Digital

Behind Starwood’s Social Customer Service Victories on Twitter

Jul 10, 2014 3:30 pm

Skift Take

The response time to tweets is a function of the effort it takes to prioritize and personalize.

— Joyce Manalo

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Starwood Hotels and Resorts  / Facebook

Starwood's Cork Customer Contact Centre named as one the best workplaces in Ireland 2014. Starwood Hotels and Resorts / Facebook


When it comes to caring for hotel customers on Twitter, Starwood Hotels and Resorts is one of the quickest hotel brands by response time.

According to SkiftIQ, its @starwoodbuzz account clocked in at an average of 33 minutes per inquiry in comparison to its sector average of 1,400 minutes/reply, from May 1 to June 30, 2014. Starwood uses the account both as a platform to connect its audience with its nine hotel brands (St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Westin Hotels and Resorts, Le Méridien, Sheraton, Four Points, Aloft, and Element) and, when necessary, provide customer service for properties within those brands.

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“We’re wired for customer service,” said Mike English VP of Customer Contact Center and Electronic Distribution. Starwood’s nearly 1,200 properties range from extended-stay hotels to resorts and residences, and it’s up to staff on Twitter to deliver a consistent brand voice.

Starwood’s around-the-world service is staffed by 3,000 customer service specialists and 30 elite social media team members in ten locations straddling multiple time zones. Primarily, the Customer Contact Center is where emails, online chats, and calls are handled, 24 hours a day.

Six of the ten locations integrate the social media team — Orlando, Florida; St. Thomas, Ontario; Cork, Ireland; Guangzhou, China; Singapore; and Tokyo, Japan. They know ten languages and have access to 24 languages within their respective Customer Contact Center. Team members can turn to representatives of the nine hotel brands and Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program team to make the right decisions and deliver customer service in the appropriate brand voice.

Doing something for the customer just to make them feel special offline translates well to social. This photo tweet from a pleasantly surprised customer that @mentions StarwoodBuzz, is evidence that its effort was much appreciated.

For the most part, Starwood is staffed to handle nearly all inquiries across all brands through prioritization. Specific people are tasked to have their “eyes on glass,” in company speak. They identify opportunities interwoven through volumes of typical social conversations that will allow the team to make a moment meaningful to potential, new, or loyal guests.

“Big data (to us) is all about the small moments that means so much to our guests,” said Maire Griffin of Starwood’s PR, Distribution Loyalty and Partnerships Group.

In the example below, Starwood’s Sheraton brand was mentioned with other accommodation alternatives through some clever word smithing by a potential customer. Within six minutes, the team jumped in with timely and relevant prose. And, in 30 minutes, the poetic banter led to a reservation.

A few months later, @ProductPoet was at it again. Sheraton tweeted and secured another reservation in three minutes. After the transaction was made, the team and its repeat customer, continued to write to each other in haikus. This great example echoes Mike English’s statement, “Conversations don’t have to end now because everything is okay.”

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