Concierge services are popular with high-end travellers all over the world. This is borne out in the fact that there are many different types of concierge service; for example, credit card companies, most notably American Express, operate luxury concierge services for their customers. But the term is obviously most associated with the hotel industry, and with technology now opening up new realms and opportunities, our collective notion of what constitutes a concierge is about to change.

The virtual concierge

Hotels are now offering virtual concierge services, which can be contacted by customers via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. Virtual concierge services work in very much the same way as the traditional approach, and research indicates that hotels utilising this model experience increased loyalty, reduced turnover and an increased ROI.

Not only does Mobile concierge enable customers to receive a service before even arriving at a hotel, but it also supplements existing concierge. Virtual concierge enables existing concierge to help guests in a more efficient way by eliminating some of the more trivial tasks that would usually fall upon their shoulders.

In accordance with this trend, the volume of contacts between customers and hotels via social media is rapidly increasing. And given the opportunities for digital marketing that social media offers, taking advantage of this route to communicating with customers is potentially an extremely profitable one for the hotel industry.

Social media customer service

Studies indicate that the primary reason consumers contact hotels via social networks is in order for them to obtain local information. Travellers that don't know a particular area are always on the lookout for tips regarding things to do, places to eat, etc. This is where mobile concierge can come in particularly useful, as a concierge service which is able to deal with such requests flexibly via social media is considered one that genuinely enhances the customer experience. Contact via social media enables hotels to both be reactive to the needs and desires of customers, as well as actively engaging with them and creating a positive impression.

In order to craft a valid and successful social media strategy, hotels need to take a few facets into consideration. The most obvious elements of such a policy is to publish content on a regular basis. Secondly, it is important to discuss issues regularly with the community, and answer important questions in a helpful manner. Additionally, social media provides a certain immediacy that can enable hotels to engage in a form of crisis management. Hotels can use social feeds to handle crises and respond to potentially damaging PR.

The mobile goldmine

The importance of mobile platforms cannot possibly be underestimated. Mobile commerce is already a massive growth industry, but the next two years will see it go supernova as technology becomes both more affordable and sophisticated. The value of mobile commerce transactions is expected to reach $3.2 trillion by 2017, while 90% of consumers worldwide will have a mobile phone by the end of 2015.

And figures indicate that the travel industry can benefit from this burgeoning industry and technology. Already around 30% of travellers have found flight and hotel deals through mobile apps, and 85% of travellers use a smartphone during their trip. Additionally, nearly half of travellers now post reviews of hotels online. So one can easily put two and two together and come to the conclusion that mobile and virtual concierge offers a vast opportunity to both attract commerce and enable your business to enhance its reputation.

Many prominent brands in the travel industry are now using social media in order to interact with customers and provide them with services and information. For example, the huge airline KLM readily engages with travellers via social feeds, and other organisations such as Hyatt Hotel and Premier Inn have been engaging via social media for several years now.

Other companies are now using social platforms to integrate with their website to provide a specific service. For example, AirBnB has recently launched a special feature in the United States which enables travellers to obtain information from local residents, and connect with them virtually. This feature also enables travellers to buy tickets for events located in the region of their stay.

Social media customer service has recently been transformed from a cutting edge niche to a business necessity. By embracing such modern approaches as digital marketing via social media and virtual concierge, companies are not merely offering some faddish gimmick, they are actively enhancing the customer experience and potentially improving the image of their entire brand.

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