Our guests knew what to expect, either through blind Brand faith for like a Holiday Inn, or ratings by companies with full time QA inspectors, like AAA and Mobil, or belief in the integrity of dining experts with Zagat. That was it, a pretty simple landscape and times. We in the Hospitality Industry were most afraid of newspaper or television coverage when something awful or titillating happened at our properties. Fortunately, marketplace memories were short.
The Twenty First century ushered in a whole new means to quickly share an opinion – consumer generated reviews. Everyone has an opinion and a host of means to rant, rail and gesticulate thanks to the Internet. Marketplace memories are now archived. We still have not learned to tame that tiger. The playing field is not level with Social Media fanning the fires. It is just not about a bad meal or sloppy guest room; it could be a simple statement of defiance, like in Tunisia. Remember the Arab Spring. We can bypass Customer Service desks, too. Start that commentary when your dishwasher malfunctions or you are having trouble with your Cable Service. Very likely, someone from Corporate will be on the line shortly – instant complaint fulfillment.
So, we in Hospitality and throughout Retail try to manage the Consumer feedback, ever mindful of our reputation. Those who are adept and savvy can manage their market; those who are not, get slammed. Then, to further roil those waters, we learn that a number of reviews are fraudulent. As the Boston Globe pointed out in an article, “Rave Reviews, Real or Not”, on September 25, 2013, “…up to one third of online reviews are phony…” So, now we must sift the actual from the fake, and, as the article further stated, there is real revenue involved here. “… the stakes are high: restaurants that elevate their Yelp ranking by one star see revenues rise by 5 to 9 percent”. This would be certainly worthy of our attention. However, as Chris Emmins, co-founder of Kwik-Chex, noted, “With just a modicum of knowledge and easily available apps,” he said, “the system can be circumvented quite easily”. Oh boy!
We must continue to be ever vigilant and honest about what we hear and see written about our business. We must manage our feedback mechanisms and utilize systems which help us do that. Your Brand simply cannot be compromised.
As Social Media becomes more sophisticated, I wonder what will be the next consumer iteration of expressing an opinion. I would bet it has to do with pictures. Nothing better than a shot of a moldy bathroom tile, or gum under the table, or a hair follicle in the tub or a yawning waitress. Keep this in mind: a picture is worth a thousand words. Hmm!
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.
Today, we are a growing company operating in more than 120 countries throughout the world, servicing our clients from offices and resources in the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions and helping clients such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the National Football League, Avis Budget Group, Madison Square Garden, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group deliver exceptional customer experiences. Every touch. Every time. For more information, visit www.LRAworldwide.com.
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