Face-To-Face – Getting To Know Your Customers!

Today I read an interesting article (copied below in it’s entirety) entitled “Managing Through Social Media” by Larry Mogelonsky.  When I saw the article, I thought to myself that it was just going to be another boring tribute to the value of utilizing social media in the business environment.  While it did succeed in validating social media, it also had a couple of really good ideas that I had not thought about, that should increase the “personal” touch in an otherwise clinical, technological medium.

I especially liked the premise that “People connect with other people, and not necessarily with businesses.”  We have touched on this idea on many occasions, both in conversations and former Sales Tips.  Yes, we all know that we need to make personal connections with our customers….. know their likes, dislikes, favorite foods, about their family (to some extent) and what are their “light switch” triggers.  But what about our customers getting to know us?  Obviously the Sales Manager-Customer relationship is key and many of you do a GREAT job of knowing your customers…… but think about the benefits of a customer getting to know the staff whom they will be dealing with once they arrive.

I really think that those hotels who have Facebook or other social media should design a tab to introduce each manager (with a picture) or even build a custom fan page for each department and link them all to the main page”.  What a great idea!  Think about the possibilities for guest interaction.  (Now I am not suggesting that everyone have free reign for posting – all posts still need to go through your social media champion to make sure it follows the guidelines you have stated in your Sales & Marketing plans and fits with the social media strategies you have created.)

Food for thought.

Happy connecting!

Linda

Managing Through Social Media

Here us a one-two punch of how social media and face time can heighten loyalty

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA

Here’s a marketing creed that was scribed into textbooks well over 30 years ago, back when I was an MBA student: People connect with other people, and not necessarily with businesses.  For a long time, this wasn’t exactly feasible.  Even in the hospitality world where personality is king, managers meeting customers on a one-to-one basis wasn’t always in the cards.  

Nowadays though, sites like Twitter and LinkedIn are paving the way for a resurgence of quality communication from management directly down to the consumer.  But look closely at this practice: nothing has really changed.  Even with the leaps and bounds of electronic messaging systems, people still crave that personal touch.  

Hence the title.  Whenever, or wherever, you can get your guests to ‘meet the managers,’ you’re not only giving your hotel a real face, but drastically enhancing client retention.  With this in mind, social media presents both a challenge and opportunity to accomplish this task.  

The challenge is that managers have to commit themselves to a role in the public eye, albeit even when reluctant.  People are the new brand; no longer just the hotel logo and top brass.  What managers say on their personal online accounts is now intrinsically linked to their respective properties, whether for good or for bad.  Luckily, many have already found the opportunity within this trend, harnessing these new channels to build stronger personal connections and grow their businesses.

Obvious from the introduction, embracing social media is imperative for this process, but a first step should always involve a trip to HR to see whose job descriptions might curtail social media responsibilities.  From there the answer is in the specifics, so let’s go through a few choice techniques I’ve seen work in recent years.  

When it comes to LinkedIn, every manager should have an account and join your company group.  Although the site is chiefly for professional networking, it will open your staff to a worldwide forum for business ideas, emerging trends and potential partnerships.

Twitter offers a host of options for building these bridges.  For your generic company account, only one or two people should be tasked with posting material, giving them space to add some zest and initialize direct messages.  Next, talk to your managers about their own profiles and how they would use the site to converse with guests.  The idea here is to form person-to-person connections; something much harder to accomplish when a guest converses with a faceless corporate account.

The prospects are good for Facebook, too.  You can easily design a tab to introduce each manager (with a picture) or even build a custom fan page for each department and link them all to the main page.  Managers should also be active participants on the wall, commenting on what fans are saying as well as providing original insights.

Blogging is the fourth big one here.  Most blog content management systems allow you to designate regular columns authored by specific staff members.  You’d be surprised how far the phrase ‘By XX Manager’ goes when at the end of an entry.  Or, you could even run a ‘Manager of the Month’ editorial to highlight your team’s characters and fun stories.

The online possibilities are aplenty; even including video which I did not previously discuss.  But to me, however, they are just a launch pad.  You still have to find ways to squeeze in some face-to-face time for maximal efficacy.  

To start, personalized greeting letters should be in every room; the power of a handwritten note working its charm.  Seeing managers in the lobby welcoming guests is another powerful statement, especially when it comes to a VIP arrival or a group coordinator.  A sharp uniform can exacerbate their presence, too.  Beyond that, you have to get creative.  

Look to what your hotel offers and to where staff might interact with customers.  If you run a golf resort, how about a tournament where guests are paired with managers?  Perhaps a manager could greet and eat with patrons at the lobby bar.  How about a follow-up phone call after a guest has left?  Not only are these personal, but they’re great avenues for constructive feedback.  

One of my clients, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, does this quite eloquently.  They host a Managers’ Reception happy hour every Thursday where guests can partake in an informal wine tasting while they mingle with the staff.  It’s unintimidating, casual fun, and there’s incentive beyond simple introductions to get people through the door.  Plus, it’s a chance for the managers to unwind, boosting team morale in the process.  And don’t worry, I’ve been assured by their Managing Director that drinking and driving is still taken very seriously.

So, what I suggest is you sit down with your fellow managers and discuss your strategy for heightening interactions with guests; both online and face-to-face in a winning combination.  Have a plan and stick to it.  Sure, it’s a lot of effort, but the rewards are definitely worth it.

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