Customer Service in a Digital Age

A recent report sparked a debate in our offices: should you take notes by hand or on a device? Is there any value in writing anything by hand?

I confess. I am a handwriting enthusiast. I like writing things by hand. I keep notebooks, shopping lists, sticky notes with reminders, to help me through my day. I visualize the page in a notebook when I’m trying to recall an instruction or outcome. I was not at all surprised that the study revealed that taking notes by hand was more effective as a study tool than typing notes into a device.

Facts vs. concepts

In the study, both groups of participants – those who wrote by hand and those who typed – were asked to watch TED talks. After watching and taking notes either in a notebook or on a laptop, the two groups were able to equally recall basic facts, but the group who wrote by hand performed significantly better on “conceptual-application” questions. When the students had to formulate an answer based on remembering and applying a concept, those who typed into a device did poorly. The scientists attributed this poor performance to two factors:

  1. When typing into a device, the students were focused on documenting the lecture verbatim. They were focused on just writing the words they heard not listening to the concepts. Those who wrote by hand had to be selective on what they wrote down, so they tended to listen and evaluate as they made notes.
    Devices are distracting. Students on devices were likely to click over to social media or other applications when the lecture seemed a little dull.
  2. Our group takeaway was that writing by hand slowed you down and encouraged you to focus, to stay engaged in the material. We all agreed that spending some time away from our screens and devices was not a bad idea. Which led us to agree that slowing down and getting back to pen and paper might be an even bigger idea.

Back to basics

Getting back to pen and paper in a high-tech world is like swimming against the tide. We agreed that both notebooks and devices have places of usefulness. We all love our devices for keeping lists, maintaining appointments, and keeping up with social media. We also all found great joy in RECEIVING a handwritten note, whether it is one tucked into a suitcase before a trip or a card delivered in the mail. And we realized that SENDING a handwritten note could generate just as much joy.

Because we work in the online world, we wondered how might this relate to responding to reviews. Did slowing down and focusing on context have a place in responding? We believe so. If you just focus on the verbatim complaints in the review, you miss the emotion the guest is sharing. If you cannot put the review into context from the guest’s perspective, you miss the story. If you slow down, focus on the elements of the review, and then respond with relevant emotion and tact, you can change the dialogue. Just as taking notes by hand slows down the process and encourages the writer to listen and think about what is heard, we can slow down and reflect on the guest’s story.

Enjoy the revival

Over the years, I have encouraged my children to make note cards to study. I have required them to write thank you notes. I wanted to share my belief that writing by hand has benefits. Recently, my daughter graduated from high school, and though it took her all summer, she finally completed her thank you notes just before she left for college. I did not proofread them – just addressed the envelopes and popped them in the mail. Later, both my mother-in-law and my sister made a point to tell me how much they enjoyed my daughter’s notes, how touched they were to receive them. They described them as charming and funny and lively, just like my daughter.

Our ability to improve our understanding with pen and paper, my family’s joy at that tiny moment in a day, for those reasons alone I believe it is worthwhile to slow down and write by hand. And the team here agrees. We have challenged ourselves to send a handwritten note, to close our devices and give more attention during a meeting. We’re embracing the handwriting revival!

Christine Lambert, contributing blogger and fellow social butterfly, is a communications consultant with more than 25 years working in wide variety of communications roles. She spent more than a decade working with hotels and hotel brands to amplify their messages with internal and external customers.  iResponze® partners with hotels by responding to online reviews on their behalf. This collaboration allows staff to focus on what they do best – deliver exceptional guest experiences.

Strengthening Customer Relationships with Social Media

Christine Lambert | Guest Blogger

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The other day while shopping at my local grocery store, I looked up from my list and made eye contact with the woman coming toward me. We both made that face – you know the one where you realize you’re supposed to know that person, and you can’t remember her name. Then, our light bulbs almost visibly lit up above our heads, and we realized we were high school classmates and Facebook friends. We had a robust relationship on Facebook, sharing mutual friends and seeing posts from each other, but in the offline world, we had no relationship. I realized then that we had entered an entirely new world of relationship building.

Social media is your relationship friend

In January of this year, Pew Center research released an in-depth report on relationships in a digital age. They wanted to evaluate the impact on relationships that social media was having on our relationships. They concluded that “… research is showing that the internet is not destroying relationships or causing people to be anti-social. To the contrary, the internet is enabling people to maintain existing ties, often to strengthen them, and at times to forge new relationships.”

What this means is we are in an “AND” environment. I think Paul Tredwell, a leading communications consultant, explained it well in a recent blog post: “It has been said that we live in a world of ‘and’. We no longer want to choose A or B, we want both. We want it all, now. Digital innovation has contributed massively to this belief in the endless possibility and changed for all time how we manage our relationships, private, public and professional.”

We are now building relationships not just offline (real) but also online (virtual). We maintain all our usual ways of building relationships with family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, all the humans in our lives. And, now in a digital age, we also have to maintain relationships with them and others online. Whether it is maintaining a website to share company information, trading information by email, texting your parents, or promoting your goods and services through social media, you’re maintaining relationships via online.

