Great customer service has always been (and always will be) synonymous with the hospitality industry. But the approach to delivering customer service is evolving; great customer service has become synonymous with social customer service—providing customer care through your social media channels.
Online reputation and social media are now inextricably tied to attracting new guests and turning them into repeat customers. Sixty-four percent of customers use social media to engage with businesses, with Facebook and WhatsApp being the most popular platforms for this.
Used as a customer service tool, social media helps establish a personal connection with guests and contributes to their overall satisfaction before, during, and after their stay. Here are six tips for getting social customer service right.
Utilize a social listening tool that automatically monitors social media channels for mentions (direct and indirect) of your property so that you don’t miss anything. A number of social listening tools are available online as well as complete reputation management systems like Revinate that do the job and more. Set your social listening tool to search for your brand/property name and include abbreviations and alternate spellings/common misspellings.
Social listening tools show you where your customers are online and which platforms they use. If you’re being mentioned frequently on a platform you don’t have an account for, it’s time to create one. Good customer service means being where people expect to find you.
Develop a Process
To maximize the effectiveness of your social customer service, define an official procedure for you and your staff to follow. Implement clear guidelines for handling and resolving complaints via the appropriate social support channels, including when and how to move a conversation out of the public eye (to email or private/direct messaging). If you have a dedicated social media manager or marketing person, they should give their input here.
Complaint, compliment, or question, always respond to direct comments. Whenever a customer makes the effort to reach out, acknowledge them to show that you are listening and that you care.
Because this is time consuming, you may want to use an online template for social customer service (there are free ones out there) or create your own based on your company values and brand voice. You still have to tweak it for each response though.
Complaints – Apologize, empathize, and do your best to fix the issue. If you feel the complaint would be more efficiently resolved offline, let the customer know where to contact you (email, DM, etc.). Be sure to respond to indirect complaints too (complaints made about you but not to you).
Note that the key word here is “respond,” not “react.” Think through a strategy for handling complaints before they happen—and they will happen—and take a minute to breathe before you start typing.
Compliments – Show customers you value them by thanking them and inviting them back to your property.
Questions – Be helpful for customers asking questions about your property or the local area. You can and should go into detail, but don’t overdo it. For most questions, a paragraph or so should be sufficient. You can also direct them to other resources, such as your website or digital guide.
Consumers expect fast response times, so your prompt attention is key for building lasting relationships. It shows the customer and the wider socialsphere that they are important to you. Monitor your social media accounts at least once daily to ensure timely responses; those social listening tools come in handy here. Social care responsibilities should be assigned to more than one staff member in order to provide 24/7 support.
Some social networks like Facebook Messenger and Instagram even have chatbots you can build in to answer simple, frequently asked questions. (Don’t neglect the human element though. Some inquiries require a human response.)
If you absolutely can’t respond to someone quickly, use an automated message with a time frame for when you will get back to them, to show them they aren’t being ignored.
Social media is social, so be personable, helpful, and caring. Avoid canned responses and stiff formality. A conversational tone is best. That said, remember your brand voice. The Ritz Hotel London will have a different presence on social media than a family-friendly beach motel. Sign messages with your name or initials to indicate personal care.
In addition to keeping track of direct social mentions, use your social listening tool to listen out for indirect comments about your property too. Someone may talk about you without tagging you or posting directly to your account. Politely jump in on conversations about your property, whether a disgruntled guest is venting frustration or a potential guest is asking other travelers for information. “Polite” is the operative word. This is not the place for a hard sell.
You can even reach out if the conversation doesn’t involve your property but references something you can share your expertise on, for example, local recommendations (everyone needs a good place to eat). This way, you can engage customers who may not have found you otherwise.
Done right, social customer service turns guests into real fans—not just Facebook fans but loyal guests who tell all their friends how great your property is and come back for more.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2014 and updated November 2023.