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Brand Advocates Are Your Best Advertising Tool


Advertising dollars are being watched carefully these days; companies need to spend their advertising budget carefully, trying to get the most impact for the least amount of money to stay competitive in the marketplace.


One possibly overlooked ad spend is on brand advocates – those customers who are truly raving fans of your business. These consumers can be an excellent marketing tool, as word of mouth is becoming a prominent factor in consumer purchasing decisions. Studies are consistently showing that word of mouth advertising has more of an effect on consumers than more traditional forms of advertising, such as radio ads, commercials, etc.


Take a look at this great video clip that explains a bit more about brand advocates and their importance to your business:


Companies can increase their brand advocates quickly by keeping a few customer service rules in mind:


1. Consistently delivery superior products: ensure that consumer needs are met with your products & services, and provide a little “something extra” that will keep customers coming back for more. Find out what your customers need, and what they would like to see in your stores. Listen to their needs and respond accordingly.


2. Consistently delivery stellar service: in today’s world, real-time response to consumer needs is becoming the norm. Make sure your company responds to all customer inquiries quickly, provide first call resolution when possible to complaints, and ensure your staff on the front lines are providing consistent, strong service levels each and every time.


3. Consistently deliver and excellent experience: much like the point above, make sure your consumer touchpoints are geared toward service excellence, and no matter where your consumers are doing business with you, whether its onsite, online, or on your social media sites, that you’re doing all you can to provide the best experience for your consumers.


The “rules” are straightforward, and really nothing new. As the consumer culture shifts, though, it is a good idea to periodically review the above points to make sure your company is adjusting to any shifts in your consumer base to ensure that your brand advocates will continue sharing their positive experiences and your “army of advocates” grows!




Bonuses Based on Social Media Data?


While many companies are realizing the benefit of monitoring social media sites for feedback about their company, it looks like the hospitality industry may be moving one step beyond that – including social media data left by consumers in employee bonus and incentive programs.


For the hospitality industry, this may be a bit easier to do thanks to popular consumer review sites, such as TripAdivsor and Yelp. However, by using a strong social media monitoring tool, it’s easy to find mentions of your brand, employees, or company on a regular basis.


In this article, Sean Mullin from the Noble House Hotels & Resorts, shares that social media is factored in when deciding employee bonuses. He went on to say that “We know the average rating of our social media sites. Then, we establish goals for the following year. Managers are incentivized to beat that score. We want to make sure all of our managers are paying attention to it.”


If an hourly employee is mentioned by name online as part of a consumer review, or a consumer talking within social media sites about their experience at one of the hotels, Mr. Mullin shared that they are given a monetary reward, typically $10 or $20, as recognition for positive feedback about their service.


The company still utilizes more traditional forms of customer feedback, such as feedback surveys and comment cards, but they have realized the power of social media as a feedback tool. Generally, people are more free and honest with their thoughts and opinions when talking with friends on Facebook, for example, than they may be answering questions about their experience for the company itself.


This article is telling in that we are finally seeing the shift in businesses’ thinking of social media. Up until now, it’s been more about engaging and getting your message out; with the realization that there is a good base of data out there that is easily obtainable, I anticipate more and more companies to use social media monitoring to gather customer feedback in the coming year.





Mystery Shopping in the Senior Housing Industry


I came across a great case study showing the effectiveness of mystery shopping in the senior housing industry. This is an emerging industry that is important to our aging population and their family members. As senior housing is a big decision, facilities want to be sure that their staff are disclosing accurate information, making the tour experience as positive as possible, and even handling the more simple, basic tasks such as answering calls and returning calls promptly.


One company demonstrated how utilizing a mystery shopping program has helped increase response rates by their staff. Sometimes it’s hard for upper management to really know what’s going on when customers contact the business, and mystery shopping can give managers the data they need to see what their customer sees and make actionable decisions based on the information they get through an objective, third party program.


Senior housing mystery shopping has shown effectiveness, with one company reporting a 40% increase in conversion rates. The article goes on to state that “Communities that respond to inquiries within 30 minutes rather than within a 24-hour timeframe have historically achieved a 16% market share advantage above their competitors, according to APFM.”


In the chart below, you can see the improvement over time after utilizing a mystery shopping program to track return calls to potential clients:



Mystery shopping in any industry can do wonders for employee performance. It gives companies insight into what their customers experience, and to be honest, it keeps employees on their toes – they are aware that shoppers are out there, but never know when a visit will take place. In turn, they need to treat every customer as the shopper so their performance scores remain high. It’s a great methodolgy to measure and monitor employee performance and the customer experience, no matter which industry you’re in.