Social media can be deadly for business
Since time immemorial, it has of course always been important to protect a brand. A successful brand not only makes promises, but matches them with consistent delivery. From a tourism perspective, we protect the brand regardless of whether it is an individual hotel, chain, destination or other singular or group entity.
Years ago, it was far more difficult to inflict damage on an image and reputation that could have taken generations to build. Nowadays it can be destroyed in seconds just by using the social media, at absolutely no cost to the customer.
Let me give a small example…
Last June I flew to Boston and collected a hire car from one of the world’s leading vehicle hire companies located close to Logan airport. There were long queues at the agent’s desks and it took nearly an hour to complete any outstanding paperwork even though I am a member of their loyalty programme and had pre-registered most of the information required, like driving license and credit card details.
When we found the car at a numbered bay, it was frankly filthy with badly stained carpets and seats – together with an offensive interior stench that pervaded the vehicle for a full week even though most days the windows were kept wide open.
The sensible thing to have done at that time would have been to return to the office and point out the defects. But, we did not want another prolonged wait, our hotel accommodation was a three hour drive away and it was pouring rain considerably restricting visibility.
Upon our return to Barbados I reported the experience to the Customer Relations headquarters and received an automated response. Months went by and even after sending several reminders by email, nothing more was heard. Eleven months later I was almost ready to forget the issue and had resigned myself to never (through choice) use the company again even though I had been a regular client for at least two decades.
One more try perhaps – so I posted my displeasure on the company’s FaceBook page.
Within seconds (literally) a polite and apologetic repose was received, with the added bonus that some upgrade vouchers for future use had been mailed to me. The world may never have witnessed my few ‘internal’ emails, but now it was out there for a large chunk of the FaceBook community globally to view.
And this is how we have to treat tourism today…
Any tardy ill-informed response lacking empathy can do so much damage to the business and by reflection, the destination.
Reputations are valuable assets that need to be guarded, nurtured and managed, every single day of the year.
Not only do ‘we’ have to respond, but equally crucial, we have to be seen to respond. Frankly that is where ‘we’ often fail dismally. It is absolutely critical to monitor negative comments on social networks together with other media outlets and attempt to promulgate at least a balanced and positive point of view.
I would like to finish this week’s column by adapting some words which may accurately reflect the malaise that many feel is enveloping our tourism industry, at this point in time…
It starts with leadership whose role is to inspire, direct and champion change.
Leaders lead by example.