One huge sign of progress this past decade is that, to drive our businesses forward, we now rely on dashboards rather than rearview mirrors. Instead of waiting for monthly, weekly or daily reports to see how we're doing, there's an abundance of software that enables us to monitor what's going on in real time.
We can quickly observe the effectiveness of sales efforts, customer by customer, brand by brand, dollar for dollar, and track against forecasts. We can take immediate action if we notice something amiss or simply want to experiment with a different, possibly more effective, tack.
Clients, guests and customers also have tools at their disposal to provide us with immediate -- and often public -- information about our performance. But more often than not, the input is about how we did rather than how we're doing. TripAdvisor, Yelp and social media provide platforms for feedback, but it's most often a rearview response, telling us either how we screwed up with, or impressed, the people we serve.
We're OK with past-tense praise, but it's frustrating to hear about problems post-experience, and especially frustrating if the customers are airing their grievances publicly. Even when posted in real time on social media, it's difficult to filter out the noise and quickly zero in on what's relevant; if you're a hotel's social media manager monitoring the words "intercontinental" and "London" -- or, worse yet, "Paris" and "Hilton" -- good luck sorting through the results in time to respond to something immediately actionable.
I've written in the past about companies that are working to address (or minimize) real-time reputation management issues before they hit social media or review sites. In aviation, Opera Solutions has created an algorithm called the Flight Value Score to minimize the number of people who might be impacted by flight delays and also identify those passengers who are likely to be the most distressed by travel interruptions.
And a company called Face Snapper uses video cameras to analyze hotel guests' moods by analyzing their facial expressions as they're standing at the front desk; it promises to help mitigate situations for guests who seem unhappy.
Now comes another service that seeks not only to monitor problems at the local hotel property level, but proactively trigger experiences in time-sensitive situations that will generate positive "during stay" buzz. The company's name is Local Measure, and its client list includes Accor, Jumeirah, Virgin, Pan Pacific and Grand Hyatt, among others.
Local Measure creates a digital net around a hotel that captures, via the GPS coordinates in metadata attached to a social media post, all social network activity taking place on the property (to do this requires that those who post have selected to do so publicly; most people, and certainly most "influencers," choose that option).
While problems can be addressed quickly -- the property staff doesn't have to sift through thousands of irrelevant postings that share the keywords they're monitoring -- the property can also look for opportunities by using Local Measure's "influencer detection" feature.
For example, the Beverly Hills Hotel captured that Laura Musura, a self-professed "child of the universe" who happens to have 24,000 Instagram followers, took a picture of herself in the parking lot, noting to her followers that she was going to check off a bucket-list activity by having lunch at the property.
This generated an alert, and word was passed along to the kitchen. The result? After her lunch, Musura was presented with a slice of chocolate cake. The words "Bucket List" (and a check mark) were written on the plate in chocolate.
She posted a picture of the cake, as well as four subsequent posts praising the property.
When staff at the Grand Hyatt Singapore, another Local Measure client, noticed that a guest, Thai makeup artist Amata Chittasenee, had 1.3 million Instagram followers, they reached out to welcome her. In the course of their conversation with Chittasenee, she told them she wasn't feeling well. The staff sent tea and comfort food to her room, with a note saying they hoped she was feeling better. She thanked them and praised them over social media.
Local Measure offers a suite of analytic tools in addition to the digital net. It claims that guests with whom hotels engage during their visit are 40% more likely to return. As for ROI, it also asserts that its program increases revenue by 6% to 10%, more than justifying the cost of the software.
The takeaway -- other than if a makeup artist can gather 1.3 million followers, what's your excuse? -- is that while we collectively have made great strides monitoring and tracking up-to-the-moment business data, the bar has been raised again. A lot of effort goes into pretrip care and capturing post-trip feedback, but without a way of monitoring a customer's experience during stay, in flight, aboard ship, on tour or, for travel agents, a longer "on the road" arc, you may find yourself at a competitive disadvantage.
I suspect more "digital net" products are in the offing, and that future dashboards will enable us to engage with passengers in ways that are more meaningful than occasional glances in the rearview mirror.