tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:/topics/online-customer-service Latest Online customer service content from Econsultancy 2018-06-14T14:00:00+01:00 tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/70053 2018-06-14T14:00:00+01:00 2018-06-14T14:00:00+01:00 Beyond 'contact us': Six website features hotels can use to increase engagement & bookings Tom Dibble <p>Customer service is supposed to be at the core of hospitality, yet that “extra mile” ethos doesn’t always translate into the digital sphere. The integration of enhanced contact tools on hotel websites has been moderate, and not just among smaller properties with modest budgets. </p> <p>L2’s recent <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4LdZgehI8w&amp;feature=youtu.be">Digital IQ: US Luxury Hotels</a> report revealed that while nearly every global hospitality brand analyzed has a dedicated “contact page” on their website, only about <a href="https://www.l2inc.com/daily-insights/the-key-to-digital-hospitality">one in four</a> allow users to request a call from a customer service agent, and even fewer offer a live chat feature.</p> <p>Adding more sophisticated contact features offers a competitive edge and leads to direct bookings.</p> <p>Here are six website enhancements for contact that converts.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/5344/hotel_bookings.png" alt="hotel" width="615"></p> <h3>Upgraded features</h3> <h4>Web form</h4> <p>Utilitarian to the core, web forms have been around as long as there’s been a web, and many hotels already have simple submission areas on their 'contact us' page.</p> <p>Hotels that don’t currently offer a web form should consider this simple, low-cost addition that can be implemented in just a matter of days.</p> <p>Web forms let users fire off their thoughts with fewer clicks, and without the need to open additional applications. Savvy marketing teams will additionally take the opportunity to invite users to opt-in the property’s email list.</p> <h4>Persistent 'contact us' feature</h4> <p>When a user experiences an <a href="https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/i-want-to-go-micro-moments/">“I want to go” moment</a>, the last thing you want to do is make them wonder how to reach you.</p> <p>Often added with simple plugins, a persistent 'contact us' feature always keeps the opportunity for interaction on screen, regardless of where the user navigates across the hotel website.</p> <h3>Advanced features</h3> <h4>'Call me' prompt</h4> <p>For all the new tech in the hospitality industry, humans are still the heart of quality customer service.</p> <p>Allowing users to request a call from the hotel team not only offers an opportunity to quickly and efficiently answer questions, it also offers an opportunity for conversion.</p> <p>Further, providing an easy method of moving an inquiry from online to the phone line is efficient, and a welcome customer service act that shows an appreciation of how important a user’s time is.</p> <h4>Chatbots </h4> <p>The integration of <a href="https://econsultancy.com/search/?locale=uk&amp;q=chatbot">chatbots</a> is on the rise across many industries, including hospitality. Users engage in an automated, conversational experience via text on a property’s website for a thoroughly modern user experience (UX).</p> <p>Many of today’s chatbot services are smart, adaptive and relatively easy to assimilate into existing sites. Most chatbots are equipped with natural language processing (NLP) and have become pretty good at decoding nuance and intent.</p> <p>Not only does the integration of chatbots show that you’re modern and dedicated to next-level customer service, the tool can be a source of business intelligence. If your chatbot is being bombarded with inquiries about checkout times, for example, it’s likely that information needs to be featured more prominently on the website, or that it might be missing entirely. </p> <p>Particularly for properties with a smaller staff, chatbot integration can really lend a helping hand.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/5343/Chat_Bot_2_1000px.png" alt="chat bot" width="615"> </p> <h3>Elite features</h3> <h4>Live chat</h4> <p>Chatbots are a cool tool, still nothing beats that human touch.</p> <p>Across the internet, the most friction-free purchase experiences offer a 'live chat' option. It’s a UX feature people love, with one recent <a href="https://www.forrester.com/report/Making+Proactive+Chat+Work/-/E-RES57054">study</a> noting 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person during an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.</p> <p>A separate <a href="https://www.zendesk.com/company/press/zendesk-benchmark-live-chat-drives-highest-customer-satisfaction/">report</a> recently noted 'chat' is becoming the customer service interaction of choice, with 92% of customers saying they feel satisfied when they use a website’s live chat feature, exceeding the satisfaction levels of using voice, email, even social media messaging like Facebook and Twitter. </p> <p>The integration of live chat can offer unique challenges when it comes to smaller hospitality groups. Travel is a global game, and servicing users from different time zones writing in different languages needs to be addressed, but the growing benefits – and expectations – of live chat is still worth investigating to see if it’s a fit for your particularly property. </p> <h4>'Triggered' live chat </h4> <p>Even more proactive than simply offering live chat is actually initiating a live chat session automatically.</p> <p>'Triggered' live chat sessions are prompted after a user has been inactive on the website for a predetermined amount of time. </p> <p>It's the digital equivalent to an on-property employee spotting a guest poring over a map and taking the initiative to ask “May I help you find something?” and a customer service feature that's sure to leave guests impressed. </p> <p>There are varying technology solutions for implementing the above contact enhancements. Meet with your trusted digital marketing partner to discuss which features are the best fit for your property, and put a plan in place that goes beyond 'contact us.'</p> <p><a style="color: #2976b2; text-decoration: none;" href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/a-guide-to-customer-experience-management/" target="_self"><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3592/Customer_Experience_Management_Best_Practice_Widget__1_.png" alt="customer experience management best practice guide (subscriber only)" width="615" height="242"></a></p> tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/70009 2018-05-21T15:00:00+01:00 2018-05-21T15:00:00+01:00 How to deal with bad reviews (and why it pays to do so) Marina Cheal <p>The desire to generate more positive responses is natural for a marketer, but receiving negative ones occasionally should not be feared. Ultimately, it’s how a brand reacts to this feedback that really does matter. The Daily Mail is developing something of an obsession for poor taste responses, writing up reports on rude replies such as from the restaurant that <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5650517/Restaurant-bosses-label-customer-epic-tool-TripAdvisor-review.html">referred</a> to a dissatisfied customer as a ‘moron’ and an ‘epic tool’.  </p> <p>The latter is an extreme example, and you’d think most rational business people wouldn’t go down the ‘moron’ route when reaching out to negative reviewers, yet it’s surprisingly common to see otherwise sensible marketers trying to fan the flames of a bad review – intentionally or otherwise.</p> <p>How negative reviews are dealt with can be make-or-break for a brand. This isn’t technically a review, but KFC’s recent ‘Chickengate’ debacle was a case in point. The brand <a href="https://www.marketingweek.com/2018/02/27/colonel-ritson-kfcs-marketers-turned-chicken-crisis-brand-triumph/">took its mea culpa and ran with it</a>, creating a whole above-the-line ad campaign promising to do better next time. Customers and commentators were falling over themselves to forgive the temporary interruption in bargain buckets. The brand’s (emotional) stock rose almost immediately. What customers say and think really does send marketers into overdrive it would seem.</p> <p>While brands don’t need to take out ad campaigns to soothe ruffled feathers every time, some form of response is required – as long as it’s the right response. </p> <p>However you feel, pause and think. As a poorly executed response can really backfire. <a href="https://www.marketingweek.com/2018/04/25/mark-ritson-pret-a-manger-brand-positioning/">See this column by Mark Ritson </a> on how the Pret a Manger CEO responded to criticism with a comment along the lines of ‘see if you can do any better’. This unsurprisingly came back to bite him.