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How To Build A Social Hotel Concierge Business

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce opens his forward for the new book, Age of Context (by my favorite author Shel Israel, with help from Robert Scoble), with a story about traveling to Boston, and tweeted his hopes for the trip:
“Can’t wait to get to Boston. Staying at the X hotel. Hope to have dinner at Rialto and see the Sox play tomorrow.”
When he arrives he is welcomed by the hotel staff, the restaurant is booked and the ticket purchased for the game. Except this was just a story, and did not happen.

Marc’s point was that companies can connect with their customers today in ways they could not have imagined 25 years ago.

After reading the opening to this great book, I wondered how hotels make Marc’s story true. And that there’s an opportunity here for a new service, be it a product or agency service, the social hotel concierge service.

Many companies don’t have the social infrastructure when embarking on the process of using social to improve customer experience. There has to be an infrastructure built in order for the company to be successful.

I’ve written before about how companies can use agencies to jumpstart their efforts in social media, in “Why Your Social Media Strategy Needs Agency Support To Be Self Sufficient,” I suggested companies gain from partnering with an agency, plus an agency can build a business model based on services and strategy.

Building A Social Hotel Concierge Service

So here’s my take on how to build that agency social hotel concierge service.

  • Data: Analyze a hotel’s customer data to determine which clients are giving sufficient business to justify providing the social hotel concierge service.
  • Loyalty: If the hotel hasn’t already set up a loyalty program which rewards customers once they pass a certain threshold of business.
  • Guest Eligibility: Review program members on a yearly basis. Yearly is probably better, as that will include an industry’s conference season where some customers may spend most of their time.
  • Social Triage: The agency will provide services to monitor the social accounts of guests in the program. The agency will set up alerts related to concierge terms, receive the alerts and triage them, including:
  • Restaurant
  • Brand names of the hotel
  • Names of cities where the hotel is located
  • References to travel and airlines
  • Names of competitors to the hotel
  • Calendar: Set up an engagement calendar with the guest, once or twice a month, retweet the guest’s tweets, or respond.
  • Engagement Opportunities & Threats: Have a manager analyze the guest’s social accounts every three months to find opportunities for engagement, or threats to the hotel/guest relationship.
  • Taking Action: The agency will provide the information and actions for a hotel via email, or with direct access to the guest management system. Then provide quality control, by making sure the hotel takes action.

Selling Social Hotel Concierge Services

I envisage that this type of agency service would focus on set up and providing ongoing services to hotels. But I’d recommend the agency should sell and push the hotel to set up its own social hotel concierge service internally. The hotels are going to do this anyway, and really the value for an agency is in providing high value strategy support. So start as you mean to go on by pushing for hotels to set up the service themselves. If the hotel doesn’t because they prefer using the agency, that’s good for the agency and hotel, but as an agency, have the expectation you are going to lose the services business, but keep the strategy business over time. That’s more high value anyway.

Unless you work to lower the costs so much that it just makes sense for the hotel to continue with the agency.

In addition, one of the strategy services the agency can offer is an ongoing benchmarking service for a hotel’s social hotel concierge service.

I remember when I started my career in the software business; there was an inventory management guru who charged inventory management software companies $50k to benchmark their software. The guru also used the data to publicize the state of the industry, and his thought leadership position in the industry as a result. One way to get people to beat a path to your door is to become less of the vendor, and more of the analyst. That benchmarking service will provide another service to retain hotel clients, and build a marketing platform for your agency.