This is the story of two brands in the hospitality industry. The first is an international hotel chain. The second is Airbnb.
It was October 2016, and Hurricane Matthew was slamming into the southern United States. Millions of people were forced from their homes and needed rooms.
While the big hotel chain allegedly quadrupled the prices of its rooms, Airbnb responded by offering thousands of free rooms to hurricane victims.
Social media did what it always did: it took notice, and it passed judgement. People cheered Airbnb’s generosity, and condemned the large hotel chain’s alleged price gouging.
“This is how reputations are broken and made in today’s connected world,” writes Miriam Ellis on the marketing website Moz.
But what if things had gone differently, Ellis wondered:
“Imagine if, instead of raising its prices during that dreadful emergency, Brand A had offered a deep discount on its rooms to be sure that even the least fortunate community members had a secure place to stay during the hurricane.”
It might have been messy for this hotel, but they’d have fostered some goodwill.
How your brand can help people and build its reputation
No matter where your company is based, you live with the risk of weather emergencies, from blizzards, to tornadoes, to hurricanes. In the face of this, Ellis says there are two questions smart brands should ask themselves: How can we help in the short term and in the long term?
Short term help
Here’s another story from the hurricane. Eric Olsen was in Nebraska when Matthew hit Florida, where his 87-year-old grandmother lived. Three days after the storm, he hadn’t been able to reach her. Local police were overwhelmed, so Olsen called a Papa John’s near her home.
He had a pizza delivered to his grandmother, with special instructions for the driver: Please call when you get to the house. When his grandmother answered the door, the driver gave her his phone and Olsen was finally connected.
“What if the pizza chain developed a new emergency preparedness policy from this human-interest story, using their delivery fleet to reconnect loved ones… perhaps with a free pizza thrown into the bargain?” Ellis writes.
Beyond that, brands can find other ways to help people during weather emergencies. Restaurants can provide food to local food banks, and businesses can open their doors to the public and offer a free wifi hotspot and a place to stay warm and dry.
“In brief,” writes Ellis, “if your business offers goods and services to your local community, create a plan for how, if you are fortunate enough to escape the worst effects of a disaster, you can share what you have with neighbors in need.”
In the long term
Pew Research’s studies show that more than half the global population is worried about climate change. As Ellis argues, brands that can show they’ve embraced green, efficient energy practices and renewable resources can show they’re a good neighbor, both locally and globally.
And sometimes, a brand can build on its reputation with just a small act of goodwill. People are more than willing to share negative customer experiences on social media, but they’re happy to tell positive stories as well.
There are many examples of this, but we’ll choose one that involves a hotel. In 2012, the Hurn family stayed at Ritz-Carlton in Florida. When they checked out, they accidentally left behind Joshie, their son’s beloved stuffed giraffe.
Like most kids with a cherished stuffed animal, the boy was upset, so father Chris Hurn – who related this story in a Huffington Post piece – told a white lie. Joshie had decided to stay at the hotel for a few extra days.
Luckily, the Ritz-Carlton had found the giraffe, and promised to mail him back. But before they did, Hurn asked for a favor: Could they take some pictures of Joshie at the hotel to help him back up the story he had told his son?
The Ritz-Carlton staff didn’t have to do this, but they went the extra mile, crafting a whole story about the giraffe’s time at the hotel, and sending it to the Hurn family.
As Chris Hurn notes, not only was this a splendid example of customer service, it’s likely something the staff had fun doing, and that’s good for employee morale.
Guests will remember very basic things about their stay at your property: Whether they had clean rooms, fresh linens and a comfortable bed. They will also appreciate your personal attention in addressing their needs from nutritional concerns to places in the area to visit and all else. As we all know, social media plays a large role in how guests speak about your property. Expect to get lots of play on Social Media from your guests when taking that extra step!!
At InnStyle, we care about your preferences for providing your property with the best furnishings for your property and will give you the Best Personal Service we can provide. We always try to go that Extra Step! Contact our expert sales staff today, and let us help you give your guests a stay they’ll want to write home about.