How to Build an Online Relationship With Your Guests
The internet has revolutionised the relationship between accommodation businesses and their clients. Gone are the days when pamphlets, snail mail and billboards were the only way travel businesses could reach their clients. With digital tools at your disposal, it is much easier to communicate and build a relationship with clients. Let’s look at how you could use these tools effectively to build a stable online relationship with clients.
1. Don’t overlook the importance of your website
If you think your website is just the face of your business online, then you’re wrong. It’s the face, ears, eyes and the voice of your business. According to a study by Statistic Brain earlier this year, 148.3 million travel bookings each year are made online. That means a large chunk of people are using the internet to find destinations and accommodation.
If you find that stat scary, here’s more. 65.4 % of online hotel bookings were made on sites maintained internally by hotels and merchant websites like Expedia and TripAdvisor accounted for 19.5% of the bookings. Opaque websites (sites where the hotel is disclosed after a booking has been made) managed to get 11.5% while retail websites (where the hotel pays distributors commission for a booking) only received 3.7% of the bookings. (See International Hotel Booking Statistics by Statistic Brain) .
So, how do you ‘listen’? Through monitoring and tracking the performance of your website. With tracking tools such as Google Analytics you can see how visitors consume your content, how long they stay engaged for, and what content they are most interested in. Creating content that appeal to your market will result in online conversation, and ultimately, relationships.
Here’s a checklist on how to maintain an effective website:
Be visual. Use images and videos to inform clients about your services. A show,don’t tell-strategy makes it easier for clients to understand your message.
Content: What are you saying about your business? What’s unique about your guest house? You need to tailor content in an inviting way instead of providing prices and packages. Your client wants to know what they are paying for.
Have a call to action. After sifting through the content on the site, have you made the next step clear? People respond better to a website with a clear call of action.
Contact information: Is it easy for clients to find your business’ contact details on your website site?
2. Social media is key
Simple setting up Twitter or Facebook account for your business is not enough. You need to go beyond that and establish a solid relationship with your clients.
Before you bombard your potential client with tweets, you need to know them. You need to know who you are speaking to. Who are they ? Are you making conversations with corporate business men and women or sharing advice with young backpackers? What are they interested in? You might want to understand the demographics and behaviour of your clients before sharing content with them. Once you have figured that out, you’ll be able to interact better with them.
Content sharing on social networks is a great way of to build an online relationship with your clients. You can tweet about new developments, share photos on Instagram or simply upload a video. However, you have to tailor your content to attract your clients. It has to be unique, and you can’t compromise on the quality. When you give clients content, you are turning them into business ambassadors. If it’s unique and share-able, they’ll pass it on to their friends and followers. By the time, your social media connections get to your site, they’re already convinced about your services.
3. Manage your online reputation
What are you saying online? What is being said about you online? Both these things could affect the reputation of your business. To help maintain a great online relationship, your online reputation needs to remain clean. The best way to begin is internally.
Firstly, make sure your website is clear about the value of your business. Don’t post content that could mislead clients. If you tell potential clients, your guest house has a swimming pool, they’ll show up expecting to find one. If your pool is out of service, you should remove that information before a bad review comes your way. It’s all about about remaining truthful and maintaining credibility.
Secondly, filter your content before posting it on social media. Ensure that you don’t post content that could antagonise your clients or do your business harm. In simpler terms, just stick to positive content.
Lastly, teach your staff about reputation management. If they see themselves as your business’ ambassadors online, they will safeguard it’s reputation.
4. Deal with bad online reviews effectively
It’s hard to stop an unsatisfied client from posting a negative review on websites like TripAdvisor and Expedia but you could control your response. Your response could affect your online reputation. It’s all about developing a powerful strategy with such reviews. Here’s a few steps to take when dealing with bad reviews.
Develop an internal strategy for dealing with bad reviews.
Sign up for email notifications or monitoring system: Some review websites send an automatic email each time your guesthouse or hotel is mentioned. This help you keep track of what is being said about you travel business.
Investigate the complaint. Find out if the review is based on facts. You don’t want to jump in your business defence, only to find out the review is true.
Timing: The sooner you respond to the bad review, the more dedicated to excellence your business seems. If you wait longer, it just seems like you don’t care about your clients’ needs.
Tailor your response for each complaint. One generic message for all reviews is more likely to antagonise the client. However, if it addresses the issue brought up in the review, it shows that you took time to deal with it.
Respond in a polite manner. Remember that the customer is always right (even more so online), so try to remain calm. Use words such as please and thank you in your response.
Take the conversation offline and resolve the issue with the client. They might write a positive review about your business.
Show the client how things will be different on their next visit.
Download our TripAdvisor Cheat Sheet.
5. Get help
If everything else fails, seek help from online experts. These individuals could help you build solid online relationships. By consulting with them, you could identify your weakness and improve your online strategy.