Tag Archives: social networks

2012 top trends to dominate Middle East hotel sector

Ten leading hoteliers present the top 10 industry trends expected to dominate the Middle East hotel sector in 2012

1. M-commerce
“Rapid advancements in travel technology are on the cards, especially mobile bookings which has opened a whole new world. According to industry sources 18% of mobile users are expected to make bookings using their smart devices.”Michel Noblet, President & CEO, HMH – Hospitality Management Holdings

2. Influence of consumer ratings
“Websites such as Trip Advisor will continue to push hotels to become better attuned to customer’s needs. It is no longer about what we say about ourselves in a brochure that maters, it is what our reviewers say. We need to listen to our guests and even though not every review can be positive, hotels need to acknowledge issues and work to fix them.”Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi, President and CEO of Millennium & Copthorne, Middle East and Africa.

3. Digital booking
“Online booking will be another top trend. Our hotels will heavily switch to the online channel. Potential and existing clients are becoming tech-savvy experts. They know what they want, and are far more sophisticated in what they are looking for, easily accessing information about our hotels through digital tools. Thus, our key priority area is to be on top of the latest online tools and aggressively develop our digital services and presence: from mobile apps to E-Marketing, to our loyalty program, Le Club Accorhotels.”Christophe Landais, managing director, Accor Middle East

4. Growth of the mid-market

We think it will be a bit of a return to 2009 in 2012. In light of the economic instability in Europe I think added value packages will once again become very attractive. This instability will help grow another trend, mid-market hotels. I predict this will continue to grow in the region throughout 2012, especially the clearly defined brands within the mid-market segment.Marko Hytonen, Area Vice President, The Rezidor Hotel Group

5. Emergence of new brands

“I believe we will see the introduction and growth of brands that are new to the region, brands such as Hotel Indigo. We are yet to bring Hotel Indigo to this part of the world, but following the success of the brand elsewhere we expect to announce our first property early next year. The growth of our Staybridge Suites brand will also continue and this helps us cater for the needs of the long stay guest.”John Bamsey, Chief Operating Officer, India, Middle East & Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group

6. Spa and wellness

“Spas are becoming important to both the leisure and business traveler. Nowadays, they are a necessity rather than a luxury, just as a health and fitness club is today, as more and more people seem to be looking seriously at their personal health and well being. Rotana has introduced spa facilities to many of its properties following extensive research into the desires and needs of guests. The direction we are going is to include a Spa in each of our 5 star Resorts & Hotels.”Selim El Zyr, president and CEO, Rotana Hotels

7. Talent and training

“The battle for talent is a real one compounded by the complexities of the need to engage countries very real needs to immerse their own workforce in our industry” Jeff Strachan, vice president – sales and marketing, MEA, Marriott

8. Rise of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) travellers 
“These emerging economies are slowly but surely making their mark as strong source markets as well as development markets. Hilton has recognised this and, with particular regard to China, launched an initiative in 2011 called Hilton Huanying — a tailored experience for all travellers of Chinese origin. Inspired by the Chinese word for ‘welcome’, the programme enables visitors to book Hilton hotels with confidence knowing the properties will meet their cultural needs and expectations. These include, front desk team member fluent in Chinese, tea kettles, dedicated Chinese broadcasting channel on TV, welcome letter in Chinese and chinese tea available in the bedrooms. We also provide special Chinese dishes at breakfast. Over 50 hotels in the Hilton Hotels & Resorts portfolio have signed up to the programme.”Rudi Jagersbacher, President, Hilton Worldwide, Middle East & Africa

9. Bargain hunters
“One of the most important trends is the very short lead of advance booking. This can be attributed to the availability of airline capacity to specific destinations which in turn relaxes customers urgency for advanced booking and allows guests the opportunity to search for last minute bargains. Guests are looking for added-value. In terms of preferences and behaviour patterns, travellers are still taking vacations and travelling widely but they demand extra value for money more than before. They are still looking for quality of service and personalized experiences but added value is a key factor while selecting their accommodations.”Gerard Hotelier, Vice President Operations- Middle East, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts

10. Social media
“Social media creates opportunities never envisioned before. It influences how you are positioned on google, your reputation can be damaged or enhanced within a blink of an eye, social commerce is coming, and all this is going mobile. It is a revolution for the hotel industry, and it is just the beginning. Said that, as a company you have to wonder how to invest and how much. The ROI is still not clear, and there is a RISK on spending too much.” Sami Nasser, SVP, Sofitel Middle East and Indian Ocean 

Via http://www.hoteliermiddleeast.com

Using Social Networks to Improve Operations

For decades the mystery shopper was the main way retailers assessed operations from a customer’s point of view. By sending in a fake shopper, typically once a month, an individual store essentially was buying a dozen performance snapshots per year.

Then telephone surveys began to supplement mystery shopping. Today, digital technologies are supplanting both, with online customer surveys providing an exponentially greater number of performance snapshots per day.

A well-managed loop that links customer experience feedback with recommendations on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, can boost service quality and operational performance, increase traffic and create more happy customers — people who crow about a retailer online for free, turning their friends into new customers too.

A new mini-industry has emerged using these techniques, known as “customer experience management,” or CEM. Our company, Empathica — as well as a number of competitors — are providing customer feedback to operations, while partnering with “web-scraping” companies to listen to random chatter online.

Now we’re turning attention to linking operations to marketing through “social CEM.” The aim is not to drive online advertising impressions, but to explicitly and transparently drive the behavior of customers, front line service staff and retail managers. The aim is to create a true dialogue, not simply a listening post for customer kudos and complaints. And by doing so, this loop can drive meaningful operations and customer satisfaction gains.

