19 – Behind the Scenes with Client Support

by | February 19, 2019 | Suite Spot: Hotel Marketing Podcast

In this episode of Suite Spot, we go behind the scenes with the client support department at Travel Media Group. Host Ryan Embree visits with Aislynn Roberts, Client Support Team Lead, to discuss all the vital work that she and the client support team do to help enhance the digital programs of our hotel partners.

Ryan interviews Aislynn about the team’s role in onboarding, engagement, and facilitating Travel Media Group partners to ensure optimization of their solutions. Aislynn also offers several best practices and tips on how to get the most out of your digital marketing solutions and even shares some of her favorite success stories throughout the years.

To get in touch with your hotel’s client support specialist or to submit a question for future episodes, call or text 407-984-7455.

Episode Transcript

Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.

Ryan Embree: Welcome to Suite Spot where hoteliers check in and we check out what's trending in hotel marketing. I'm your host, Ryan Embree.

Ryan Embree: All right. Hello, and welcome everyone. Thank you for listening to another episode of the Suite Spot. This is Episode 19, and we have a very unique special edition episode of Suite Spot today. As you know, at Travel Media Group, we are at the forefront of all things digital marketing for hotels. We attend the leading hotel industry conferences across the nation and we also provide Digital Marketing Solutions. And one of the unique aspects of the solutions that we provide is actually our Client Support Team, and today we're going to get a behind the scenes look at that Client Support service and team, and with that being said, I will welcome in the Client Support Team Lead Ms. Aislynn Roberts. Good morning, Aislynn. How are you?

Aislynn Roberts: Good Morning Ryan. I'm good. I'm glad to be here.

Ryan Embree: Oh, happy to have you. Like I said, it's a super exciting episode to kind of see the back end of what we do for our hotel partners out there and we have a lot of listeners that are currently partnering with us with our hotel marketing solutions. Uh, let's just start kind of by talking about your professional experience and journey within Travel Media Group.

Aislynn Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. So I've been with Travel Media Group for over five years now, and I actually was one of the first specialists, um, to start the Client Support Team. I've had the pleasure of being part of the company and this incredible team as we continue to lead the industry in marketing solutions for hotels. Through this time I've had the honor of working with over 400 hotels utilizing our services and been a part of over five launches as we expand our digital solutions. Because of my hand on experience with many hotels, I moved into a lead role where I continue to work closely with hoteliers and their services and programs with us. But I also work very closely with a team of specialists as we continue to support hoteliers.

Ryan Embree: That's amazing. So you've really been here through a lot of evolutions of our solutions as well as kind of the way that we interact with our hoteliers, the way that we interact with our partners. Just so our listeners can kind of get to know you a little bit better. What, what would you say the favorite part of your current position is?

Aislynn Roberts: Honestly, my favorite thing about being part of the Client Support Team are the daily conversations with hotels and hoteliers in the management team. Um, there's really nothing better about a conversation with a hotelier than when they actually reach out to you, whether it's via call or email and they're just thanking you for assisting them and really helping them to understand this digital world. It's still very unknown to a lot of consumers and business owners, so we have the opportunity and the expertise to kind of really help them, coach them along and get them to understand where they fit into the digital space.

Ryan Embree: Gotcha. And you mentioned when you were kind of talking about your journey through Travel Media Group, 400 hotels. That is amazing. Um, I'm wondering, you know, you've probably had some clients and partners that you've worked with for years and probably have some close relationships there and maybe some, some partners that you've just started working with, uh, over the past couple months and I'm wondering kind of how those two conversations are different.

Aislynn Roberts: Yeah, so really the conversation with us, it doesn't change too drastically. For every hotelier and every customer with us, we have the same objective is to support them with their programs and services with us. The approach, as you mentioned is probably the main difference between the two. So with a customer that's brand new, maybe they just signed on, they're starting this spring or they've been with us for a couple months. Really the approach is about getting to know them, getting to know their business, getting to know how their front desk operates so that way we learn a little bit more about their current procedures and how the programs that they signed on for are going to be implemented into those procedures seamlessly. So that way it's not as big of a change. Um, so we really work with them, get to know their goals, figure out what they're looking forward to, what they're trying to get out of the marketing strategy that they are putting into place and how we can implement it with a hotelier that's been with me for a few years, the conversation definitely has changed because I'm already in tune to how they operate, how their front desk works, what their goals are, what they're working towards. That does change throughout the year and it does change every year, whether it's due to turnover or maybe they had a brand change, so there, you know, the brand specifics are different for the flags. But the goal is really to make sure that we're working and we're moving forward continuously and that we're capitalizing on opportunities that are brought up through the digital space.

