Several years ago (in early 2009), I blogged about two of my passions, social networking and business intelligence. It was about the time that business folks starting building their profiles on LinkedIn, extending their networks via Twitter and started realizing that FaceBook wasn’t just a tool for their children to build their socialization skills but was a vehicle for networking with other professionals within and outside of their own personal networks. Grasping the power of the social network was still this abstruse almost arcane concept in its theoretical potential for corporate America. And while there were those visionaries, like the Wynn in Las Vegas, about whom I shared an anecdote within my TDWI presentation on Social Intelligence (one I will share in a moment) later that year, most companies saw social networking websites as distractions and often, banned them from use during the work day.
Why was Wynn different?
As a frequent corporate traveler, I have had many “check-in” line experiences: from the car rental counter to the hotel check-in line, I have had both good and bad experiences. On one somewhat lackluster experience, I was standing in line to check into the Wynn Hotel in Vegas. Several people ahead of me was a gentleman, fairly polished but obviously frustrated by his conversation with the desk clerk. As a highly perceptive observer (or at least, that is how I am spinning being nosy), I listened in on the situation. This gentleman had reserved a junior suite, since he and a colleague were sharing the room, a common occurrence as companies started to tighten their belts around corporate travel expenses. And, the suite was not available. The clerk seemed to want to help but was strapped by her computer system telling her no suites were available until the following night in the category booked. It turns out, she was new.
Quite gruffly, this gentlemen left the line, and proceeded to stand in the lobby, talking to his colleague about the disappointment, and commented that he was going to Tweet (post a message to his Twitter account) that buyer beware when it came to staying at the Wynn. Now, in a city like Las Vegas where capacity can exceed occupancy rates, combined with a name like the Wynn, combined with the sheer reach of a site like Twitter, this kind of negative word of mouth can really hurt a vendor. And more often than not, comments like this are over looked, or at least, were overlooked in the past, because of the lack of technology or reporting to alert such vendors to such disturbances in real time. In a travel situation, do you want to know that your issue was addressed after your trip with a gift and apology in the form of a coupon for choosing the stay there in future?
No…In fact, the breakage rate on such post-trip coupons is 70-80% (remember, I used to work for the largest online travel consortium) :). Thus, granting coupons is ineffective at winning the customer back. And it is because your trip, whether for business or pleasure, was ruined. And no, I am not being dramatic. You might not think a rooming issue can ruin a trip but it can. In fact, just being placed on the wrong floor or near an elevator or merely any event that is different that you were expecting can ruin a trip from a customer’s perspective.
But, I digress…
Back to my story: As soon as the customer finished posting his Tweet to Twitter, he turned to his colleague and walked to a cafe and sat down to order some refreshments. By the time I reached the front of the check in line, I noticed what appeared to be someone who appeared to be in charge (dark suit, name plate, piece of paper in his hand) approach the gentlemen and start a dialogue with him. Within moments, the two shook hands and the paper (which turned out to be room keys and an invoice) were swapped and the authority figure left about his business.
Intrigued, I walked up and asked the gentlemen what had happened. He was so excited by what had happened that he asked me to wait while he posted a note to Twitter. Since I had heard the original part of the story, I started to deduce what was happening. When he was finished, he said that gentleman was the hotel manager. He had been alerted to the room situation via a Twitter application which alerted management to travel disruptions as they occurred in real time to his smart phone. It was his job to make sure the customers were found in the hotel and the situation fixed to the betterment of the customer, no matter the situation. In this case, the customer was treated to an upgraded full suite, which was available, at no additional cost and given vouchers for the show that evening. The customer was so pleased, he had to go back to Twitter to recant his previous post, and to alert people to how well the situation was handled not days after the fact, but within the hour of it occurring.
I was floored.
You hear about the concept of the customer feedback loop but rarely do you see it implemented well or in a way that can affect overall customer loyalty or perception of the brand. In this case, it not only affected the customer and his colleague, but his entire social network.
Later, I found that same manager and asked his what he used to alert him to the Twitter incident from earlier.
He smiled and said we are in the business of pleasure, thus, it is our job to know when we fail. Alerting in real time is not as hard as you think with the right tools and technology. And left it at that.
Ok, so Vegas is a pretty secretive world of proprietary tools and technology, and are often market leaders when it comes to adoption.
And that is where Social Intelligence comes in: the ability to understand the Voice of the Customer as expressed within the intricate web of the social network via tools and technology. What better tools for alerting and reporting on incidents in real-time than those offered by the Business Intelligence suite of tools (at its most generalized state).
I am so happy to also report that in 2011, BI technology is taking an even larger footprint into the Social Intelligence space. When I can say more, I will. Just know I am really excited about the future ahead of us folks!
Happy New Year readers.