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/4580/bad_reviews.png" alt="bad reviews" width="615"></p> <h3>Dealing with the downgrade </h3> <p>The good news is that a few bad or lukewarm reviews can actually be helpful to your brand. Customers find it more authentic when they can see a company has slipped up but rectified it. In fact, customers spend more than <a href="https://blog.reevoo.com/ebook-bad-reviews-good-business/">five times as long</a> on a site when they interact with bad reviews, so it’s worth making that time count. No-one is perfect all the time. But it’s how you handle those reviews that reassures customers both past and present.</p> <h3>Be polite </h3> <p>We all know from email snafus that a well-meant message can come across as curt or even downright rude. Replying to a review means making your intentions clear and that includes tone of voice. There’s no need to be obsequious but use language that makes it obvious you respect their opinion and are grateful to have been made aware.</p> <h3>Be human</h3> <p>From the language you use to the way you offer to resolve their issue, showing the company’s human face is important on several fronts. Corporate speak distances the customer from you emotionally and can antagonise them. Wrapping yourself in jargon makes it look like you’re trying to hoodwink them, or blind them with science. Being human means showing you understand their issue and are working to solve it and that re-establishes trust. </p> <h3>Don’t argue</h3> <p>Very rarely is it going to be worth disputing their version of events. Poor customer experience notwithstanding, the weight of consumer law is also behind them. There’s a reason ‘no quibble guarantees’ look so attractive. </p> <h3>Acknowledge their concerns </h3> <p>Whether you are able to resolve their issue or not (customers might rate poor mobile service provision as one-star but short of building another mast - there is little to be done about it immediately), outline that you have taken on board their whole concern. Not only does it show that you have paid attention to everything they’ve pointed out but other customers reading the review worried about the same issue will have their queries answered.</p> <p>Not every situation can be remedied, nor can every customer be appeased. But the vast majority of issues can be resolved either by actively solving a customer’s problems or simply acknowledging that you ‘must do better’. If you enjoyed this column – but particularly if you didn’t - feel free to comment below…</p> <p><em><strong>Further reading:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://www.econsultancy.com/blog/69822-how-to-encourage-online-reviews-and-reasons-why-you-should">How to encourage online reviews (and reasons why you should)</a></li> </ul> tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69974 2018-04-25T12:34:26+01:00 2018-04-25T12:34:26+01:00 Six mistakes social customer service teams should avoid Nikki Gilliland <p>Research by Sprout Social backs this up, revealing that <a href="https://sproutsocial.com/insights/data/q2-2016/" target="_blank">90% of consumers surveyed have used social media</a> to communicate with a brand in their lifetime (though it should be noted that less than 90% of the US and UK populations use social media).</p> <p>Faster, easier, and far more convenient - social channels can streamline processes and satisfy customers in the process. Or at least, that’s the general idea.</p> <p>Despite the uptake of brands using social media in this way, it’s not always easy to keep on top of, as many brands fall foul of common mistakes as a result. It’s still up for debate whether Wetherspoons’ decision to <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/69957-why-did-jd-wetherspoon-delete-its-social-media-accounts-and-was-it-the-right-marketing-decision/" target="_blank">wipe its social channels</a> was a PR stunt or a cost saver or due to its inability to properly maintain them.</p> <p>Here’s more on that and other big mistakes to avoid.</p> <h3>Don't leave people hanging</h3> <p>An obvious one to kick off, but it’s staggering how many brands don’t respond to all customer queries, as well as fail to wrap up conversations. This can often be due to the same query being asked over and over again, or simply the sheer amount of interactions received overall. </p> <p>With many brands struggling under the weight of enquiries, it’s important that teams have a clear strategy on how to prioritise the most important. Without these internal guidelines or assistive technology, service can become more ad-hoc and random, leading to people who leave general comments being side-lined, and customers with specific complaints left hanging (even after an initial conversation has occurred). </p> <p>Unsurprisingly, this can leave customers highly frustrated, feeling undervalued and even less positive about the brand than they did before. Consequently, it is vital that all reasonable questions get a response, with the aim of resolving issues as quickly as possible.</p> <h3>Don't create too many channels</h3> <p>Another reason customers are often left hanging is because brands make the mistake of using too many platforms for the same purpose. This can lead to confusion in terms of where and how customers should communicate. </p> <p>What’s more, without the right resources in place, brands tend to leave channels unmonitored and even entirely abandoned.</p> <p>The latter is one of the theories why Wetherspoons recently deleted its social media presence. With accounts managed by nearly all 900 of its pubs (as well as its main brand), and fewer than 1,000 likes on many – the costs and efforts involved in maintaining them undoubtedly outweighed the benefits and value for consumers. </p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3864/Wetherspoons.JPG" alt="Wetherspoons social media" width="550"></p> <p>In light of Wetherspoons’ decision, it appears as if other alcohol-related brands including Bacardi and Beefeater gin could be following suit. A recent study from YesMore Agency found that 32% of the alcohol brands surveyed have not posted within the past three months, while 21% have not posted in a year or more. The suggestion is that this is due to brands being overwhelmed with the various places they should be posting content, and therefore giving up on the most underused. </p> <p>Then again - if they’re underused, does it really matter? The answer is still yes, as it means any customers who <em>do</em> choose to use them will be left in the dark.</p> <h3>Don't pass people on (over and over)</h3> <p>Due to brands creating multiple social media channels, customers can often get in contact only to find that they are then passed on elsewhere. </p> <p>In many cases, this is not always because of limitations in an employee’s ability to resolve a matter. Rather, it’s more likely to be due to siloed teams and departments, with the initial contact believing (or being told) that it is not their remit. </p> <p>As a result, customers end up getting passed from pillar to post, and service channels become even more clogged. It also just contributes to a poor customer experience, giving customers more work to do, and taking away the option of using their preferred channels.</p> <p>Another big bugbear is when brands tell you what the next step might be, but wait for you to ask what it is rather than offer the information outright. Take this example from Domino’s Pizza, whose customer service operative was clearly hoping the customer wouldn’t be bothered enough to take it further.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">We're sorry to hear this. If you wish to take this matter further, we can provide you with a link to our care team?</p> — Domino's Pizza UK (@Dominos_UK) <a href="https://twitter.com/Dominos_UK/status/988477078826823681?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 23, 2018</a> </blockquote> <h3>Don't provide a generic response</h3> <p>In a similar vein, brands are often guilty of reverting to generic or systematic responses, especially when it comes to redirecting customers elsewhere.</p> <p>While, again, this is probably due to an overload of queries – with employees perhaps not having the time to respond to each person individually – it makes communication feel cold and de-humanised. </p> <p>In contrast, brands that are able to personalise replies or even simply address consumers by name tend to feel far more warm, friendly, and helpful.