Ryan Embree: Hearing you kind of talk about that and you know, talking about goals with these hoteliers, you know, having these pretty intense conversations about what their strategies are moving forward almost feels like you're like an extension of, of the property. Like almost like you're working almost for the property, but kind of helping them move along, making them enhancing, getting the most out of our solutions. I want you to kind of expand on, you know, what maybe those, those phone calls sound like in particular to some of the solutions. So maybe we could solution by solution and kind of talk about, you know, what, what your team does to enhance or supplement that strategy.

Aislynn Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned just now that we are an extension that's 100 percent true. So what we really want our hoteliers and our customers to really think about when they hear a Client Support Specialist is "I have this dedicated person that I just employed for my business and they're going to help me achieve my goals." So if we kind of take a look at what that means and we'll start with our reputation management service. So for reputation management service, we were really meeting with each hotel at the start of their program. Really trying to figure out how they operate, what their front desk does, what are the conversations like when they're checking in a guest, how they capture information, um, what their property management system and computer system's like and we really tailor the program to fit what their current process is so that way it gets implemented and over the course were throughout the program and, and the coming months, we're really working with them to make sure that that process stays in place, that their front desk staff is definitely involved with it still and that they're working to make sure that they're meeting the goals of the hotel.

Aislynn Roberts: I would say the biggest obstacle with that is general managers. The management team everyone involved in that understands what the ultimate goal of the hotel is, but the front desk staff also needs to understand that and that's kind of what the Client Support Team does. We are the liaison between the two and kind of really solidifying "this is what your owner pictures for the hotel, I'm here to help you, also get in line with that."

Ryan Embree: I love that, you know, really getting the front desk involved and kind of sharing with them, you know, "this is how the way that you can enhance these solutions is going to impact your business down the line." And I think one of the coolest things with the reputation of when it comes to your team that I've heard is that you really pinpoint sites that you want to see some growth or improvement in, um, whether that be online review site like TripAdvisor, if you guys have specific goals, on ranking where you want to be ranked or if it's even Google reviews, you can, you know, essentially talk to that front desk manager, GM, whoever is in that hierarchy that kind of manages the stuff. Kind of sit them down and say, "listen, these are the opportunities. Where do you want to go from here, so your services and you know, your time and your team is best use?"

Aislynn Roberts: Yes, absolutely. We're definitely talking to them about review sites where they're seeing the most need, where they feel like they're being, um, hit the most on by travelers or where they think their business can improve upon. And we definitely work to tailor the program to fit those needs as best as we can, but our focus mainly is with public review sites, public-facing where any traveler anywhere across the globe can go on and leave a review even if they stayed with that hotel or not.

Ryan Embree: So let's transition to Review Response. Now, what does, how does that conversation, because obviously the reputation that is to improve the amount of reviews and the quality of reviews that we're getting to our hotels page, but Review Response is a different animal, right? You guys, as you said, you're an extension of the hotel. How, how does your team interact with a hotelier when we're the ones doing the Review Response?

Aislynn Roberts: Absolutely. So our interaction with the Review Response is basically the middle person between the hotelier and our team of responders. So we are definitely leading the hotel as far as this is how you connect all of your sites so that way we can respond on your behalf. And so a lot of times information that hoteliers aren't even aware of, processes that they're not aware that you even can do to give access to let a team member or someone that you hire, be able to respond to these reviews. But I'd say the more align of what the Client Support Specialist assigned to each hotel will be doing is analyzing the reporting, the sentiment analysis that comes back with that Review Response program. It's so detailed and so incredible to the value of what this program offers. Because you know, if you kind of take a look at review sites, for instance, like TripAdvisor or Google, they have data but they're not releasing it to business owners.

Aislynn Roberts: So we're able to, in a very easy way with our team, pull off this data and organize it in a way that's very user-friendly, very easy to understand. And the Client Support Team is really out there to review it. We check in on it, we tell you what's going really well, how to use that in other programs, how to capitalize it and maybe bring up something that's kind of showing some concerns, area concerns that we need to take a look at. Just to kind of give you an example, I would say last fall was working with one of my clients and we had a huge increase in negative feedback with the check in and check out process. Brought it to the hotelier's attention and they were very like, that's normal. We've had a lot of international guests who don't realize that maybe their payment method is not fully operating in the United States. So that feedback increase, with that note, I could give it to our Review Response team and just say, "hey, for future reference, when you're responding to these reviews, here's a little note about what's going on at the hotel."

