Achieving competitive advantage today requires the hospitality industry to make use of every tool at their disposal. This includes the virtual community, that online network of past, present, and future customers, along with business partners and potential and current employees. How do these tools and communities impact hotel booking? Are they detrimental or helpful to bring in more customers?
The Power of Virtual Communities
The power of the online community has massively disrupted the hospitality industry. Social networks and industry startups such as TripAdvisor and Airbnb have all changed our work forever. But it is the virtual community that has been a driving force in the hospitality industry, affecting bookings and service delivery in whole new ways.
Hotels can and should harness the power of virtual communities to build their brand. You can use it to nurture customer relationships and attract more talent. But you can also leverage what’s going on with these digital communities to build new service lines and respond to market shifts.
Leader Networks studied the impact of online communities in several different industries. They found five key best practices that could potentially impact the hospitality industry and hotel booking.
Online communities help hotels form better customer relationships with existing customers.
Hotels can use online communities to drive more bookings with existing customers. Since it always costs more to attract new customers than to upsell the old ones, hotels can use the power of the Internet to keep former clients happy and entice them to come back for more.
Virtual communities can be leveraged to increase hotel bookings.
Online communities are impacting the bottom line of hospitality firms. Creating and maintaining an online community is a lower-cost form of advertising and marketing. This can improve ROI on any effort to increase hotel bookings. Customer loyalty can be leveraged to drive up volumes. The study also found that online communities are an excellent way to improve overall hotel revenues. 49% of marketing leaders say online communities are a good way to influence spending. But the Leader Networks study pointed out that hotels are failing in their attempt to track ROI metrics associated with these marketing efforts.
Employee communities can increase collaboration between teams.
A recent study showed virtual employee communities can improve employee engagement and camaraderie. When teams work effectively together, hotels run more efficiently. When hotels run well, customers are happy, and new bookings will increase.
Marketing can have a significant impact on the virtual community forum.
Marketers should take note that they are strategically positioned to drive hotel booking via the online community channels. While many business lines can be tied to harnessing ROI from online communities, it is the marketing department that will have the biggest impact on the efforts to leverage these virtual customers.
Online communities can yield incredible market insights.
Customer communities are perfect for researching current market trends. Paying attention to what your customers are saying has always been an important tenet of marketing. To drive hotel bookings, use these forums to see where customer service issues arise, and then respond accordingly.
Online communities are also important for attracting talent. Talk to Gecko Hospitality about how we can work together to harness the power of these tools to improve your competitive advantage.