</p> <p>In this instance, even if a customer does need to be redirected elsewhere, they’re probably going to take the news a little better than if the reply was distinctly bot-like. Mattress brand Casper is particularly good at interacting with users in a personable and warm manner, making each person feel valued and heard – regardless of channel.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="https://t.co/5cGE5IHCpr">pic.twitter.com/5cGE5IHCpr</a></p> — Casper (@Casper) <a href="https://twitter.com/Casper/status/988271046938845184?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 23, 2018</a> </blockquote> <h3>Don't misjudge tone</h3> <p>The reason why brands like Casper tend to succeed on social media is a lot to do with how they speak to customers. The mattress retailer displays a distinct tone of voice in marketing and social campaigns, but it also ensures that this extends to service too. </p> <p>Again, it is an issue that is commonly due to siloed social media and marketing departments, but brands can lose easily sight of their overall tone of voice when speaking directly to customers – especially when it comes to complaints. </p> <p>The real danger is when social execs take tone of voice into their own hands and use misjudged humour or sarcasm, or worse, respond to negative comments in an equally negative or hostile fashion. There are brands that deliberately use an acerbic or humorous tone when interacting with customers, of course. For brands like Tesco Mobile, it has become a well-known part of its identity, meaning customers now expect and rejoice in it.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">Nothing quite like 'keeping you on your toes'.</p> — Tesco Mobile (@tescomobile) <a href="https://twitter.com/tescomobile/status/988762143335112704?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 24, 2018</a> </blockquote> <p>The key is to always stick to the brand’s wider tone of voice, and if there is any doubt that it could come across in the wrong way, err on the side of caution.</p> <h3>Don't respond only to complaints</h3> <p>Finally, while customer service is undoubtedly a big focus for brands on social media, it’s vital to not get caught up in using it to only resolve issues or combat negative feedback.</p> <p>Rather, it’s just as important to recognise positive comments, as well as use platforms to start natural and genuine conversations with consumers.</p> <p>Brands that only respond to negative comments run the risk of projecting an overall negative image, while failing to encourage and recognise happy customers. In order to break this potentially vicious cycle, it can be effective for social media execs to reach out to users speaking positively about the brand, as well as reward or simply say ‘thank you’ to positive feedback.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">Naturally... <a href="https://t.co/UUeP1MZyi5">https://t.co/UUeP1MZyi5</a></p> — ASOS (@ASOS) <a href="https://twitter.com/ASOS/status/988702396439302144?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 24, 2018</a> </blockquote> <p><strong>Related articles:</strong></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/69816-great-social-media-customer-service-is-proactive-not-reactive" target="_blank">Great social media customer service is proactive, not reactive</a></li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68546-social-media-customer-service-six-important-talking-points" target="_blank">Social media customer service: Six important talking points</a></li> </ul> <p><a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/social-media-best-practice-guide/"><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3234/Social_Media_Best_Practice_Widget__1_.png" alt="social media report banner" width="615" height="243"></a></p> tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69957 2018-04-17T10:30:00+01:00 2018-04-17T10:30:00+01:00 Why did JD Wetherspoon delete its social media accounts, and was it the right marketing decision? Sean Cole <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3646/Screen_Shot_2018-04-16_at_08.17.14.png" alt="wetherspoons social media statement" width="450"></p> <p>JD Wetherspoons has suggested that such activity doesn’t take place on their social accounts, which has left some wondering if there is more to this than meets the eye. As many companies, especially those that are as well-known and widely available as JD Wetherspoon, rely heavily on social media for important business functions like customer service, updating followers with news and information, and customer feedback/reviews, it could be argued that this is a drastic measure to tackle something that doesn’t seem to directly affect the company.</p> <p>On the other hand, could it genuinely save the company money, or make sense to take a step back from social media platforms, amidst controversy surrounding customer data? JD Wetherspoon famously <a href="https://www.marketingweek.com/2017/07/05/wetherspoon-data-email-marketing-gdpr/">deleted its email database in 2017</a>, amidst nervousness about the forthcoming enforcement of the <a href="https://econsultancy.com/hello/gdpr-for-marketers/">GDPR</a>.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">Spoons and Tim Martin seem to be making a lot of self-righteous noise to justify closing their social media accounts, but honestly reckon this is another cost-cutting move from a businessman who’s always been a believer in marginal gains.</p> — Clement Murphy (@ClemMurphy) <a href="https://twitter.com/ClemMurphy/status/985783876059615233?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 16, 2018</a> </blockquote> <p>To make some more sense of all of this, we reached out to some social media experts for their take on the announcement.</p> <h3>This is all about budget and brand</h3> <p><strong><a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellegoodall/">Michelle Goodall</a>, social media consultant (and trainer of Econsultancy's <a href="https://econsultancy.com/training/courses/fast-track-digital-marketing/">Fast Track Digital Marketing</a> and <a href="https://econsultancy.com/training/courses/social-media-and-online-pr">social media courses</a>):</strong></p> <p>"I think that this is a budgetary decision and the ‘bad publicity surrounding social media” is a convenient smokescreen. The value of social media as a channel for PR acquisition and retention purposes will have been reviewed with a critical, cost-conscious eye. </p> <p>"Maintaining Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts and handling customer service issues requires significant resource. <a href="https://wetherspoonscarpets.tumblr.com/">A Tumblr dedicated to Wetherspoon’s carpets</a> is a lot of fun, but it hasn’t made me take my family for a Sunday Roast to admire the Axminster.</p> <p>"’Spoons is a 40 year old brand. Everyone in the UK knows exactly who they are and what they offer - value, convenience, consistency, unpretentiousness. You either love them, or will never be a customer. </p> <p>"Social media won’t drive price-sensitive students in droves to their pubs - they are already in there, along with families enjoying a cheap meal out, businesspeople eating full English Breakfasts and the traditional British pub clientele."</p> <p><strong><a href="https://willfrancis.com/">Will Francis</a>, Founder &amp; Creative Director, VANDAL:</strong></p> <p>"A really interesting move from a well-known brand. Some are claiming it’s a publicity stunt, and others that it’s to get away from post-Brexit criticism (the chairman Tim Martin was a prominent Vote Leave supporter) not to mention the vast multitude of bad reviews of their pubs. I think it’s probably all those things, but ultimately in saying "I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever” (quoted from a now-unavailable tweet) Martin is mostly right. A 900-outlet food and beverages brand will always struggle to make meaningful use of social, without heavy investment and best practice down to local level."</p> <h3>Social media is hard...</h3> <p><strong><a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/joannahalton">Joanna Halton</a>, Founder at Jo &amp; Co. and digital marketing lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University:</strong></p> <p>"The statement they gave seemed woolly and slightly bizarre, mentioning the general social media climate, MP trolling and concerns around the addictive nature of the platforms themselves. Slightly odd from a company that serves alcohol from 9am.</p> <p>"What else could be the motivation? It appears that Wetherspoons had accounts for nearly all their 900 pubs, as well as their central accounts. Many of the individual pages had fewer than 1,000 likes and were unlikely to be seen in users’ feeds. To maintain content, keep relevancy and police that many accounts would be an immense drain on resource. Without a proper strategy in place, it's improbable that the potential benefits of the channels are outweighing the negatives."