Ryan Embree: That's amazing. So you're essentially getting all of this data and for a busy hotelier to sit there and maybe look at 10 plus different public review sites and for them to pinpoint and start picking those sentiments. You're saying that your team can essentially summarize that for a hotelier and, and essentially give that time back to them by saying, "Hey, listen, you know, I've done some analytics, I looked at the data that we're seeing on public review sites. These are some areas of concern which you did a great example of, um, but I think another really useful insight would be the things that you're doing well on, right?"

Aislynn Roberts: Absolutely.

Ryan Embree: And if, if you, if you see some positive sentiment around your location or just scenery or views or something like that, these are the things that are bringing business back and we always talk about, you know, for these reviews, being able to market your hotel, what's bringing what's bringing business back to your hotel? So for your team to sit there and be able to identify both the good and the bad to say, "hey, let's promote this because this is clearly bringing your business, and let's fix this because this is taking away some of your business" that's extremely, extremely valuable for our hotel partners.

Ryan Embree: One of the ways to kind of transitioning to promoting all that good stuff and insight that you're giving those hoteliers is social media and we obviously work across different social media platforms for hoteliers. Tell us a little bit about how those conversations go.

Aislynn Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. So, um, social media is probably, I would say the one program that's still really unknown to business owners today and not just within the hotel industry. I think across the board, social media is probably this entity that a lot of people still don't understand how to evaluate, how to post to it, how to operate and then analyze it. So the Client Support Team is really taking care of all of that for a hotelier involved in our program. So our social media experts are the ones who are building the pages, creating the content, and really driving the engagement and activity to a social site. Where the Client Support Team is the one that's gathering all the information that may be needed. You know, we're the, we're the initial touch point with a hotelier once they sign on with the program. So we're getting as much as information, we're really that support system and the expert as far as all things Travel Media Group.

Aislynn Roberts: So with Social Media, our conversations really go into, again, what your goal with social media is. Now that you're signed on with this platform, what is it that you're trying to achieve with it? Are you familiar with social media yourself? Do you use it personally? How do you use it? Um, what are you familiar with? What are your sites that you're more comfortable with? Um, do you have anyone on property that you'll be delegating some of the posting to? And then as we get down the line it goes along to post suggestions. So going back to the Review Response, if we see a lot of comments on the reviews that are positive about breakfast, we encourage them to take a behind the scenes shot of their breakfast area. Maybe they have an omelet station. So we asked them to take a shot of their staff, preparing the omelets and posting it.

Aislynn Roberts: Another great one that you see in reviews across all hotels is some member of the staff gets a shout out, so whether it's a front desk agent, whether it's the housekeeping manager, someone has interaction with your staff on a daily basis and they will comment on your reviews on that. So an amazing easy, simple post to get online is a picture of your employee with a bio and they just kind of do something I suggest with my hotels is a #MeetUsMonday where every Monday, maybe a couple times a month, they post a new employee and just give a bio about how long they've been with us. Um, the great things about them, what guests love about them, and it encourages travelers and people that are following you online or have stayed with you in the past to share their experiences on your social media site, which is driving the user-generated content.

Ryan Embree: I love that, and that's also a very helpful tip for, you know, we, we actually did an episode on this for employees recognition too. I mean, as much as this helps also with your engagement on your social media sites, it also helps the morale of your team a little bit. I would say people love that sort of recognition in public spaces. Obviously, want to get their permission before you, before you were posting their picture there, but I really love that idea. And to think that, you know, again, I hear all the time hoteliers say, "I know the power of social media. I just don't know kind of how to harness it." It's all about coming up with a strategy and the fact that your team can call someone and, and really plan out what a month looks like. You know, we're coming into, we're in February rather, and we've got Valentine's Day coming up.

Ryan Embree: Maybe there's an event going on, the Super Bowl. I mean these are things that you're probably going back and forth with to these hoteliers to say, these are your, going to be your high engagement posts. How can we leverage something like Valentine's Day to get those followers on your Facebook page or on your Twitter page or Instagram or any account and platform and convert them to bookings. So I think that is, that's an incredible job that you and your team do. Very, very useful there.

Ryan Embree: And then lastly Websites, you know, we work with both websites for independent properties as well as branded websites. You don't really think of something like a website having that much interaction, but there are things that you can do with the website, uh, when you're, when you're kind of supporting your partners. How does that conversation go?

