You can’t blame travel suppliers and companies for their myopia. For all too many years they’ve had a Pavlovian response to their brands: promote them, and get around to taking care of customers later.
Or maybe never.
In spite of all the brouhaha that suggested social media was the way of connecting with and servicing customers, the facts seem to speak differently, according to Hotelmarketing.com . They report that 62% of customers are looking for more support through social media. But, brand reputation and promotions still top the list of how companies are using social media.
In the travel industry, there are not many destinations or destination management organizations (DMO’s) that use their on line presence to support the needs of their customers, or would-be customers.
They’re just too busy promoting the virtues of their properties to actually ask what their customers want, and more importantly to answer questions or provide quality, individualized advice.
Unfortunately, the disconnect between what customers want and companies are giving is actually growing. At the end of 2011, MarketTools reported that only 23% of US companies provided customer service via Facebook and 12% provided customer service via Twitter.
Econsultancy goes on to point out that many companies just don’t get that they’re in business to serve us, the people, who spend 23% of our time on line. And that using corporate social media muscle to promote brand and not to give the people, their customers, a voice, is very wrongheaded.
Econsultancy’s cool infographic shows that, once again, that the retail industry has the highest percent (45%) of customers using social media as their voice, and contacting (and getting) support through social media.
Travel and Hospitality comes in third third with an unimpressive (34%), but Health Care comes in last, with just 9 % of customers using social media to contact a health provider or hospital.
The travel industry in particular needs to do better.Too much emphasis on using the Internet and social media to generate bookings by featuring glossy images of ocean liners and attractive (if empty) dining areas, pools and beaches. They fail to make themselves available to support and sustain their clients using the new or social media platforms to hear the voices of the traveler and provide quality customer service.
What’s finally interesting about the infographic is that the disconnect may be the result of top brass not knowing how to use social media.
Seventy-three percent of corporations and companies said they would “use social media for customer service,” if they understood the tools available to them.
It certainly is time to get past that.