</p> <p><strong>Will Francis:</strong></p> <p>[Social success] for me would mean messaging from the brand on the level of someone like Nando’s where you’re seeing great, engaging and fun content marketing that genuinely builds and retains an audience; complemented by branch-level accounts that engage directly with that outlet’s local community but remain true to the brand (wittily-written, beautiful imagery) as Waterstones do. If they can’t do that they’re just drowning in trolls, poorly maintained pages and bad reviews. After all, today’s digital landscape  - saturated, splintered, algorithmic - is not kind to anything other than brilliantly executed marketing.</p> <h3>...but social conversation will continue regardless</h3> <p><strong><a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/depeshmandalia">Depesh Mandalia</a>, Founder &amp; CEO, SM Commerce:</strong></p> <p>"As a bricks and mortar establishment, will JD Wetherspoon suffer from being away from social media? Maybe not as much as many businesses that have a high percentage of sales driven by social media platforms but there may be a knock-on impact at a local level.</p> <p>"In addition, what will happen is that those that wish to continue the conversation, good or bad about JD Wetherspoon will spin off into their own profiles or groups. Are they likely to download the app or email them through the website? Looking through Facebook for example, each of their locations has a page set up, with ratings and reviews, opening times, menus and special offers with a good number of followers for each location. Social media is a far easier medium for people to converse with the brands they love [than a website or app]."</p> <h3>'Spoons would rather deal with customer service in situ...</h3> <p><strong>Michelle Goodall:</strong></p> <p>"When it comes to customer service, I imagine that they would prefer to deal with any complaints or issues in situ rather than in social media, where a central team would have to speak to venue managers to understand and resolve or rebutt many of the issues. </p> <p>"Various polarising political issues and the “bad publicity surrounding social media” will have been factored in. Chairman and founder, Tim Martin maintains a very public position on Brexit and I’m sure the corporate communications team has had to handle a number of negative/trolling comments, but I doubt that this was the single deciding factor.</p> <p>"I’d be surprised if they don’t keep a single corporate PR presence on Twitter in place at the very least, publishing corporate news but not responding to tweets/enquiries."</p> <h3>...but no other tool is as good at a local level</h3> <p><strong>Depesh Mandalia:</strong></p> <p>"Whilst much of the local information is already covered in places like Tripadvisor and Google, what's going to change is that they won't be able to own the narrative as they could on Twitter and Facebook, which have allow them to connect better at a local level. How else will Sirhowy JD Wetherspoon Blackwood get the message out about Chicken Club as easily as they could with Facebook or Twitter?</p> <p>"Combine that with their deleting every single customer email, it's a marketers nightmare - to cut off key digital communication with loyal customers and rely solely on the mobile app, inbound emails, local flyers and word of mouth. I'm not sure deleting all emails and social profiles is the most beneficial growth decision they could have made, even if their intent is noble. Nobility and business growth don't always go hand in hand."</p> <p><strong>Joanna Halton:</strong></p> <p>"A bit of online research suggests that Wetherspoons have been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/apr/16/jd-wetherspoon-closes-all-social-media-accounts">receiving a number of negative reviews</a> and comments across their social properties. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever worked in the service industry on social media. However, by deleting their accounts, Wetherspoons have lost their only mechanism to publicly address and resolve these claims. Without an outlet, these types of comments tend to have a nasty habit of leaking onto other properties like Yelp or Google reviews."</p> <h3>Social has actually generated some good PR for 'Spoons lately</h3> <p><strong>Joanna Halton:</strong></p> <p>"One of the biggest shames about this move is that other businesses, which could really thrive on these platforms, might now see this as evidence that they shouldn’t use it.</p> <p>"Aside from this, it is amusing that they’ve chosen to delete their social accounts when Wetherspoons have been getting quite a bit of attention (and likely money!) from social lately, particularly Twitter, due to their app. Famous cases have led others to share their table number and location in an attempt to garner beverage and food gifts from other benevolent social media and Wetherspoon app users. <a href="https://www.thepoke.co.uk/2018/02/12/free-drinks-wetherspoons-woman/">Who could forget those infamous four gravy boats of peas?!</a></p> <p>"Whatever the rationale, it’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out. Who else is thinking there could be a very public social media re-launch in a month or two…?"</p> <h3>This is a pivotal time for social media platforms</h3> <p><strong><a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregallum">Greg Allum</a>, Head of Social, Jellyfish:</strong></p> <p>"These are interesting times for social as companies wrestle with the potential societal impact of social media channels. It is reminiscent of the gaming industry in the 90s, which came under fire for negatively influencing individuals. As with the gaming industry, social media platforms are undergoing a deep analysis of their purpose, principles and value. This is a positive move in the mid-long term, as it will allow these platforms that have grown rapidly to re-assess their approach to audience data, which is much needed.</p> <p>"The power of social media continues to drive value for a majority of brands, and will continue to do so in its current guise. At best, social media, in particular Facebook, can target audiences at scale and reach them with content that resonates, whilst allowing us to measure the impact of this effectively. At worst, brands can target audiences at scale with poorly crafted content that interrupts and weakens a user's experience, whilst potentially damaging their reputation."</p> <p><a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/social-media-best-practice-guide/"><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3234/Social_Media_Best_Practice_Widget__1_.png" alt="social media report banner" width="615" height="243"></a></p> tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69896 2018-03-23T09:30:00+00:00 2018-03-23T09:30:00+00:00 Shelter Scotland’s chatbot had >4,000 interactions in its first four months, freeing up time for helpline staff Nikki Gilliland <p>Shelter is one charity that has experimented with the technology in the past few years. It first developed ‘Sheldon’ during a hackathon – a bot that would theoretically be able to answer people’s queries about private tenants’ rights in Scotland. On the back of this, the charity has gone on to develop and implement ‘Ask Ailsa’, which is a fully working chatbot created in the same vein.</p> <p>In order to gain a better understanding of Ailsa, as well as the charity’s use of artificial intelligence in general, I spoke with Keith Bartholomew, senior digital officer at Shelter Scotland.</p> <p><em>(N.B. If you're interested in AI and marketing, check out Marketing Week's <a href="http://conferences.marketingweek.com/">Supercharged conference</a> on May 1st.)</em></p> <h3>What’s the purpose of the chatbot?</h3> <p>According to Bartholomew, the purpose of Ailsa is very much rooted in problem-solving rather than fundraising or general awareness. </p> <p>Ailsa was developed to coincide with major changes being introduced to private renting in Scotland, involving a new kind of private tenancy, with new rules around the length of a tenancy, how much notice a tenant had to give, and how a landlord could end a tenancy.</p> <p>While these changes were created to give more rights and better protection to tenants, as well as to easily resolve disputes if things go wrong, Shelter predicted that the changes would inevitably result in confusion for tenants and landlords alike. </p> <p>As a result, Bartholomew says that "the chatbot was developed to answer any questions people may have, and ensure they are aware of the new rules."