Aislynn Roberts: Yeah, sure. So like you said, a lot of people don't think of website as, as something that's ongoing, but truthfully you want to make sure your website is up to date throughout the year and is making changes as much as your, your occupancy is even changing. So you know, the Client Support Team is really trying to make sure that if they have any changes on property that their website needs to go through, we streamline that information and get it to our website team so that way those changes get made as quickly as possible. We also can make suggestions as far as, let's say for Valentine's Day, for example, if I had a hotel that has social media and a website with us and they're trying to promote an event on Facebook for Valentine's Day, I also would recommend, "hey, for that time period, let's go ahead and see about putting a pop-up on your website. Are you offering a special discounted rate?" So if they do, if they're off offering a promotional booking rate, we can definitely put a pop-up on the website.

Aislynn Roberts: So as soon as any traveler visits their website, it pops up right away, "Valentine's Day, promotional rate, click here for more information," whatever content they want on there. Um, so it's a great way to get all the information where it needs to be. So it reaches the maximum number of travelers, which in turns converts to even more bookings. The other thing is that we really work with them to make sure they're marketing their website the way they should. So it's probably something that not a lot of business owners would think about, but for website and to increase your traffic and to make sure that you're pulling up in search results, you really want that organic traffic. S,o in order to increase their organic traffic, you want to put your website link on everything, whether it's business cards, the receipt of your hotel. So when traveler's check out that links right there, um, your email signatures, it is absolutely huge to have a link to your website and your email signatures. So that's one of the key takeaways for any Website customer that I work with, is that they need to start marketing their hotel on property across all collateral.

Ryan Embree: And I want to go back to something you mentioned as you were explaining that. And that's the power of combining these solutions. Um, I know we broke it down just solution by solution, but really the, the most you can get out of a Digital Marketing Solution is when you're utilizing all of these things together and you're sending people to a website which connects directly to your Facebook page and from that Facebook page there's Review Responses on that to reviews and you're pushing people to online review sites like TripAdvisor, which in turn can get you more bookings on your website. So these things are just, you know, it's, that's what I love about the Client Support Team is that you guys have so much value added, which is included with the services that we provide. Your team that can call and say, alright, let's come up with a plan and let's figure out how you're going to get the most of these services to, uh, get, achieve those goals that you set in mind.

Aislynn Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. Combining them, and, not only combining them, but once you have them all, let's say that you start right away with all the programs is realizing that they all play very well together and to capitalize on the type of activity you can get by utilizing them all together.

Ryan Embree: And I was really excited to bring you on today to kind of explain what you do, because I think you guys do so much and I, I know we have some listeners that do partner with us and hope they're, you know, are utilizing your team to the fullest, but, um, maybe for that listener that has had services or does have services with us and they, you know, have been taking that phone call, but maybe not just using it to the level that we've kind of talked about today, but are looking to, what would you say the, the steps are to make sure they're getting the most out of their Client Support Specialist when they get, when they get that call every month?

Aislynn Roberts: Absolutely. It's a fantastic question. The Client Support Team really is one of the greatest resources our customers have within the company. Um, so we are very team oriented as far as we worked directly with their hospitality marketing consultant on the programs and services that they have with us. So, to really get the most out of your program, you want to be communicating with your dedicated specialists regularly, whether that's via email or phone call. We do touch base regularly via phone call to talk about your program, identify the things that are going really well and how to capitalize on that and keep moving forward. Within 48 hours of starting a program, a hotelier will know who their dedicated Support Specialist is. So right off the bat, we are introducing ourselves, telling you exactly what your next steps are and how to get started right away with your services.

Aislynn Roberts: And then we're with them ongoing throughout their entire customer life cycle. And we are your biggest supporters. We are their biggest advocates. So if anything comes up, for instance, you know, I had mentioned earlier that I've been part of five launches as we've expanded our digital solutions. The majority of those launches have come from hoteliers talking directly to us asking us if this is a service that we provide and then we take it back to our product and development team. Just, "this is a lot of feedback that I'm getting back. Is there any, do we have any things in the future coming up or we could possibly help?" I would say the biggest one and the biggest example of that would be our Review Response program. Our reputation management was a huge launch point for us as far as helping with online reviews and hoteliers identified the need of, you know, " I need these to get responded to," mostly because of brand standards too.

Aislynn Roberts: So with the invention and bringing that program on board. It was due to our conversations and us keep requesting it, you know, "I have a new hotel. They're getting these reviews. They would really like assistance on how to respond to them." Previously it was just Client Support saying, "these are your tips, this is what I recommend within 48 hours, definitely you want to respond to all reviews," and then it turned into a whole team of dedicated review responders. So we advocate for them, we push new initiatives and we're really there to extend their services so that way they get the maximum success possible.

