How to market great hospitality brands with text analytics

Illustration by Ana Duje.

The last decade has been full of dramatic digital disruptions and innovation, transforming everything from the way we book our hotels to the technology that helps us check into our flights. These interferences have pressured the hospitality industry to continuously adapt and reinvent itself. And if shifting trends are anything to go by, the fluctuations in client expectations aren’t about to slow down anytime soon.

But there’s good news. The industry already has an ace up its sleeve: it’s no stranger to data collection and surveys. In fact, some might say it stands as a survey pioneer. But, nonetheless, many brands still struggle to collect, contextualize and understand the flow of unstructured data—be it reviews, long-form surveys or social feedback—that is constantly streaming in through a multitude of siloed feedback channels. This despite the fact that 80 percent of the data processed by brands on a daily basis is either unstructured or semi-structured. Admittedly, the hospitality industry has a bit of catching up to do.

For those who master the right tools and ask the right questions, unstructured data is a marketing goldmine.

For those who master the right tools and ask the right questions, though, unstructured data is a marketing goldmine. It allows brands to tap into valuable conversations, reinforce their messaging, strategically navigate customer discontentment and build precious brand loyalty along the way.

Among those tools are text analytics solutions like Keatext, which leverage elements of deep learning, AI and sentiment analysis—an algorithmic process developed to help identify and categorize opinions expressed in a piece of text or unstructured data. The goal: to help companies better capture and understand everything their consumers are sharing. If well harnessed and contextualized, this insight is especially valuable for a company’s marketing and communications departments, allowing them to iterate constantly, react quickly and evaluate impact in real time. Here’s how.

Building a strong brand

There’s no getting around it: the hospitality industry is an increasingly busy and noisy space. And yet, through it all, the Ritz-Carltons, Marriotts and W Hotels of this world have managed to stake their claim and keep their hotels top of mind. How? By building and maintaining powerful brands. Come decision time, a potential customer’s ability to emotionally recall what a brand represents will, in part, decide whether or not the company makes the cut.

While it’s imperative to build that brand upon a rock-solid foundation of clear values, stories and missions, it’s also important for it to adapt and shift with changing times, technological opportunities and customer expectations. That’s where text analytics comes in.

Just as the Ritz-Carlton adjusted the way its staff interacted with customers in response to a wave of feedback describing their existing interactions as “robotic,” great brands win big by paying attention and evolving accordingly.

Text analytics is one of the most reliable and powerful tools for companies to keep their finger on the consumer’s pulse.

Text analytics is one of the most reliable and powerful tools for companies to keep their finger on the consumer’s pulse. By processing and analyzing big sets of unstructured data in real time, the deeply trained algorithms are able to flag irregularities, highlight trends and constantly monitor a brand’s sentiment score. To further simplify the process, Keatext’s sophisticated AI categorizes unstructured feedback into simple categories: praises, criticisms, suggestions and questions.

Once unsiloed and put into context, all of that data shows exactly which messages are resonating, how well customer experiences are aligning with a company’s brand and which actions are having the most impact. And that, in the long run, might just be the secret weapon to building a strong, memorable and sustainable hospitality brand.

Fostering brand loyalty

While it may seem like brand loyalty is nearly impossible to foster in a world of blind bookings and dynamic pricing, statistics show that creating great customer experiences can still earn a company a dedicated following. Though pricing and location will always loom large, 66 percent of consumers still state that features, design and quality are their main reasons for brand loyalty.

With the right data and feedback, a company’s communications and marketing team can rapidly spot early (and often simple) opportunities to improve and delight in all of those areas—turning unstructured data into actionable advice that can quickly be dispatched across departments and coordinated in real time.

When criticism turns into opportunity

You’ve spotted a trend in your feedback about harsh lighting? Team up with a local designer to equip every room with a unique lamp. Then create great marketing content to promote your exciting new collaboration.

You’ve noticed an increase in online chatter about inconvenient plugs? Provide a few well-positioned power bars and extensions in each room, then update your online room features, in-room pamphlet and digital campaigns to see if it moves the needle for your ever-connected travelers.

Consumers are increasingly willing to provide valuable information and feedback in exchange for a more enjoyable, seamless and customized experience.

The fact is, consumers are increasingly willing to provide valuable information and feedback in exchange for a more enjoyable, seamless and customized experience. Case in point: numbers show that 75 percent of guests are open to sharing “personal information like age, gender, and email addresses to access tailor-made loyalty programs.” But their trust only turns into loyalty if the brand puts the information to good use.

Leveraging sentiment analysis tools and AI technology allows a company to gracefully rise to rapidly changing customer expectations as they transform and evolve. A company’s powerful brand is what gets customers through the door, but it’s their ability to actively listen and respond to their guests’ needs that keeps the guests coming back.

Weathering the storms

No matter how tuned-in a company is to its guests and consumers, they will inevitably hit some small (and large) bumps in the road. Without the right tools in place, those unexpected bouts of criticism can send communications and marketing teams into a frenzy—prompting a knee-jerk reaction to either change course immediately or hunker down in the hopes it passes. By using text analytics to track customer satisfaction and sentiment, a company not only reduces the chances of being blindsided by quiet murmurings turned into loud complaints, but they’re able to quickly access unsiloed, unbiased data that gives them a real sense of the issue’s scope.

Here’s a great example of how a Keatext client leveraged text analytics to navigate a moment of crisis. When faced with a product recall that had an impact on over 15,000 customers, the client was able to quickly turn to its Keatext analysis in order to quantify the 68 percent drop in its customer sentiment score. Rapidly moving up the chain of command with the right data in hand, the communications team swiftly implemented a few simple measures and was able to see a tangible improvement in overall sentiment after each step taken. With three simple actions and some strategic communication, the brand was able to boost its score back up by 28 percent.

In moments of customer or public discontent, panic and gut instinct can put pressure on existing decision-making processes and make response teams feel like they’re flailing in the dark. With text analytics, communications and marketing teams are able to easily reduce response times by extracting the right data to ensure quick interdepartmental buy-in and by providing the metrics and visibility to truly evaluate and demonstrate the real-time impact of the proposed action plan. With crisis management best practices suggesting that the first 15 to 60 minutes following a crisis are the most crucial to ensuring a brand makes it out alive, that kind of response acceleration can play an important role in mitigating any long-term damage to a company and its image.

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