings and saw a 6% increase in occupancy.

So, how do you begin to make this happen? Below are four tactics for engaging with your customers successfully on social media.

1. Drive action to the local level

In social media exchanges, consumers most often engage on the local level. They share photos of the properties where they stay and the attractions they visit, or the store locations and products purchased, or services received at the local branch, and then describe the interactions they have with frontline employees. By giving local managers the license to be full participants in the digital dialogue, they are able to respond immediately to issues raised on review sites or through other social media exchanges. These authentic interactions serve to publicly demonstrate engagement, and make your customers feel like their voice matters.

2. Create clear response guidelines

It’s critical to create guidelines that all employees can easily refer to when responding to social media reviews. Generic responses from corporate often feel scripted or too choreographed. Highlight to staff the importance of focusing on the issue at hand and explain how they can best convey genuine concern and compassion to the customer. Ultimately, the goal is to establish parameters that will help local managers and frontline staff engage with confidence and authority in their own words.

3. Identify opportunities and weaknesses

A strong social media program will use the findings it acquires while calming immediate concerns to prevent a similar problem from arising in the future. Yet, insights gained from positive social media mentions are just as important to improving your business. According to the Pew Research Center, seven in ten Americans now use social media, and 74% say they believe it’s important to read online reviews before buying something for the first time. Additionally, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. When a customer enthuses about a certain aspect of their experience, it’s very useful to explore ways to make those aspects a standard part of every customer’s experience.

4. Focus on the feedback that matters

Not every post on every social media platform requires a response. Set clear criteria so that your employees know which responses don’t require immediate attention and which do, such as a tweet that is being retweeted or a post that is receiving lots of likes on Facebook. Best Western hotels are required to respond within two days to TripAdvisor reviews that are at a specific score threshold. While not all social media interactions warrant a response, it is still important to record all feedback and mentions for internal use.
While our study focused on hotel properties, the overall learnings apply to all industries as social reviews become more pervasive across all sectors. When it comes to social media, companies need to be proactive, rather than just reactive, in how they connect with customers. Read more in The Power of Listening: Strategies for Engaging Every Customer.