A little over a month ago, I traveled to Florida for a family wedding. After landing at the airport late Friday night, my family and I headed straight to our Marriott hotel, exhausted. Unfortunately, we were woken up by a fire alarm – frightening all of us. Luckily we were able to return to our rooms later in the night.
But then the next night, the alarm went off again. This time, I wasn’t frightened. I was furious.
As someone deeply embedded in the social scene, I took out my frustration out the only way that seemed reasonable, on Twitter. In a fit of anger and sleep deprivation, I furiously tweeted to the hotel we were staying at, the Marriot. My brother, having experienced the same disturbance, retweeted me.
The next day at the wedding I was surprised to receive a tweet from Marriott International apologizing for my inconvenience and assuring me that my comfort was a priority for them.
They asked me to DM them my contact information, and upon receiving it, promptly followed through. Not only did they make amends for the horrible late-night experience we endured, they were prompt, cordial and accommodating in their response.
After my experience with Marriott, I began to investigate how other major hotel brands respond to customer complaints via social media. The investigation begged the ultimate question: What sort of social responsibility does a brand have towards their guests?
Focusing primarily on Twitter and Facebook, I was able to discern that the Marriott’s reply to me was part of their standard procedure addressing customer complaints. The major hotel brand, which boasts 125,000 Likes on Facebook and 196,820 followers on Twitter, takes a proactive approach to almost all customer complaints.
Hilton’s Twitter feed is entirely comprised of promotional tweets. Not only do they rarely retweet their followers, when they do, it’s only because a follower has complimented the hotel brand.
However, Hilton does keep their wall open on Facebook, and uses the social site to reply and engage with their fans. Not only does Hilton respond to fans who are complimenting the brand, they also direct fans with complaints to email their support address, taking the conversation off their social sites.
Sheraton follows Marriott’s business model and spreads their social strategy pertaining to customer service across both Twitter and Facebook. Not only does Sheraton respond to almost all customer complaints or inquiries, they take their service one step further and cross-reference any fan complaint to personalize their response based on the fans experience.
While this strategy seems to be relatively effective for these brands, the high volume of customer inquires dominate their social sites, not giving them any room to engage with users around other types of content.
As of now, when a fan visits Hilton, Sheraton, or Marriott’s channel (with the exception of Hilton’s Twitter feed), they are greeted with a barrage of very personal customer complaints. Despite the brands being proactive in their response, to many fans, this exposure could potentially discourage them from giving their business to that particular hotel.
The simplest way for these large hotel brands to continue to address fan complaints without jeopardizing engagement on their social sites, would be to create a customer service feed on Twitter and an app on Facebook that’s sole purpose is to respond to any customer concerns. Not only will this aid the brand in identifying and responding to a fan complaint, but additionally, it will remove any distraction from prospective fans.
These major hotel brands experience thousands of customer interactions on a daily basis. Therefore, they have an obligation to respond to their fan’s concerns, should these fans choose to engage on their social sites. I know from personal experience, Marriott’s quick and earnest response to my complaint removed any bitterness I originally felt towards the brand, given my less than stellar experience.
However, while these hotel brands have found an effective procedure for responding to social inquiries, they still have not identified and implemented a strategy that acknowledges their social responsibility while still fully maintaining their brand’s integrity within the social sphere. Until they create a filter on their social sites for fan complaints, their social engagement will continue to suffer as a result.
What has your social engagement been like with hotel brands? Tell us in a comment.