</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3128/Ailsa_1.JPG" alt="" width="500" height="523"></p> <h3>The chatbot currently has very little ‘chat’ – does it matter?</h3> <p>One of the biggest obstacles brands face when creating chatbots is limitations in technology. While NLP (natural language processing) theoretically offers users a richer and more interactive experience - one that mimics human interaction – this often takes a long time to come to fruition (as the bot learns natural speech patterns over time).</p> <p>These kinds of bots can also go awry, either failing to answer basic queries or worse – speaking in offensive language. Microsoft’s Taybot is the most famous example of this.</p> <p>For Shelter Scotland, the chatbot was initially developed to work from a set decision tree of questions.</p> <p>The speed and ease with which the bot could be created was undoubtedly a big motivator, as well as the straightforward nature of user queries in the first place. However, the charity has since decided it is keen to develop the bot further.</p> <p>Bartholomew tells me the bot is "currently in development of stage two, which will introduce natural language programming and allow for a greater number of queries."</p> <p>With recent talk about further new rules for private renting in Scotland, Shelter is clearly intent on pre-empting the next inevitable onslaught of questions.</p> <h3>Why an on-site bot rather than Facebook Messenger?</h3> <p>A lot of brand chatbots have been created through the Facebook Messenger platform. This is largely to do with the technology’s accessibility, but also so that brands can expand their presence on the channel and connect with its mammoth audience. </p> <p>Shelter Scotland decided against this, instead creating the chatbot to be hosted on its standalone website, which would be promoted through very targeted marketing.</p> <p>Bartholomew explains that this decision is also due to the bot’s very niche purpose: "Since it could only answer questions relating to the new private renting rules, we didn't want to open it up Facebook Messenger or to respond to general advice queries."</p> <p>Instead, the bot is integrated into the charity’s ‘New Rules’ microsite.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/3130/Ailsa_2.JPG" alt="" width="490" height="535"></p> <h3>How many people have used Ailsa?</h3> <p>According to Bartholomew, the chatbot has been used 4,380 times since it first launched last October.</p> <p>That’s a fairly impressive amount considering the time-frame – and definitely worthwhile considering that those people would have otherwise contacted the charity’s helpline service.</p> <p>"The chatbot allows people to self-serve and find out the information online, rather than phone our helpline. It has helped a significant number of people get to grips with the legislation changes, without us getting a large volume of calls to our helpline," says Bartholomew.</p> <p>Quite rightly, he reiterates how "advisers are available to respond to more urgent queries" as a result. And from the user’s perspective, it undoubtedly means a better experience – with less friction and a satisfying outcome. </p> <p>Ultimately, this has been the bot’s biggest benefit and the reason why Shelter Scotland would consider AI again in future. The charity is running a hackathon in Edinburgh at the end of March in order to develop further solutions related to the private renting situation in Scotland.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">What problems persist for private renters? Join us to develop practical solutions with <a href="https://twitter.com/ProductForge?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ProductForge</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GenerationRentPF?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GenerationRentPF</a> <a href="https://t.co/SPAhmeijOk">https://t.co/SPAhmeijOk</a> <a href="https://t.co/nRCYIQR3jh">pic.twitter.com/nRCYIQR3jh</a></p> — Shelter Scotland (@shelterscotland) <a href="https://twitter.com/shelterscotland/status/969593685901021189?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 2, 2018</a> </blockquote> <p>I finished by asking Bartholomew whether or not Shelter will look to use AI technology for other purposes in future. He explained that while "there are no immediate plans to, we do hope to use the same technology for other advice-giving opportunities on our website."</p> <p>With users clearly finding value in Ailsa, it’s an example that could be well-worth repeating (and one that other brands keen to develop chatbots could learn from).</p> <p><em><strong>Related reading:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li><em><a href="https://www.econsultancy.com/blog/69839-eight-things-your-chatbot-should-never-do" target="_blank">Eight things your chatbot should never do</a></em></li> <li><em><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/69716-why-fashion-and-beauty-brands-are-still-betting-on-chatbots" target="_blank">Why fashion and beauty brands are still betting on chatbots</a></em></li> </ul> tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:TrainingDate/3429 2018-03-06T03:18:54+00:00 2018-03-06T03:18:54+00:00 Mastering Customer Experience (CX) Management - Singapore <p>Quite simply, without customers you don’t have a business. Winning customers today has a become a lot more complicated as people have changed the way they buy goods and services.</p> <p>Research indicates that typically 80% of your business comes from 20% of your loyal customers.</p> <p>But in today’s customer controlled world, earning loyalty is a real challenge.  This is because we are dealing with a very smart and discerning customer who is looking for immense value, has very high expectations and hyper researching everything.</p> <p>Yet, innovative and smart businesses have created customer experience formulas that work extremely well for them. Zappos, Disney, Airbnb, Virgin, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Hubspot among others continue to deliver amazing experiences and drive sales.</p> <p>This unique and insightful course teaches you how successful companies design and deliver amazing customer experiences (CX). It gives you an insider view and highly effective tips and tricks to deliver amazing experiences at every brand touch point to win and retain your customers.</p> tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69816 2018-02-21T15:19:34+00:00 2018-02-21T15:19:34+00:00 Great social media customer service is proactive, not reactive Tamara Littleton <p>But two major trends have emerged that are changing brands’ thinking, to view customer service as proactive, not reactive: </p> <ol> <li>Great customer service is a differentiator for brands; and </li> <li>Companies are using technology to anticipate the needs of customers in order to deliver relevant, personalised service. </li> </ol> <p>We know that much of this customer service is delivered via social media. Nearly 70% of consumers have said that they have used social media for customer service issues on at least one occasion, according to <a href="http://www.jdpower.com/press-releases/2013-social-media-benchmark-study">research</a> published as early as 2013. And customers spend 20-40% more money (<a href="http://www.bain.com/Images/BAIN_BRIEF_Putting_social_media_to_work.pdf">Bain and Co</a>) with companies when they engage and respond positively to customers on social media.</p> <p>With customer service teams already stretched, how can brands deliver great, proactive customer service on social media? </p> <p>There are four things that brands should be doing. </p> <h3><strong>Use bots to free up humans to be brilliant</strong></h3> <p>Bots can be used to <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68388-how-klm-uses-bots-and-ai-in-human-social-customer-service">triage queries</a> or automate simple responses. Automating non-complex, routine queries (such as “when will my parcel arrive”), if done properly, doesn’t negatively impact the customer experience.</p> <p>Instead, it takes the pressure off human customer service agents or community managers and frees them up to do what they do best: using their skills to proactively engage with customers, creating personal connections and seeking out opportunities to surprise and delight.</p> <h3><strong>Use data to predict customers’ needs</strong></h3> <p>Analytics and social listening tools can identify trends in behaviour, spikes in queries, or changing demands. This data gives you insight that your team can use to predict what your customers need and want, and deliver it.