One of the catchphrases of marketing today is that customer service is the new marketing.
Like most clichés it conveys a basic truth, but it only makes sense once one understands how customer service plays out in the way word-of-mouth advertising is magnified by social media.
Last week I said that the greatest opportunity in 2012 likely lay in converting on business or construction visitors already in our area this year. People sometimes forget that these are tourists, and very valuable tourists at that. They spend more, and they are in the community long enough to establish loyalties to local businesses.
It’s obvious that if you own a restaurant, and you provide good food and good service at a fair price, your customer will return. And we know that this customer will almost certainly tell friends about this great restaurant. Yet that word-of-mouth promotion has blossomed into an opportunity that can be far more valuable than traditional advertising opportunities.
Today’s business travellers stay in much closer touch with their loved ones than has been possible in the past. They follow day-to-day developments on Facebook, Twitter, Path, or what-have-you, and they chat regularly on Skype or FaceTime. They live by their mobile devices, and have become accustomed to online research for dining, accommodation and recreation options. This technology is a vital part of their lives. So if they receive great product, and great customer service, at a great price, we see a good number of these customers posting that on their online networks.
Yet human nature remains human nature – the customer is always more likely to broadcast a negative experience than a positive one. And since their networks likely include their work colleagues, a bad experience can lead to catastrophic results. Thus customer service becomes, for better or worse, even more powerful advertising than ever before.
Thus any business must be very concerned about online reputation management. At one level this is simple. If a visitor posts a negative review of your hotel on TripAdvisor, the way in which you respond to that bad experience can be more effective for advertising purposes than any number of good reviews. But the proliferation of social networks complicates this. On TripAdvisor the customer is in a sense offering you their feedback in a public forum. It takes specific searches to find feedback on other networks.
So it’s vital to be active on those social networks, and here is where Tourism Prince Rupert can help. In this context I’m speaking about business travellers, and they are certainly the most sophisticated when it comes to online travel planning, but it’s true in the case of leisure travel as well. From trip planning to decisions about evening dining, we’re accustomed to researching by interacting on social networks.
To be on the other side of this fence means finding interesting things to post about your own business. To be truly effective you must re-post the positive comments, re-post interesting things about your partner businesses, and allow your personality to come through in your online presence. If each tourism business or organization in Prince Rupert is doing this, then our job at TPR becomes much more effective. We take the best of that content and rebroadcast it on the various social networks where our visitors and potential visitors are waiting. This approach to marketing is becoming more and more important every year. Given the particular realities of this season, it has become vital. If we work together and do this well, we can maximize the benefit of this year’s business travel.