An example: At Debenhams, a major international department store chain based in London, a customer complained through an online survey about a poor meal they received at the store’s restaurant. “Ordered turkey dinner. Very dried out. Overcooked vegetables in greasy, cold gravy.” The store manager called the customer that night, apologized, and sent a coupon for two free meals. The customer was invited to post their happiness with the problem’s resolution on Facebook, and did. The store manager made sure the kitchen turned out better turkey dinners. The result: a satisfied customer, better kitchen operations, and free social network advertising. Debenham’s effectively took what would have been a one-off customer experience problem and turned that customer into an Debenham’s advocate online and improved its operations to reduce the possibility of future disgruntled customers.

A social network feedback loop starts with information gleaned from customer surveys conducted online. Those survey-takers are then linked directly to social networks like Facebook through a link on the survey.

So how many customers will actually bother to move from surveys to socializing their experience? We have some data that suggests a healthy amount. We conducted 25 million surveys last year; more than 80 percent of respondents said they’d recommend the brand they were being quizzed about. We’ve then seen 10 to 20 percent of customers follow through with social network postings after the survey.

Some recommendations for retailers considering tying together their feedback, social, and operations loops: Customers need some nudging: incentives like coupons do the job. At 100 Boston Market restaurants, customer advocates got $3 coupons for a recommendation. In a three-month period, Boston Market received 100,000 Facebook newsfeed recommendations; advocates redeemed more than 4,000 coupons.

Finding customer advocates isn’t the only goal. Unhappy customers need to be channeled through a “customer rescue” process to help solve problems and mend relationships, and provide feedback on problems for operations to solve.

At Citibank branches in New York City, for example, every customer who completes a survey receives a call back from their bank manager within one to two days. The manager uses survey feedback and software intelligence to determine whether complaints need resolution or whether the manager should provide a simple “thank you” to reinforce the local branch’s commitment to customer service — like old fashioned retail and small local banks or credit unions still do.

The advocate process is proving far more powerful than regular social network advertising. The key is authenticity: we listen to our friends and colleagues for advice and recommendations. So while retailers and restaurant owners can buy social media advertising, the real place to drive growth is on the consumer newsfeeds. Not only are those kinds of clickthroughs more numerous. They are also more powerful. Beyond simple word of mouth advertising, poor-performing outlets get suggestions for improvement, which they use to guide better operational performance.

via Using Social Networks to Improve Operations – Gary Edwards and Mike Amos – Harvard Business Review.

Italians and sustainability in the retail business: the buzz is online!

Italians speak about sustainability online.This is the result of a recent survey led by Blogmeter from October 1st, 2010 to January 31st, 2011 recording approximately more than 9 thousand post about environmental sustainability related to the major retail chains. Social media proved to be the ideal and most followed communication tool  to promote eco- initiatives, facilitating the construction of  a real “green image” for the retail business sector.

Retailers mentioned by Italians on online conversations about sustainability

When it comes to environmental sustainability Coop and Ikea and are the most discussed with over 40% of the citations. This happened for example with the Sportello Ambiente initiative,  a collaboration between Ikea and Legambiente to offer advice to consumers about home energy efficiency, and with the Coop campaign to promote the consumption of tap water in place of the bottled one.

In general, web users are showing an increaside sensitivity to organic and low-
environmental impact products:  in the online communities dedicated to women, users positively report about the presence of automatic distributors to refill detergents inside the supermarket. Retailers brands are the most mentioned ones, most widely quoted and commented by users because always available on the shelf – like Esselunga Bio, Bio of Auchan, Coop Viviverde. Lidl, for example, is particularly discussed for its range of ecological detergents W5 (on 42 over 199 posts mentioning the retailer) considered to be of good quality and highly recommended among users.

The network also tells us that attention to a more responsible consumption is steadily increasing and influencing the purchase process in different ways: users are more sensitive to labels and the presence of the Ecolabel certification is considered increasingly important for those who are looking for products with a low environmental impact.

The research also showed that a balanced relationship between quality and price of organic and /or eco products is a key criterion in the buying process: very often consumers who are interested in green products do desist because selling prices are too high. (Source: GDO Week)

Two social media tools for retailers: local buzzing with enterprise control.

We often talk about social media, buzz marketing and online reputation. Big corporations can find it quite difficult to control and “direct” all the related online communication, especially when this is done at local level – agents, retailers, franchises. But now there are platforms that can help corporations achieve great results with just a couple of clicks.

Yesterday I stumbled upon an interesting Tweet by Mashable, regarding a new startup, Hearsay, whose product – Hearsay Social- is a social media management platform, that gives companies with a national presence and local agents or franchises the ability to manage all of their social media in one place. Hearsay calls organizations that fit this mold “corporate/local.” Hersay Social is a web-based software that a corporation and its local branches can use to coordinate their social media efforts. The dashboard gives local agents or franchises the ability to manage their own local Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. It also also gives corporations the ability to monitor local engagement. Not only can they access detailed analytics for all of their agents, they can also catch when they step out of line. Hearsay clients list includes State Farms whose case study is availaible online.  Here’s an interesting video about the product features.

Another software that can help companies achieve the same result: Expion. Expion provides Social Media Management Software that enables large Enterprises to publish and aggregate social media conversations that can scale to hundreds of local based Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and YouTube channels, etc. This software allows maximum employee social reach within a company’s defined social guardrails, allows for employees across all your locations or departments to deliver coordinated and consistent brand appropriate messaging. At the same time Expion’s unified database aggregates and tracks all employee and customer social interactions. This centralized intelligence will profile customers, identify advocates and critics, track behaviors and create best employee practices, while measuring effectiveness of messaging for continued optimization. Expion is already used by Coldwell Banker Advantage, Applebees’s Restaurants and Mark’s among the many