</p> <h3><strong>Use emotional analytics</strong></h3> <p>Emotional analytics help to understand not just what your customers are saying, but <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68782-three-ways-brands-are-using-emotional-analytics-to-connect-with-customers/">how they feel about your brand</a>.</p> <p>That might be a reaction to a campaign or a product, or to an issue that your customers feel strongly about. That insight will connect you to the things your customers are passionate about, and inform your future campaigns and service. </p> <h3><strong>Invest in the best people to connect with your customers</strong></h3> <p>If customer service is your brand’s differentiator, you need great people to deliver it.</p> <p>These people will be able to take the insights from your data and use it to engage proactively with customers. They’ll use their initiative to spot opportunities to create personal connections with customers that will build loyalty. They’ll be skilled at spotting and resolving issues before they become full-blown crises. And they’ll do all this while sticking closely to the brand’s values and tone of voice. </p> <p>Great social media customer service takes human skill, initiative and intelligence. It takes technology to deliver data for humans to know where their skills are most needed. And it takes humans and technology to work together to deliver it at scale for brands.</p> <p><em><strong>More on social customer service:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li> <a href="https://econsultancy.com/training/courses/social-media-customer-service">Social Media Customer Service Training</a>, London</li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68481-seven-guiding-principles-for-implementing-social-customer-service">Seven guiding principles for implementing social customer service</a></li> </ul> tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69790 2018-02-09T12:45:00+00:00 2018-02-09T12:45:00+00:00 The best digital marketing stats we've seen this week Nikki Gilliland <h3>Consumers open to automatic buying via digital assistants</h3> <p style="font-weight: 400;">Econsultancy’s <a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/the-next-revolution-of-search/" target="_blank">Next Revolution of Search</a> report has revealed that consumers are more open and willing to experiment with intelligent digital assistants, making this the next logical extension of search. </p> <p style="font-weight: 400;">80% of survey respondents said that it would be “incredibly useful” if a personal digital assistant could help find the options right for them. Meanwhile, the report highlights the potential benefits of automatic buying using digital assistants, meaning purchases or transactions that have little or no input from consumers. </p> <p style="font-weight: 400;">75% said that this kind of service would be useful to them, and 67% said they would be likely to have products delivered automatically if there was no unexpected change or variation in price. Even among those who are sceptical of such a service, 90% admit that it would make their lives better to have products they use regularly delivered automatically.</p> <p style="font-weight: 400;"><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2178/Stats.JPG" alt="" width="780" height="510"></p> <p style="font-weight: 400;"><em><strong>Subscribers can download the <a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/the-next-revolution-of-search/" target="_blank">report in full here</a>. </strong></em></p> <h3>Tide sees the most Super Bowl conversation</h3> <p style="font-weight: 400;">According to Talkwalker, there were 5.3 million mentions of the Super Bowl across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram last Sunday. Online conversation peaked at the halftime show, with one million mentions of Justin Timberlake, and 117,200 mentions of his tribute to Minneapolis hero, Prince. Despite not making a surprise appearance, there were still 43,800 mentions of his previous halftime show co-performer, Janet Jackson.</p> <p style="font-weight: 400;">When it comes to brand ads, Tide generated the most conversation with its ad featuring David Harbour from Stranger Things. There were 163,800 mentions of Tide during the event. </p> <p style="font-weight: 400;">Another advertising highlight was the Mountain Dew and Doritos joint ad featuring a rap battle between Morgan Freeman, Peter Dinklage, and Missy Elliot. The ad was mentioned 115,100 times overall.</p> <p style="font-weight: 400;"><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/doP7xKdGOKs?wmode=transparent" width="640" height="360"></iframe></p> <h3>Customers fed up within five minutes</h3> <p style="font-weight: 400;">It only takes five minutes for US consumers to feel fed up with a customer service experience – that’s according to a new report by Point Source (based on a survey of 1,008 US consumers). It found that 34% of customers on hold with a retail customer service agent want to switch to a chatbot after five minutes. However, 59% of consumers will also grow frustrated if a chatbot doesn’t provide them a resolution within the save time frame.</p> <p style="font-weight: 400;">Data privacy is still pressing issue for people too, with 41% citing this as a cause for concern when using a chatbot. 44% say accuracy of information provided, while frustrations over chatbots not understanding intent or language remains the biggest – 51% cite this concern.</p> <p style="font-weight: 400;">When asked about why customers might want a chatbot’s help, the majority of respondents said they are open to interactions throughout the majority of the customer journey, such as when researching online and tracking and order. However, there still appears to be resistance post-purchase, with 80% of retail customers not being comfortable with chatbot assistance when resolving problems with an order, and 71% saying the same for the in-store experience.</p> <p style="font-weight: 400;"><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2177/PointSource.JPG" alt="" width="395" height="618"></p> <p style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>More on chatbots:</strong></p> <ul style="font-weight: 400;"> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/69716-why-fashion-and-beauty-brands-are-still-betting-on-chatbots" target="_blank">Why fashion and beauty brands are still betting on chatbots</a></li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68732-what-makes-a-good-chatbot-ux/" target="_blank">What makes a good chatbot UX?</a></li> </ul> <h3>Mobile commerce on the rise in Asia</h3> <p style="font-weight: 400;">According to a <a href="https://www.warc.com/content/article/event-reports/five_asian_retail_trends_for_2018/120035" target="_blank">report by Warc</a>, the popularity of shopping on smartphones is also on the rise in Asia. 71% of Asian consumers are said to use their smartphones to help them shop, compared to 59% of all global shoppers.</p> <p style="font-weight: 400;">There are also two markets in particular where smartphone usage is booming. 76% of shoppers in Indonesia are using their smartphones, and 90% of shoppers in China are doing the same. </p> <p style="font-weight: 400;">While the in-store experience is also a big focus in these markets, mobile commerce is also becoming an increasingly natural and instinctual experience, as shoppers forgo desktop entirely and go straight to smartphones.</p> <p style="font-weight: 400;"><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2176/smartphone_shop.jpg" alt="" width="700" height="466"></p> <h3>Ad engagement 29% higher on premium sites than social</h3> <p>Social media is typically associated with high levels of attention, however, when it comes to ads, studies suggest that it could be failing to properly engage users. This is the basis of <a href="http://www.newsworks.org.uk/%2FMedia-Centre/engagement-is-29-higher-on-premium-sites-than-on-social-media" target="_blank">recent research </a> by Newsworks and the Association for Online Publishing (AOP), which aimed to find out why the context of quality editorial generates greater engagement than social. </p> <p>The research measured participants’ brain responses to identical ads in different contexts, analysing a number of areas of the brain in order to identify key research metrics. </p> <p>It found that ads seen on a premium publisher site are viewed for 17% longer, create 29% higher engagement (due to personal relevance) and generate greater levels of left brain and right brain memory encoding than ads on Facebook and YouTube. Memory encoding is key because it correlates with decision-making and purchase intent. </p> <p>Lastly, ads seen within a premium context also provoke stronger, more positive emotional responses.