The hospitality industry desperately needs a 6.0 upgrade. In this day and age, with digital messaging and smartphone apps taking the place of snail mail and paper trails, I find it incredible that a hotel chain still pushes notes under the door. And yet that’s exactly what happened to me when I attempted to communicate via social channels with the hotel chain to resolve an issue recently. A typewritten note was pushed under the door during the wee hours of the morning, saying they tried to get hold of me numerous times-and would I please check in with the front desk to discuss my problem.

Really? I reached out to the brand via Twitter, and they can’t reach back the same way? “Hey, @TedRubin, please call us?” Or leave a message on my email or cell phone (information they had on my reservation).

Yes, the brand probably handed my issue to the property manager to take care of, and maybe they’re stretched a bit thin. Maybe the folks at the front desk aren’t on Twitter. Maybe they weren’t told about my issue until the shift change. Maybe my reservation (and contact info) got accidentally fed into the shredder, or was left on the bottom of the passenger pigeon cage.

As a paying customer, the number of “maybe” gaps in their service chain shouldn’t be my problem. Across most of the hospitality industry I see a foolish and almost universal disconnection between social teams and customer service at corporate and property level. What an incredible waste! Until they learn to connect the channels, they often do more harm than good with respect to proper customer service and/or relationship follow-up. There are lots of examples of companies who are successful at integrating social into their customer service chains to better serve their customers-so it isn’t a matter of “can’t get there from here,” it’s a matter changing antiquated policies to get there faster.

This goes for retailers and other brands as well, not just the hospitality industry. Find ways to wrap social around your business processes to better serve your customers. Your customers expect to be able to reach you via social channels on their mobile devices now-and it frustrates them when they can’t. It’s akin to calling on the phone and never being able to speak to a warm body.

And what happens when your digitally savvy customers get frustrated with you? They Tweet it, share it on Facebook, or post pictures on Instagram. Social can either be your best friend and customer advocate facilitator or it can be the vehicle that spreads bad press faster than the plague.

So if your brand hasn’t connected the social dots yet, just remember-your reputation is in the hands of the consumer now. So it’s your choice. Either copy those who are doing it well or figure out another way (and soon), because your customers will drift to the competition that’s getting it right-and you won’t like the social fallout.

A “Brand” is what a business does, and a “Reputation” is what people remember.

Originally posted on October 30th, 2013 at Inside CXM

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