Managing interactions with current and future customers in order to maintain satisfaction and loyalty is key to growing any business. In today’s world of social media, blogs, online reviews and more, a new category of customer relationship management (CRM) technology, known as Social CRM, is allowing companies to interact with customers online, react quickly to feedback, and manage online reputations.
“Social behavior is changing so fast, we need tools to keep up with that behavior,” says Are Morch, a consultant working with independent hotels, who uses Nimble (www.nimble.com) as his own social CRM tool.
As more technology becomes available in the social CRM space, there are still some operational best practices that operators should heed.
1) Develop a Strategy
“Operators need to know exactly what their story is from a brand perspective and what the goal is for them,” says Michael Brito, group director at WCG (www.wcgworld.com), a W2O Group company, and expert in transforming brands into media companies by implementing social business initiatives.
The goal could be to drive sales or raise brand awareness, but knowing this objective can dictate the needs of a technology system, and also help create processes and workflow.
“Our strategy is focusing on engagement and building our communities,” explains Katherine Gear, e-commerce marketing manager for six Hyatt Regency (www.hyatt.com) hotels in Chicago. They are using SproutSocial (www.sprout
social.com) for social media and Revinate (www.revinate.com) for online reputation management. “Our social media is not a one-way street where we just shoot out messages. It’s about customer service and responding quickly.”
2) Choose a Vendor to FitYour Needs
Rather than picking a technology vendor and then adapting a company’s needs to the system, experts recommend developing a strategy and requirements first, and then finding a vendor to meet those needs. At Chop’t (www.choptsalad.com), a restaurant chain based in New York, the company was monitoring social media posts, as well as Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews, but knew it wanted a system to aggregate it in one place and allow for analyzing and reporting. Two years ago, it implemented newBrandAnalytics (www.newbrandanalytics.com).
“The system pulls from Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, as well as review sites and blogs,” says Lysa Chen, director of marketing at the chain. “We can pull reports daily, and also look at things monthly and quarterly.”
3) Select a Point-Person or Team
For some companies, one or two employees manage social CRM centrally, while others filter the responsibility to general managers at each location. The key is to have someone designated to the task.
“We don’t follow a cookie cutter approach because we are a boutique hotel operator and each hotel has an independent attitude,” says Dev Dugal, vice president of sales and marketing at Broughton Hotels (www.broughtonhotels.com) based in Newport Beach, Calif., explaining the consumer base differs in the U.S. and internationally. “We like the hotels to be involved so our general managers will designate a team member to lead social CRM.”
However, at Chop’t, social CRM is entirely corporate monitored, with Chen and another employee monitoring feedback and running reports. When they are responding to feedback about a particular location, they will also send the information to the store manager to reach out to guests as well.
4) ID & Engage VIPs
Influencers are those with large followings or high Klout Scores; measured by www.klout.com, this is an accumulated score between 1 and 100 that calculates an individual’s influence across all social networks. Brand advocates are those customers who talk about the company often or comment the most on Facebook posts. Operators need to recognize and involve both influencers and advocates, says Brito.
“Brands need to identify advocates who are already engaging in conversations and already love the brand. They offer more business value than influencers,” he notes. “Incentivize them and invite them to an exclusive community, and then provide them with content and ideas for feedback.”
To pinpoint advocates, some CRM platforms will give a descending order of who the top commenters are on a brand’s Facebook page, or the top people who share posts and favorite content on Twitter. For influencers — celebrities or those with a large following — Brito recommends finding 15 and sending out gift certificates to influence them and engage them with your brand.
“We pay attention to the conversations and will acknowledge people by sending out an amenity like a room upgrade,” says Hyatt’s Gear. “It helps with brand loyalty and also helps people know we are listening to them.”
5) Watch & Respond Quickly
Social CRM systems allow brands to react to questions, comments or feedback on social media, blogs or review sites, but the key is to monitor these comments and react swiftly.
“We have keywords set up for our hotel names, spas and restaurants so we can catch as many conversations as possible and jump in when we need to,” explains Gear.
At Broughten Hotels, the company tracks key points in the customer lifecycle from planning and searching for a hotel to the review process after the stay. “We monitor in real time so we can react quickly,” says Dugal. “For example, if we are doing renovations on our pool, and we see mentions about it affecting customers negatively, we can adjust the renovation hours so it doesn’t interfere with guests.”
Also, Chop’t sends out daily e-mail reports to team members with feedback summarized in green or red to see how people are reacting to the brand, and also the overall scores to see how sentiments are changing over time, says Chen.
6) Monitor Online Rep
Part of social CRM is monitoring a brand’s reputation online, including blog posts and review sites. At Hyatt, Gear uses Revinate’s system to pull from Trip Advisor, Yelp, all the company’s online profiles and more than 40 review sites. “We can see what people are saying positively or negatively and can respond quickly,” she says.
Dugal uses the newBrandAnalytics system to aggregate social media comments, blog posts, review sites and even internal guest surveys. “We monitor all channels in real time to take quick action,” he notes. “It allows us to deflect a bad review before it gets out into the public. We can turn the guest experience around very quickly, and when you do that, guest loyalty increases dramatically.”
7) Use Tools to Link Social and CRM
Many vendors offer social tools as part of a traditional CRM system, while others allow for integration of two separate systems.
Tying them together offers even more insight, according to Brito. It can allow a company to see a customer’s last purchase connected with their online profile.
“Some platforms also have APIs built in so they can talk to the traditional CRM so it doesn’t require development and integration,” he notes. “When I check in on Foursquare to my local Westin, it should trigger the CRM system to let them know I’m there and they can have my room ready. I think we are about 12 to 18 months away from that.”
8) Analyze the Data forTrends & Feedback
“You want to analyze in real time because social media is real time, but also have the ability to analyze short-term and long-term patterns,” says Morch. “Measuring doesn’t help if you don’t analyze and react to it to support customers.”
At Chop’t, they run reports daily, quarterly and monthly to compare how sentiments changed over time, and also run reports whenever they have a big promotion or make a change to see what the feedback is from customers.
“Every 60 days we launch a new set of seasonal specials, and now we have the feedback collected all in one place,” Chen notes. “We went in and checked how many times each special was mentioned by customers, and how many wanted them to come back.”