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2174/Newsworks_and_AOP_press_release_spider_graph.jpg" alt="" width="780" height="438"></p> <p><strong>More on ads:</strong></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://www.econsultancy.com/blog/69708-five-trends-for-online-advertising-strategy-in-2018" target="_blank">Five trends for online advertising strategy in 2018</a></li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/67704-four-useful-tips-for-making-online-ads-relevant-personal/" target="_blank">Four useful tips for making online ads relevant &amp; personal</a></li> </ul> <h3>Generation Z consume 10 hours of digital content a day</h3> <p>Adobe has revealed that Britain is a nation addicted to digital content, as millennials spend 8.5 hours a day consuming digital content, while Generation Z spend a staggering 10.6 hours a day doing the same.</p> <p>This news comes from a survey of over 1,000 UK consumers on their daily digital habits. The results also show that, despite increased consumption, users are also becoming increasingly sceptical about fake news content. </p> <p>77% of those surveyed said that they are more careful about the content they engage with than they were five years ago. As a result, consumers respond strongly to branded content if it provides an authentic, well designed, and relevant experiences. 46% of consumers say that this would inspire them to make a purchase.</p> <h3>UK shoppers turn to smartphones for groceries</h3> <p>Shoppercentric’s <a href="http://shoppercentric.co.uk/news/" target="_blank">Stock Take Index</a>, which comes from a survey of over 1,000 Brits, has found a substantial increase in smartphone usage for grocery shopping. </p> <p>While computers and laptops are the most used touchpoint – up 6% on 2017 to 63% of shoppers - smartphones saw a bigger increase of 18% to reach 45%. Tablets secured the third place spot with 29% of shoppers using the device.</p> <p>Elsewhere, the report also highlights an increased use of discount stores – up 13% on 2017 to 57% of UK shoppers.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0009/2175/shoppercentric.JPG" alt="" width="780" height="423"></p> tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69738 2018-01-19T10:58:25+00:00 2018-01-19T10:58:25+00:00 What marketers need to know about WhatsApp Business Patricio Robles <p>But Facebook has proven adept at monetizing not only its own social network, but another popular service it acquired for a ten-figure amount, Instagram, and the social media giant's efforts to turn WhatsApp into a revenue generator are becoming more apparent by the day.</p> <p>Case in point: WhatsApp yesterday <a href="https://blog.whatsapp.com/10000637/Introducing-the-WhatsApp-Business-App">announced</a> the launch of WhatsApp Business. Here's what marketers need to know about it.</p> <h3>It's an Android app</h3> <p>WhatsApp Business is an Android app designed for small businesses. Using the app, businesses can create and manage business profiles, which are like Facebook Pages for WhatsApp. These contain basic information about the business, such as a description, email address, physical address and website URL.</p> <p>The app also provides messaging tools that enable businesses to more easily communicate with their customers through WhatsApp. These tools include the ability to set up automated greeting and away messages, as well as to define quick replies for common requests.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0009/1771/replies-blog-flyer.jpg" alt="" width="350"></p> <h3>Using WhatsApp Business unlocks desktop functionality</h3> <p>Businesses that use WhatsApp Business won't need to use the Android app exclusively to send and receive messages. Instead, they'll be able to use a WhatsApp Business web application, making it possible for them to manage their WhatsApp presence from the desktop.</p> <h3>It's available in several countries to start but will be available globally soon</h3> <p>WhatsApp Business can be downloaded through the Google Play Store in the U.S., U.K., Mexico, Italy and Indonesia. WhatsApp says that the app will roll out globally “in the coming weeks.”</p> <h3>WhatsApp will provide analytics data</h3> <p>To help businesses better understand how their WhatsApp Business activities are working, WhatsApp will give them access to analytics data, such as the number of messages read. While it sounds like the analytics functionality will be fairly rudimentary to start, given Facebook's experience in this area on its core social network and Instagram, expect this to be one area it develops over time.</p> <h3>Business accounts will be designated as such</h3> <p>Businesses that set up profiles by using WhatsApp Business will have their profiles labeled as business profiles so that WhatsApp users who interact with those profiles understand they're interacting with a business. </p> <p>WhatsApp is also verifying some business profiles by confirming that the phone number on the account matches the phone number of the business. Verified businesses feature a label indicating that they've been verified.</p> <h3>Businesses can't communicate with all users</h3> <p>Businesses using WhatsApp Business won't be able to contact WhatsApp users at their leisure. Instead, users must opt in to receive communications from a business. This means that businesses wanting to put the messaging platform to good use will need to develop marketing and engagement strategies that promote such opt-in. </p> <h3>Paid features are likely coming</h3> <p>Last year, WhatsApp chief operating officer, Matt Idema, <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-tees-up-whatsapp-to-make-money-1504609201">told the Wall Street Journal</a> that the company eventually plans to launch paid features for businesses. Idema did not reveal what those paid features might be but it's logical to assume that, at least initially, WhatsApp will target paid features to larger enterprises that are more likely to pay for such features.</p> <p>While WhatsApp Business is designed for small businesses, WhatsApp is also allowing larger companies like KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to interact with users by integrating their own applications into the WhatsApp platform directly.</p> <h3>So should businesses jump on the WhatsApp train?</h3> <p>WhatsApp is an incredibly attractive platform for businesses. With more than 1.3bn users, it's larger than Instagram, which Facebook has developed into one of the most popular social platforms for marketers. WhatsApp users are also incredibly engaged, sending more than 55bn messages each day.</p> <p>With usage like that, it's no surprise that <a href="https://www.econsultancy.com/blog/68695-how-brands-are-using-whatsapp-for-marketing">some marketers are finding success using WhatsApp</a>. For instance, Morning Consult says that 80% of small businesses in India and Brazil that are on WhatsApp indicate that the messaging platform is helping them communicate with their customers and grow their businesses.</p> <p>Of course, WhatsApp is a messaging app, so it's not quite like Facebook and Instagram and shouldn't be treated the same way. It's also more popular in some countries than others, which will realistically influence just how successful any particular business will be on the platform.</p> <p>For instance, WhatsApp is far more popular in India than it is in the U.S. So the ability of businesses to gain from their use of WhatsApp Business will probably be based in part on the popularity of WhatsApp where they're located.</p> <p>While business use of messaging platforms in the U.S. and Europe isn't as robust as it is in, say, Asia, because of its size and Facebook backing, WhatsApp is a logical platform on which Western businesses can start experimenting with messaging and WhatsApp Business will make it easier for them to do that.</p> tag:www.econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69416 2017-10-13T11:27:00+01:00 2017-10-13T11:27:00+01:00 Mobile’s sorted, isn’t it? So why aren’t things getting better for many hotel chains? Martin Jordan <p>You won’t rank in Google, you won’t convert traffic and your brand will be slowly dying (at least online). Any traffic from mobile you do receive will be research traffic alone – and likely traffic with high bounce rates and low dwell time.</p> <p>Thankfully the UK market is mature, has always innovated and most brands will at least have a site that is adaptive or responsive to mobile. That said, there is still a lot of evolution required in the hotel web space that actually starts to exploit mobile as a device, rather than just as another browsing platform.