Very soon, the days of calling into an 800 number for accessing customer-service representatives from travel-related companies will be over. Or rather, it just won’t be the most popular channel for communicating with customers and guests.
NPR recently ran a piece about how companies like Southwest Airlines are launching social media command centers for interacting with travelers.
In something that looks like a command theater for a military operation, these new customer service outposts offer numerous large flat-screens that display the news, trending topics in the airline industry, detailed flight data, and photos and videos people have tagged with Southwest.
Directly connected to the real flight command center, this new approach allows the airline to track its more than 3,000 daily online mentions, as well as respond to more urgent queries in real-time.
Travelers can simply tweet a justifiable complaint and immediately receive a voucher, whereas a call into a customer representative can slow down response times. Furthermore, airlines like Southwest are using social media to issue apologies faster, which ultimately helps build more brand awareness and loyalty.
Hoteliers can take a page from the airlines by implementing a similar strategy. In addition to quickly responding to complaints, it is possible to offer discounts to guests who demonstrate the highest level of brand loyalty in the social media sphere.
The Millennial Guest, who represents the next-generation of traveler, is digitally focused, highly connected and has very high expectations when it comes to innovation.
Expectations for real-time communications with travel brands though social media will only increase over time. In the end, this raises the stakes and increases competition for hoteliers, while also providing a unique business opportunity.