The number of review websites has exploded in the last decade, and there are no signs of it slowing down. With more ways to purchase goods and services than ever before, differentiating a brand is crucial. For travel and hospitality brands this is even more essential, especially when 81% of them (according to Deloitte) are more likely to lose customers by means of abandoned shopping baskets in comparison to 68% of other retail brands. This is as much about stiff competition on prices as it is about brand loyalty.
So how can travel and hospitality brands stand out in a bustling industry while closing those sales?
The Art Of Clear Conversation
A customer’s online review, it is often fueled by their emotional attachment to a brand and their experience, be it positive or negative. Lithium’s own research shows that seven in ten UK adults would not buy something without positive online reviews, highlighting the commercial value of positive comments and feedback from users.
Speed Is Of The Essence
In a constantly connected world that expects instant access, our research found three-quarters of UK adults expect queries to be resolved on the same day, and 47 per cent expect a response within an hour. Immediate and real-time customer service is something customers have come to expect and is a major challenge for businesses in the travel and hospitality sector.
Response times have always been important but the advent of social means the world is now watching. Customers who aren’t getting the information or support that they need quickly, and via their preferred social channel, may be inclined to voice their displeasure online as well as switching provider.
Providing A Sense Of Community
With so much of travel being in the experience, it naturally follows that businesses in this space need to ensure that customers have a positive experience of their brand. One proven solution for marketers to do this is to connect them with like-minded people via an online community.
Alongside review websites, communities are another online platform that consumers look to for information about a product or service. An online community, just like a local community, provides a way for people to share experiences, interact with each other and create bonds. It’s a place where people can collaborate in an honest and open environment.
For businesses, an online community can make or break customer loyalty. It provides brands with a platform for customer engagement and can create a host of brand advocates, as well as boosting traffic to the company website and increasing SEO rankings. With Google searches ranking highly as one of the main sources of information for all age groups, online community posts will help with keywords and ultimately, drive sales.
A community helps customers achieve higher satisfaction by enabling them to self-serve first, fueling the human desire to bond with like-minded individuals before seeking help from customer service agents.
With the evolution of technology comes the evolution of customer service. Managing social channels, let alone responding, can be a job in itself for many marketers. There are SaaS platforms that can manage workflows, help with scheduling and allocate incoming requests – empowering customer service teams to manage high volumes of social customer service enquiries without sacrificing quality.
These technology platforms can be pivotal for businesses looking to improve service and delight customers. The right software can make this easy, recommending content which will most resonate with a brand’s social following, tracking positive and negative sentiment so teams can prioritise requests, and arming them with valuable customer history. For the travel and hospitality industry, using technology to identify key influencers as well as assessing content on social for popularity can help businesses shape marketing messages to the needs of the customer.
In the online review age, travel and hospitality brands must work harder to stand out and cut through the noise. Engaging with prospective customers on social media and via online communities can differentiate the good from the bad and then the great travel and hospitality companies from the good. Giving them the ability to interact with each other and with the brand, without feeling they are going to get sold to, will foster meaningful brand-consumer relationships and build a brand’s reputation around having great service.