The TV drama “Halt and Catch Fire” is set in the early 1980s, a time when personal computing was just taking off. It tells the story of innovation through the eyes of a visionary and engineers.
In the season two, business owner Cameron Howe needs to be persuaded that online chat “communities” are just as important as — if not more important than — the online games she has created. The significance is explained:
“People can be more authentic online than they can be in real life, and that is addictive.”
This line from the show is spot-on, and we here at ReviewTrackers like to think of it in terms of how it relates to hospitality brands and organizations (hotels, restaurants, travel companies).
There’s something to be said specifically about the ways people seem to be more authentic online — honest and candid as they share their guest experiences, opinions, and customer feedback on the Internet.
Deliver and Maintain a Positive Guest Experience
Perhaps more than in other industries or verticals, brands in hospitality must deliver a great guest experience. You want to make sure that your guests are always more than satisfied with their interactions and experiences with your brand.
One of the most critical components of any guest experience strategy is the ability to listen to your customers. And, as “Halt and Catch Fire” implies, you must be able to listen to your customers at points in which they are most honest: on the Internet, on social media and online review sites, where they are likely to say what they mean — and mean what they say.
In a TED Talk, Cornell University associate professor of cognitive science and communication Jeff Hancock suggested that the Internet keeps people honest.
Findings from his own research showed that people lied more in face-to-face situations than they did through email.
Managing Customer Expectations
The expectations of your guests and customers will always vary. This is why it’s so important to listen to customer feedback and understand what your guests are looking for. It is only when you have identified their expectations that you can meet these expectations, and it is only when you listen to feedback that you can truly improve your business.
What are your customers saying? Through text analytics or sentiment analysis, you can look for hints and details that you can find in online reviews in order to gauge sentiment and understand what your guests really mean.
Do you see patterns in the feedback left in the reviews? This is a question you should always be asking yourself.
“The best way to maintain top quality customer service is to listen to your customers,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. “And I mean really listen to them. What are they saying while they’re dining? People typically discuss their eating experience while dining if they’re at a new place and decide whether it’s worth coming back again before the end of the meal.”
Sweeney says that negative reviews and critical comments are extremely helpful in developing a firm’s ability to listen to customers.
“What are they saying on Yelp?” she said. “Don’t just chalk up any negative comments as (being from) ‘a couple of crazy, picky customers.’ Listen to their thoughts and complaints and adjust. Everything you need to know about customer service is already right in your restaurant.”
Beyond listening, your organization should also have the ability to effectively engage with guests and customers whenever they share their feedback. Respond to those online reviews. Answer customer questions posted on social media. Ask what you can do better next time. Your guests and customers want to be recognized and feel they are heard. By engaging, you also allow other potential customers to see how your organization handles and manages expectations.
So commit to driving your engagement levels. That way, you can support your listening efforts in ways that boost your guest experience strategy.
Addressing Emotional Needs
Imagine you are waiting on a guest who is allergic to garlic. He orders the chicken and asks for no garlic. When you bring him his chicken with a side of mashed potatoes, he can taste the garlic, and is extremely upset.
You should let the customer express his emotions and acknowledge that he is upset.
“A customer perspective of EEC (employee emotional competence) is useful, as customer perceptions of employee performance are crucial predictors of satisfaction and loyalty,” according to a study published in the Journal of Service Research.
Maybe the situation could have been prevented. In any event, it’s important that when a customer experiences intense emotions, your organization is able to provide emotional support.
By focusing more time, energy, and resources on meeting your guests and customers’ emotional needs, you can more effectively foster loyalty and maintain a positive customer experience.