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Bridging the Gap Between Technology and the Human Touch in Hotels: ehotelierís Week in Review
By Anne Edwards, Editor in Chief, ehotelier
There are some articles on ehotelier which show us the potential directions we might move in, and there are others which outline clearly and decisively what we must be doing right now in order to succeed in the industry. Patrick McCarthy’s article SEO for Hotels: What Hoteliers Really Need to Know is one such article, and happily he tells us exactly how to go about getting the basics of Search Engine Optimization in place for hotels.
How to Make Your Hotel More Relevant than Competing Hotels
As well as a clear, step by step guide to getting the search engines to know who your hotel is and what is does, Patrick raises some interesting and important questions around the why – why is your hotel more relevant than competing hotels? His suggestions for convincing search engines that a hotel’s website should be ranked at the top of the searches were, at first, surprising to me and then following the surprise came that satisfying feeling of ‘yes, this all makes sense.’ The two key tactics that Patrick encourages are Optimized Local Listings and Unique Relevant Links.
Let’s explore these two tactics. Even if a hotel is part of a national or international brand, it has a location that is unique to that hotel. By optimizing local listings, you are telling the search engines that the business located at the address of your hotel is the same as the business represented by your website. Why is this important? Because when a search engine detects a location-based search, they will include your hotel as a business located in that area, which might not happen if you just had your website.
To then go a step further, once the search engines know where your hotel is located, what will convince them that your site is authoritative, trustworthy and of high quality content? And this is the bit that really appeals to me – by building links from established local businesses and organizations. “Just as you would want local businesses, colleges, conventions centres, museums to recommend your hotel if someone asked in person where they should stay while visiting; you also want those same businesses to recommend your hotel online; and in the online world, that kind of recommending is done through linking to your site.”
It strikes me that in our internet age where we can make contact with the far reaches of the world, the most powerful evidence that your hotel is valuable lies in the endorsement of the community immediately around you. It doesn’t take technical skills – this is all about relationships between businesses and how well your hotel works with other businesses. This kind of link building is more of an attitude than a tactic. Patrick says that too often, hoteliers think of the online and offline portions of their business as separate entities and suggests that you start thinking of your website in the same way you think about your hotel.
More Brilliant Tech Ideas
Also of tech interest this week was QR Code – A New Marketing Tool for the Hospitality Industry by Serge Chamelian. Quick Response Codes (QR Codes) are a 2D matrix barcode consisting of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. They can be read by scanning any smart mobile device over them which then takes the customer to a web page or social media platform. This article is a must read for ways in which QR codes can be used by hotels from engaging customers with suggestions/recommendations on where to dine during their stay to allowing customers to gain incentives for future visits.
Where Do Technology and People Meet?
Integrating technology and systems with people and behaviour is an article entitled Why Gen Y-ers are Better at Customer Service. Barry Moltz contrasts the differences in giving great service between Gen X, Baby Boomers and Gen Y. He says that in a commoditized world, customer service has become the only sustainable competitive advantage – customer service has become the new marketing. Gen Yers realise that in this social media connected world, consumers are constantly tweeting and commenting about your company and that customer service is the critical factor in building their business because, at any time, reputations can be made or lost. It is the union of technology and the people who understand it that yields the greatest results.
The Human Touch
Moving entirely to the human factor now is Doug Kennedy’s offering - Urgent Memo to Hotel Sales Directors — It's Time to Return to Relationship Selling in which Doug laments the way in which RFP’s are handled. Much of it boils down to the concept of common courtesy lost. “More often than not, those who inquire about dates that are sold out, or those that have needs that cannot be met at this time by the property, fail to receive any response. This leaves the meeting planners hanging and leads to frustration and complaints about the state of the hotel service these days.” Doug gives a list of reminders to re-focus your staff on relationship selling so that you can stand out from all of the other competitors receiving the same flood of electronic RFP’s.
In this review we’ve looked at some valuable technology for hotels and the more human face of that technology. Is there really such a divide between the two? Perhaps the time has really come for hoteliers to consolidate their online presence with their actual property and begin to see the two as one.
About Anne Edwards
Anne Edwards combines her love of language, travel, and different cultures as Editor in Chief of ehotelier.com. Prior to this position, Anne lectured in Cross Cultural Studies at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School in Australia and currently consults to the Australian Federal Government on subjects such as Leadership and Building Productive Partnerships. Anne has travelled and worked internationally for twelve years, holding various positions in the field of education, most notably as linguistic advisor to the Crown Princess of Thailand for two years where she sampled some of the best hotels in the world. Her love for travel spans the freedom of wandering on a shoe-string budget to the finest standards of service in world-class properties. As Editor in Chief of one of the largest hotel news sites in the world, Anne has a birds-eye view of what is happening in the industry internationally.
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