Ryan Embree: Awesome. So I mean it, it's kind of like a win-win when you are communicating with these hoteliers cause essentially we need that feedback and in order to, you know, make the most of our programs for our hoteliers and vice versa.

Ryan Embree: So that is really, really cool. Like I said, I was, I was super excited to get you on. I wanted to finish up just to kind of hear. I mean you have so much experience here and have worked with so many hotels. I'd love to hear maybe just some hotels that come to mind as, as a success story. You said the favorite part of your job or a best part of your job was seeing the success and achieving those goals with the hoteliers. So does any of them just come to mind?

Aislynn Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. I have a couple just right off the top of my head for a reputation example. This hotel has been utilizing the service for roughly about five months now. Um, we worked directly with the management and ownership of the hotel to create a very clear process of how to integrate the program into their front desk procedures because that's key and it's the biggest hurdle that I've noticed when working with these hotels.

Aislynn Roberts: With the process in place, they have overachieved their expected goals every month since starting the program, uh, and they have not received a new negative review on TripAdvisor since starting the program.

Ryan Embree: Five months, huh?

Aislynn Roberts: Five months!

Ryan Embree: Wow, that's amazing

Aislynn Roberts: No negative reviews on TripAdvisor. And not only have they not seen any negative reviews, they've nearly doubled the volume of TripAdvisor reviews each month when looking at their last year of activity on TripAdvisor.

Ryan Embree: That's amazing.

Aislynn Roberts: So with that in mind, I also took at the total number of reviews when they started and where we are now and they've received 62 new reviews on TripAdvisor since starting. All positive, and just kind of just, look at that impact of what 62, four-and-five star reviews can do for a hotel. They're currently ranked number two in their market and they've increased their overall rating of their overall star rating by almost a half a star.

Ryan Embree: Wow. That is incredible. What about, do you have a social?

Aislynn Roberts: I do. um, so I have a hotel that's been with us and utilizing social media for I would say about two years now. They were the first hotel in a group of seven to start the program and now all seven have our social media services. The management team was very dedicated from the beginning. They were always in line with wanting to get local custom content on their site alongside of what our team was actually already doing for them weekly. They actually are located in their downtown market, so they're very close to sports arenas and convention center, so there's always something going on around them. But, when they do promote something and they get a promoted post on social media, on Facebook, they reach an average of 500 travelers every single post, and they consistently see a growth in their social community market by, I would say about an average of four to five percent. Which I know that number sounds a little bit small, especially to people who may not understand social media, but when you take into the impact of that across a year, that's anywhere from 50 to 60 percent increase in an entire year of your social community.

Aislynn Roberts: So they are exceeding the expectations. Um, and it's because of their dedication, really identifying things that they want to get on board and things that they want to promote, and they're very good about knowing their market. They know what attracts people to their area and then they use that. So when they started to see how well some of their posts were doing and performing on social media, they started creating events at their own property, To kind of give you an example, they have this unique comic-con event, um, that comes to their area and for two years they posted information about it. Every single time they posted it, I would say there are posts would reach about 900 travelers because that's attracting a lot of people to their market. So this past year when it came up again, they actually held a costume contest on property and they did a cookout. So they invited guests that we're going to the event to come and stay with them, wear your favorite costume and asked all of their travelers to share pictures of their favorite costume.

Aislynn Roberts: So, not only did it get people to their hotel that were coming to the event, it got people to participate in the costume and show up to their cookoff and they ran a contest, and then it got other travelers to share their pictures about their favorite costumes. So they created content, we promoted it on their behalf with using their, their ad-spend budget that we provide, and then they also got other travelers to participate on social media.

Ryan Embree: That's awesome. Those are some really great stories and again, it's attributed to the hard work that you and your team do as well as our hotel partners. Again, I mean I think a big staple to bring out of those stories were these were two hotels that were willing to work with your team and dedicated in working with team. So I think that's when our services go above and beyond is when that combination is there. So I want to thank you, Aislynn, for joining me today. Um, it was a pleasure. I love talking about the Client Support Team because it is, it's so unique from the other people that are doing, that do digital marketing in this space. Your team is really the differentiator. So thank you again Aislynn for coming in today, and we'll see you next time.

Aislynn Roberts: Absolutely, thank you for having me.

Ryan Embree: To join our loyalty program. Be sure to subscribe and give us a five-star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Anne Sandoval with cover art by Bary Gordon and content support by Priscilla Osorio. I'm your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

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