One of the biggest questions hotels have when it comes to social media management, is how fast should they be responding to mentions? The simple answer is that it depends on the type of hotel, the guest, and the type of mention.

Hotel staff might need to prioritise certain types of mentions over others. For example, complaints directed at the hotel through an @mention are usually dealt with promptly in order to recover service. One survey looking at frequent U.S. travellers, found that guests expected to wait just 27.1 minutes for a response on social media and even less time for email, messages on a mobile app and text messages. While times will vary from hotel to hotel, the key takeaway is that hotels should be prioritising digital channels and remembering that people spend more time on mobile when they travel.

A tiered approach to response times

One way hotel managers can tackle the wave of social media mentions is by creating target response times around different tiers. For example:

  • Tier 1: complaints with an @mention, possible target response time of 30 minutes
  • Tier 2: negative posts with no @mention, target response time of three hours
  • Tier 3: positive posts with @mentions, target response time of 12 hours  
  • Tier 4: posts that don’t contain an @mention or hashtag, 24 hour response time, depending

Posts without @mentions can be hard for hotels to surface if they are not using a location-based social listening tool like Local Measure. These posts can actually run the gamut of priority tiers and may need to be dealt with immediately or at least within the same day so as to reach the guest before they check out.

Keeping up with expectation

If the retail sector is anything to go by, guests are going to expect increasingly faster response times. Brandwatch reported on a study that found “53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within 1 hour regardless of when they tweeted, with that percentage rising to 72% if it’s a complaint.” Unfortunately most brands fall woefully behind this expectation.

So why are consumers’ expectations so high?

With a widening global marketplace,  consumers have come to feel like small fish in a big ocean. Few people know their local grocery store’s general manager anymore, or their bank branch manager, so they don’t have a familiar face to turn to when they have an issue. When people can’t get the kind of immediate service they desire,  social media, and Twitter in particular, feels like the easiest way to get a brand’s attention. For this reason, companies should think of their social channels as customer service portals, rather than just marketing channels.

     “53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within 1 hour regardless of when they tweeted, with that percentage rising to 72% if it’s a complaint.”                                                                                                

Natural listening and responding

Jim Tobin writes in his book, Social Media is a Cocktail Party, that “social media requires a company to respond appropriately, genuinely, and openly, exactly as you’d expect to be spoken to at a cocktail party.” His view is that most companies respond as though they’re waiters (‘it’s a fad, I don’t need to respond’); lawyers (‘it could damage our reputation, we won’t risk anything’); confused (‘we don’t know what to do, so we’ll ignore it’); or promoters (‘we’ll respond in a controlled environment that reflects our brand’). Each of these attitudes goes against what’s required at a cocktail party: natural listening and responding. You wouldn’t wish someone a happy birthday a month after the fact, so remember that timeliness counts and to keep responses limited to posts from the last couple of days.

     “Social media requires a company to respond appropriately, genuinely, and openly, exactly as you’d expect to be spoken to at a cocktail party.”                                                                                                 

Social media customer service that goes above and beyond

The standard for customer service on social media has now shifted from simply reactive responses, to proactive engagement. Proactive engagement is also one of the most useful strategies for reducing the time crunch that results from receiving a swath of guest posts in the high priority tier. Attentive social listening allows you to better anticipate the needs and emotions of guests and avoid potentially negative situations that demand immediacy in order to recover service.

Location-based social media monitoring platforms like Local Measure allow hotel staff to be notified of guest posts, and filter for complaints or mentions of celebrations made within the location property. Services such as these can help boost response time, allowing you to delight your guests before they have checked out.