Are You Listening?

August 11, 2010

By Lulu Raghavan

American writer Ambrose Bierce once memorably described a bore as someone who talks when in fact you’d much rather he listened. Going by that definition, hotel brands in the digital age are very much in danger of becoming boring.

In the rush to embrace social media, many hotel brands have set up Facebook pages, activated Twitter accounts, and uploaded their corporate videos onto YouTube. They’re monitoring their Facebook fans, their Twitter followers, and the number of YouTube hits they get.

This is all good, but what their approach is missing entirely is the enormous opportunity to listen. With numerous digital tools at their disposal, hotels can—more than was ever possible before—intently listen to their guests and learn from what they’re saying about their hotel and travel experiences. But, is anyone actually listening?

Has listening become overrated?

In my opinion, not at all. I would argue that listening has in fact become more critical than ever in the hospitality industry given the sheer volume of guest-generated reviews across multiple social platforms such as TripAdvisor. If you don’t listen, you’ll miss out on understanding just why your hotel is so loved or so hated.

But with so much information online every day, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the deluge of available data.

To make the most of the opportunities provided by social media, hoteliers need to adopt a structured listening approach. Fortunately, there are a number of tools to help them. Smaller hotels will require just a few devices such as Google Alerts and RSS feeds or even the hot new Postling, a tool that enables you to manage all of your social media from a single interface. Larger hotels, however, may need to invest in fully fledged software platforms such as Revinate, a social media tool built specifically for the needs of the hospitality industry.

The company behind Revinate describes its service as one that “aims to bring structure, performance tracking and actionable guidance” to that never-ending stream of social media. It crawls the web and “collects every review, news story, blog post, photo, video and social media mention of its client hotels and presents them in a single intuitive dashboard that’s accessible online.” Revinate can also do the same for competitors’ reviews and social media activity.

How can listening help you build your brand? 

The main purpose of listening (no matter which tool you use) is to gain insights about guests and their evolving preferences. These can range from specific grievances to the range of issues that keep popping up in review after review.

Hoteliers can access valuable and instantly available information about those aspects of guests’ experiences that are working well and those that are not. More interestingly, information about your competitors is also easily accessible. This can prove to be either useful or frustrating, but is always eye-opening. The important thing is to at least be aware and then make the effort to actually listen to what your guests are saying.

Used correctly, listening tools can enable you to meaningfully enhance the guest experience, encourage guest trial, and cement guest loyalty.

This blog was originally published by Hotel Management Asia magazine (August 2010).

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