In a recent article published on LinkedIn, Arne Sorenson, President and CEO at Marriott International, makes some valuable points about transparency within the hospitality industry. He explains how after a period of hesitation, his company embraced unfiltered reviews and “turned the floor over to real customers to share their real feedback.”
Bye-Bye Filters, Hello Transparency
Sorenson rightly points out that not too long ago, publishing unfiltered customer feedback would have sent shockwaves through a company, with managers shuddering at the thought of the damage a bad review could cause. He explains that the decision to implement unfiltered reviews at Marriott International came several years after they were initially considered.
What is interesting is the reason Sorenson gives for the decision being taken: “Consumers’ habits began to change dramatically. En masse, they began trusting online information, especially the opinions of strangers shared in public forums.”
This highlights a crucial point that goes beyond the hospitality industry and concerns all companies that offer products or services. Online consumers aren’t looking for sales pitches; they’re after authentic information that can help them make informed purchasing decisions. This is why they trust the recommendations of fellow consumers far more than traditional online ads.
Sorenson talks primarily about customer reviews, which is a key example. But beyond reviews published on company websites, brands need to embrace consumer feedback in all its forms and on all communication channels.
Dealing with Negative Feedback on Social Media
Social media, and Twitter in particular, is fast-becoming the go-to place for consumers looking to interact with brands and provide feedback. So rather than being afraid of what consumers might say, companies should use this as an opportunity to connect directly with customers and use their feedback productively. Even the most successful brands receive bad buzz and as Sorenson rightly points out, “one well-articulated complaint can provide us a roadmap on exactly where and how to improve.”
As well as transparency, there is another key benefit of embracing customer feedback on social media. It is the fact that welcoming customers’ input engages them in brand communication, empowering the most enthusiastic fans as brand advocates.
This links back to the point about consumers looking for genuine information online; when they see that a company communicates not only through official brand accounts, but through the voice of existing customers, they know they will be able to obtain authentic, relatable insights into the brand. What’s more, they recognize that by actively engaging with customers on social media, the company has an open, consumer-oriented approach to online communication – something that, given the competitive nature of social media, has never been more important.