</p> <p>Many brands are still staring down low conversion rates and lots of traffic that looks like “research” traffic due to poorly thought out mobile experiences or pseudo-mobile third-party book­ing engines that look like they’ve been there since the noughties.</p> <h3>Intelligent mobile</h3> <p>Today as we see many hotel brand sites pass the 50% mark for mobile traffic, the approach to developing mobile-friendly sites needs to come with a completely different approach to the user – one that is actually less about mobile and more about the user.</p> <p>At Equator, we refer to this as “Responsive Plus” – a site that not only adapts to the user’s device but thinks intelligently about the content it is going to show them by looking at where the user is, what time of day it is, whether they are logged in, whether they have a booking and whether they are in the middle of the booking process. A connected website such as this, with visibility of its location can tell you that User X is at your hotel, making use of their booked stay.</p> <p>Sounds straightforward enough when put like that, but it belies a greater problem in the hotel space, that of legacy, unconnected and inflexible systems. Here in the UK, we have a generally digitally mature hotel space, made up of medium and large-sized chains. The “mom and pop” operations that typify central Europe are far less prevalent here.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/9706/travelodge.png" alt="" width="700" height="336"></p> <p>This means that most of the brands here digitised their systems and processes some time ago, buying into comprehensive and complex Property Management Systems and investing in hardware and hosting for them to reside in.  And agencies like ours will have been tasked to build them sites, design a booking engine, get them online and eventually get them visible to mobile users too. All well and good, but this whole technology stack is now woefully dated and is slowly strangling the contemporary hotelier.</p> <p>The reason for this is that the PMS dominates the technology conversation. Everything the hotelier relies on flows from it: the booking engine, F&amp;B, payments, revenue management, channel management, upselling… and a heck of a lot more. If the hotelier wants to do something innovative with any part of their technology stack, the PMS gets in the way.</p> <p>Seen a cool new upselling tool? It needs to work with the PMS. Like to integrate with a smart AI-powered revenue management system? Needs to integrate with your PMS.</p> <p>Hoteliers all over keep having to answer the same question – “What PMS have you got and what version is it?”. Why? Because, invariably it’s legacy, not built on open principles and not designed for easy two-way engagement.</p> <p>So, why are they not tearing out these legacy systems and replacing them anew? Sadly, it’s not always that straightforward. There may be enough CapEx to replace the PMS itself, but many of the incumbent systems connected to it or slave to it will likely need replacing – or certainly overhauling. These systems too will have likely been built as slaves to the PMS and without modern open interoperability. And of course the website will need a new IBE to go with the new PMS too. It’s all expense and can seem like too much for the typical hotelier to bite down on.</p> <p>But perhaps it’s worth sitting down and doing the longer-term maths and building a business case with a 2-3 year viewpoint. Whilst neither the task nor the immediate costs are small, there are multitudinous benefits in the long term. That server-based PMS does not evolve and is likely a few versions old. It needs hosting, it needs patching and it eventually becomes unsupported. Except if you want to pay the supplier a <em>lot</em> of money on support and maintenance.</p> <p>New cloud based technologies are locked out or require prohibitively expensive “bridge” work to make them compatible with your PMS and all along the way. You find you’re missing out on huge revenue opportunities or finding your budget strangled by costs for any enhancement you want to make to it. When this technology is cloud based and open, it’s no longer your problem.</p> <h3>In the cloud </h3> <p>As more hotel systems become cloud driven, we are now witnessing a shift towards a more customer-centric view and away from obese legacy desktop and server-based systems.</p> <p>This new cloud-based approach is opening the hotel tech ecosystem to multiple new players such as Guestline, Hetras and Hotelogix, bringing new capabilities for hoteliers large and small.</p> <p>What used to be an expensive and cumbersome purchase can now be affordably bought from multiple vendors for a single property, as it is for a 100+ hotel chain.</p> <p>With open systems powered by customer data, machine learning and analytics capabilities, hoteliers can exercise their customer data with more flexibility than ever before.</p> <p>This brings a host of benefits:</p> <ul> <li>Smarter front-of-house, capable of personalising the customer experience.</li> <li>More intuitive web experience that tailors itself to the users’ preferences and behaviours, driven by the CRM database.</li> <li>Better marketing function that promotes less but ultimately drives more revenue and deeper loyalty.</li> <li>Unique and individual offerings through an enhanced on-premise experience in a world being commoditised by the OTA.</li> </ul> <p>We’re spending an increasing amount of our time intelligently connecting these systems and have written in more detail about them in our <a title="The hotel in the clouds" href="https://www.eqtr.com/uploads/SmartHotels.pdf">Smart Hotels paper.</a> Whilst technology standards like <a href="http://www.htng.org/">HTNG</a> go a long way to help ensure the interoperability of systems, the technological space in hotels moves very fast and every brand has their own unique needs.</p> <p>There is now huge potential to deliver new forms of service through automation and machine learning – achieved through the connectivity offered by contemporary systems. </p> <p>Examples include:</p> <ul> <li>Linking a hotel’s Wi-Fi system to their CRM platform to personalise the on-site internet experience and give loyal customers super speedy broadband.</li> <li>Developing the ability to reward loyalty without a complex and expensive loyalty scheme or the need to involve senior staff in approval of discounts or upgrades.</li> <li>Taking the typical lobby screen and allowing it to serve real-time offers based on actual availability, demand curves, current weather and more as well as pushing distressed inventory without effort.</li> </ul> <p>It’s this very path to innovation that has the potential to finally free the hotelier’s reliance on the OTA and bring their market share down more in alignment with the airline industry, where direct brand purchases still make up almost 60% of sales. And to suggest that the transition from desktop to mobile could throw this all into jeopardy is to tell just one side of the story. </p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/9705/ryanair.png" alt="" width="700" height="331"></p> <p>With so many expert systems and technologies available at prices that no longer cripple, hoteliers are increasingly building a technology-driven hotel business. And as these systems are connected and made accessible, the opportunities to drive greater revenue, improve efficiencies, deliver better service and change the entire marketing proposition are tangible and excitingly achievable.</p> <p>Any fear of change needs to be swapped for the fear of being left behind. Technology continues to evolve ever faster. If you can’t keep up, find a technology partner who understands your world to help you stay ahead.</p> <p>In the future, when everybody’s lives are in the cloud, the savvy hotelier will be using tech to make their hotel feel like home. The in-room entertainment will be what the customer likes and their dietary requirements will be understood – all without adding mountains of cost or complexity. The future is not far away. But it starts with a <strong>more connected</strong> hotel world.</p> <p><strong><em>For more on this topic, read:</em></strong></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://www.econsultancy.com/blog/69414-four-big-digital-trends-impacting-travel-tourism-marketing"><em>Four big digital trends impacting travel &amp; tourism marketing</em></a></li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/travel-statistics-compendium"><em>Travel Internet Statistics Compendium</em></a></li> <li><a href="https://www.econsultancy.com/blog/67766-10-examples-of-great-travel-marketing-campaigns"><em>10 examples of great travel marketing campaigns</em></a></li> </ul>