I heard a great sermon this morning about weeding out the negative things in our lives that strangle the positive, fruitful things we are trying to grow. Weeds often times grow faster than what we are trying to plant, which makes it even more critical to constantly weed them out, so they don't end up suffocating everything we have been working towards.
Social Media seems to be an excellent playground for weeds, right? It is more likely for a brand to be flooded with negative comments, than receiving an entire news feed of positive ones. People will often only comment about a brand when something goes wrong, rather than when everything goes right.
So, brands have the unending challenging of weeding their social media feeds, making sure the negativity of complaints does not superseded the positive.
I was quite a large weed to one hotel chain earlier this week when I was traveling for business. I was incredibly looking forward to a night to trade in my closet-sized apartment in NYC for a comfy King sized bed in a beautiful Westin.
Granted, the day I arrived at the Westin was not going in the Westin's favor. I woke up with an extremely sore throat just in time to catch an early morning flight to DC. By the time I arrived at the Westin, all I wanted to do was climb into bed, but I had way too much work to do. So, I quickly tried to connect to the internet. My coworker had already asked how, and the lady at the front desk said to simply use our last names and hotel room numbers. Seeing as how that's all she said, I immediately assumed that the internet was included in the price of the hotel. Much to my surprise, it was $10.95 per connection. Yes, all I had to do was use my last name and hotel room number, but then it would charge that nice little fee to my room.
In my angst and irritation with a fee like that capped onto what was supposed to be a nice hotel experience, I took to Twitter:
Now here's where we all can learn a very valuable lesson in how to weed our social media gardens. SPG, Westin's parent company, immediately responded to my Tweet with a standard, cookie cutter response. Then, before I had time to complain about the lack of emotion in that Tweet, they sent this gem:
I had to leave for a meeting, but by the time I got back to the hotel, the manager was already telling my coworker that they received my Tweet and they were comping my entire team's internet charges. When I met him, he immediately apologized. As I thanked him for listening to my Tweet on social media, he very profoundly answered, "Well, that's what social media is for!"
When I got back up to my hotel room, I had a very personal, kind note waiting for me from the office manager of the hotel not only confirming that they were comping the internet charges, but also THANKING me for bringing the issue to their attention:
As if all of that was not enough, the team at the Westin ensured that we were taken care of the rest of our stay. They let us use the dining area as a meeting spot, and served us coffee and snacks, even though it was closed.
I cannot even imagine what smooth CRM engine SPG has created for its brands to be able to not only respond, but take action, within minutes of a Tweet being sent out. Truly incredible.
So how do brands learn from this to weed their own feeds?:
SPG could already see that my Tweet was causing some ruckus online. Many people responded that it always seems to be the expensive hotels that ironically don't offer internet. By responding immediately, SPG helped calm some of the conversation down, and definitely influenced how I responded to my followers as the Tweets came in.
SPG has an amazing system that allows them to personally find the person who made the complaint in the hotel and address it face-to-face. The manager having a personal conversation with me had way more of an impact than just receiving a code that would reimburse my internet charges.
Turn The Conversation Around
As the famous fictional Don Draper said, "If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation". The Weston didn't just quietly respond to my Tweet. They changed the conversation by first responding with a link to a new feature they are releasing in a month which will allow all SPG members to have free internet access. They didn't keep on going down the road that it's just too bad they don't offer free internet now.
SPG didn't just send out an everyday apology. They immediately took action that resulted with a personal apology from the manager, and a letter in my room, within hours (probably would have been even sooner had I not had a meeting to go to). They proved there was integrity behind their words, and made sure to follow through on making sure that the problem was completely taken care of from beginning to end.
Never once did SPG say, "Well, that's what we charge for internet", which they had every right to say. After all, it wasn't like I was complaining about dirty towels in the room or rude employees. I was complaining about a service they charge for, and have every right to charge for. SPG was smart, though, and knew that by going above and beyond and taking responsibility for something just because they saw it upset a customer, they would possibly keep a customer for life.
Dealing with weeds in social media (and life) is tough, and most of the time results in us having to take more responsibility than we'd like in order to keep a neat garden. The payoff for brands that go above and beyond like SPG is immense, though. By showing they are going miles above their job description, brands can build relationships that last a lifetime with consumers.
- Marji J. Sherman