The hospitality and tourism Industry is changing rapidly and the pressure to compete for customers on a global scale is increasing constantly. At the same time consumer needs are changing quickly and their demands are getting more complex and sophisticated. By embracing social media tools and real-time communication over the Internet consumers are more empowered than ever before. Tourism and hospitality organisation need to react rapidly and don’t have the luxury to respond late and adapt their service offerings over long periods of time any more. Instant gratification of customer needs is paramount for company competitiveness.
Hence, valuable brands have to tackle this challenge and their success or failure depends increasingly on their agility, flexibility and the competitive speed at which they react to the dynamic changes in customers’ needs. This in turn requires a real-time understanding and awareness of consumers’ preferences and needs as well as full awareness of context and location.
However, the design of new services as well as the redesign of existing service offerings is a long lasting and iterative process. In essence, services are (re)designed based on information about consumers’ wants and needs, which the hospitality or tourism service provider has identified prior to creating or amending the product. Given the slow speed of the process of both developing new services and incorporating customer feedback into existing offerings; service firms are limited in their capabilities to respond to dynamic changes in demand and customer requirements.
Recent technological developments are reducing this feedback loop to an instant real time process. Against this background social media act a catalyst of change as they increasingly enables companies to:
- retrieve background information about consumers (demographics, interests, consumption preferences) (through social networks, location-based services, etc)
- identify and monitor social media conversations among consumers (through social media monitoring tools such as reviewpro, brandkarma, etc)
- engage with consumers in a conversation (through social networks, micro-blogs like twitter, forums, etc)
- link conversations and feedback to a specific geo-location (through location-based services such asFoursquare, Facebook Places, etc)
In contrast to traditional market research tools such as feedback questionnaires, consumer observations, etc social media help access this information:
- in (almost) real-time
- free from potential market research bias
- directly expressed from consumers
Therefore, by monitoring social media, tourism and hospitality companies are enabled to create a ‘nervous system’ that senses the dynamic changes in customers’ wants and needs constantly and in near real-time. In turn, this information can be used to instantly respond to these changes by creating flexible and agile services on the spot and by adapting service offerings dynamically. Thus, by leveraging what we call The Service of Now service offerings are ensured to be more relevant to actual consumer-needs at the present time.
Additionally, the Service of Now has far reaching implications for both the identification and successful recovery of service failures and breakdowns. Plethora of studies have shown that for different reasons, the vast majority of consumers (85%-95%) don’t actually voice complaints about service failures to companies.
Also, the ‘service recovery paradox’ tells us that customers, who have experienced a successful service recovery are on average more satisfied than consumers, who did not experience any service failure at all.
Therefore, real-time enabled social media monitoring as an input for operations management provides an opportunity to identify service failures and to recovery them instantly, leading towards higher customer satisfaction and service excellence as well as organisational competitiveness.