Strengthen your core

The Pew Center research results are quite extensive, but I found one result particularly interesting as we try to balance all of this relationship building: with our core relationships, we still relied on traditional (pre-internet) means of communicating – a phone call and an in-person visit. (Core ties are the people with whom you have very close relationships — you discuss important matters with them and seek their help.) In fact, the study found that Americans, on average, are in at least weekly in-person contact with a median of 5 core ties and four significant ties. We are investing valuable time building relationships, nurturing them, both in person and through digital connections.

Which led me to ask: How can we find the energy to care for all these relationships through all these channels? I think the answer is simple – choose wisely. Don’t fall into the trap of being everywhere because everybody else says so. Don’t convince yourself to be best friends with that friend of a friend just because someone else thinks you have a lot in common. And for goodness sake, don’t keep dating that person who is all wrong for you just because you don’t want to try again to find the right one. Put the energy into finding the right ones, and by that I mean, right people, right social media, right relationships that build you up and energize you. Establish your core connections and keep them active.

Achieving online/offline balance

Sharing the wisdom of Paul Tredwell one more time: “… let’s not allow the momentum of digital communication to replace or even diminish face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction. In a complex, challenging, relentless business environment, personal contact is more important than ever.”

At iResponze, they focus on online relationships, and like me, they would encourage you to find a balance for your relationships. Never should online lives take us away from offline ones. Let’s never forget the power of a handshake with a colleague, a face-to-face talk with a friend, and a hug from a parent. Without these offline interactions, we are poorer people, no matter how rich our online life becomes. Online communication is just relationship building in the new digital world.

What tips do you have for maintaining strong relationships in a digital age?

Christine Lambert, contributing blogger and fellow social butterfly, is a communications consultant with more than 25 years working in wide variety of communications roles. She spent more than a decade working with hotels and hotel brands to amplify their messages with internal and external customers. iResponze® partners with hotels by responding to online reviews on their behalf. This collaboration allows staff to focus on what they do best – deliver exceptional guest experiences.

 

 

Budgeting for Online Reputation Management

shutterstock_154870316_medLately here at iResponze® we’ve been talking about wish lists. It seems every celebration during this traditional wedding and graduation season warrants an online/in-store wish list, a registry of all the items a grad or young couple “needs.” Which led us to talk about how ideas of need, these wish lists, are really about the visions people are creating for how they want to live.

All of this wish list discussing led us to consider the impending budget season facing you in your hotels. Wouldn’t you like to create a wish list for your hotel’s vision, forward it to your CFO, and wait for the goodies to arrive? We know that’s not how it works, but you can still adopt the concept of building your wish list first. If you start by considering what tools and resources you believe you need in your hotel, then prioritize by how they would achieve goals, what would rise to the top? We suggest you position guest-focused resources as high on the wish list as you can. Because without guests, you won’t need new bedding, additional staff or more marketing dollars.

Eyes on reviews

Your guests have so many paths to find your hotel – with new ones popping up every week. This growth of online visibility has created an entirely new avenue for guest service – online reputation management. And if you have not yet investigated how to manage your online reviews, we suggest you do so quickly because your guests are using them to make choices.

  • A study by Medallia, released in March 2015, reported that hotels responding to more than 50% of social media reviews grow occupancy rates at more than twice the rate of hotels ignoring reviews.
  • The same study reported that responding to more than 50% of reviews correlates with 6.8 percentage points of growth in occupancy rates.
  • Plus, hotels that responded to feedback in less than a day boasted occupancy rates 12.8% higher than properties taking two days to respond.

If responding to your reviews is not a priority, you are definitely sacrificing both repeat and new visits to your hotel.

Eyes on competition

Beyond your guests, your competitors are ramping up their investments in online reputation management. According to TripAdvisor research, for 2016,

  • 93% of hoteliers said online traveller reviews are important for the future of their business and online reputation management would be the biggest area of investment
  • 59% would be investing more in this area than in the previous year.

Does your wish list include resources for enhanced online review response management? We’ve heard from our clients that adding personnel to handle this high-impact part of your business is a tough sell to your CFO. But an affordable resource, such as iResponze, could be an option your CFO would welcome.

Welcome to your next guest opportunity

As well-traveled social butterflies ourselves, we know it is critical to be responsive to reviews, definitely all of the bad ones and usually some of the good ones. Guests are not just looking at ratings. They’re digging deep into what your previous guests complimented or complained about. They understand that sometimes an item is missed in the housekeeping process, but they don’t want to see these oversights mentioned by multiple guests. They want to see well-maintained guest rooms – and to be frank, they don’t care about your budget issues to repair the carpet or paint the hallways. They want to see that your guests were heard and that their concerns have been addressed. They want to hear your hotel’s “voice” in your review responses. iResponze does all of this for hotels without requiring additional personnel at the hotel. Sounds like a high-priority, wish list item that delivers on your guest promises.

Will online response management be on your hotel’s wish list for 2017? Where will your hotel place its budget priorities?

iResponze® partners with hotels by responding to online reviews on their behalf. This collaboration allows staff to focus on what they do best – deliver exceptional guest experiences.