With the increase in social media, review websites such as TripAdvisor, blog channels, online applications and the modern-day ability to share ones immediate thoughts publicly; the world's hospitality, tourism and service industry in general faces increased discussion online whether that be outstanding, average or negative publicity at a much higher rate than ever before.
Ever since the evolution to Web 2.0 in 1999 people have gained the ability to share online instantly via social media, review and blog channels.
With the age of technology, people have evolved quickly and want to share feedback whether outstanding, average or negative instantly via a range of platforms. In the past consumers either enjoyed an experienced or didn't and shared this via word-of-mouth. The old story that if they shared with ten people, those ten would then share and so forth to end receivers who would receive the feedback. Much like Chinese whispers this may have changed as the experience was shared. These days with social media and review websites an experience shared instantly can be seen by one, through to many tens of thousands, if not more when tweeted or blogged to a large following.
Thinking back just over a decade, prior to social media channels, if an experience failed to meet expectations the opportunity to rectify was generally given, allowing an opportunity to regain trust of the consumer in the service offering. Having said this, in the age of social media, more and more the opportunity is simply not presented to rectify a deficiency which is a shame as this impacts on the consumer who accepts the deficiency and shares it online.
Here's where I ask some questions: Why are we in an age that people feel they cannot ask for help or rectification of a service or facility? Are they: shy, nervous, feel they are an expert and nothing will meet their expectations, can't be bothered raising the deficiency or simply don't want to cause a hassle?
Have consumers forgotten that they can report a deficiency or non-met expectation so that it can remedied before sharing the non remedied matter?
Unfortunately at the end of the day, how we report a matter of dissatisfaction is down to personal preference and may be as simple as concluding that some are more forgiving than others and seek to remedy and resolve the dissatisfaction sooner than later, rather than hold onto it so that they can move on and enjoy the experience.
The age of social media has changed the way we operate with greater emphasis on ensuring the experience is met or exceeded sooner than later.
The other week I experienced an issue with a fast-food joint who served the wrong burger on drive through; I called once I reached home and raised the matter with the store manager who agreed to send a voucher in the mail. Three weeks passed and nothing eventuated so I emailed the company head office and a day later posted on their Facebook page. Wallah! instant response and remedy of the situation! This is an example of a rather traditional way to tackle a service deficiency which required social media to attract attention. It would have been so much easier to resolve initially over the phone or even better get it right when it was served however understandably, people do make mistakes.
Social media, review websites and blogs have become a valuable tool of the 21st century however at times, a channel of destruction. Social media in some cases to some people has reached a tipping point whereby consumers threaten a review as an outburst to remedy a situation - should they need to? Absolutely not! Is it fair on the service provider? probably not if they haven't allowed rectification of the matter by raising it.
So what can be done? Read your guests' body language - make the first move to ensure satisfaction rather than dissatisfaction, move with the times - monitor social media actively - setup online alerts to track all channels, invest in social media tracking resources, respond to reviews on websites but be careful not to become emotional. One experience that hasn't met expectations doesn't mean it's all bad, it has simply opened an opportunity to investigate and improve. Take it as a gift, use it as a resource to improve your offering. Most importantly though, try and tackle the above by being the best at what you offer!
Personally, I am a social media fanatic and believe it's a channel we need to learn to live with but most importantly be ahead of the game when delivering your service experience to ensure you're talked about positively. Ensure simple and quick avenues are provided to report or recognise dissatisfaction before it goes to the world...
About the Author
Clinton Farley runs a multi-award winning 5 star hotel in regional New Zealand and has over 15-years industry experience. Most recently named a finalist for the New Zealand Tourism Awards, PATA Young tourism Entrepreneur of the year 2012.