How are your relationships?
Relationship advice in an online marketing article? Absolutely. Today, having a website, a brochure and working with your agents is no longer enough. You put time and effort into ensure the agents you work with are happy with your product and that you are romancing them but what about your online relationships?
Social media and review sites like Trip Advisor can make or break a business. An online distribution strategy based on paying commissions to Online Travel Agents (Expedia, Booking.com) is mono dimensional and eats away at margins. Having a Relationship Strategy can serve your agents, increase your online reputation to give potential guests assurance, build customer loyalty and thus increase bookings.
So I am not trying to teach your grandmother to suck eggs here, but it all begins and ends with customer service. The effects of one really good or one really bad customer experience can dramatically effect a tourism operation in today's connected market. Review sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp and Online Travel Agent's own verified reviews leave the customer with the last word. With 93% of global travellers claiming that their booking decisions are influenced by online reviews and 53% of travellers say they won't book a hotel that doesn't have online review the vital role these reviews play in a tourism operator's business is obvious.
One situation not handled correctly, can affect the bottom line, just ask Hotel Quebec. They had one 'Bed Bug' experience that was poorly handled by a staff member resulting in a scathing Trip Advisor review and a corresponding dramatic dip in bookings and revenue. So much so that the hotel sued Trip Advisor for damages and loss of earnings. They lost the case and gained even more publicity on the issue in the process.
Could the horrible situation of being eaten by bed bugs (which was videotaped live by the guest) been turned into a positive and actually made that customer an ambassador for the hotel? Possibly. Could Hotel Quebec have handled the online review better. Absolutely!
The review went live April 2013 and they still haven't responded to it online. Responding to negative reviews is just as important as basking in positive reviews when it comes to a relationship strategy. Expressing concern over the situation raised, that corrections have been made or kindly requesting the reviewer to make personal contact with a manager to learn more are all ways to create a better online relationship.
Make Loyalty Royalty
Generating bookings online through your chosen Online Travel Agents is an important revenue stream for most tourism operators today. But creating an on-going relationship with those visitors once they have been delighted with your product or service, so they become loyal customers should be your ultimate goal.
Like a seven year marriage, you need to create ways to keep the relationship alive and make them feel special. Email marketing, loyalty specials announced on Facebook and 'loyalty login' pages on your website for benefits and incentives are all ways to keep visitors interested and encourage them to talk to others about you.
As the saying goes, 'Relationships take a lot of work and commitment,'both offline and online.