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Social media can quickly hurt an image

Adrian Loveridge

Social media can quickly hurt an image

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SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL, it has, of course, been important to protect a brand.
A successful brand not only makes promises, but matches them with consistent delivery.
From a tourism perspective, that is regardless of whether that brand is an individual hotel, chain, destination or other singular or group entity.
Years ago, it was far more difficult to inflict damage on an image and reputation that could have taken generations to build.
But nowadays, it can be destroyed in seconds just by using the social media, at absolutely no cost to the customer.
Let me give a small example.
Last June I flew to Boston and collected a hired car from one of the world’s leading vehicle hire companies,  located close to Logan Airport. There were long queues at the agent’s desks and it took nearly an hour to complete any outstanding paperwork, even though I am a member of their loyalty programme and had pre-registered most of the information required, like driver’s licence and credit card details.
When we found the car at a numbered bay, it was frankly filthy with badly stained carpets and seats, together with an offensive interior stench that pervaded the vehicle for a full week, even though most days the windows were kept wide open.
The sensible thing to have done would have been to return to the office and point out the defects. But we did not want another prolonged wait, our hotel accommodation was a three-hour drive away and it was raining heavily, considerably restricting visibility.
On our return to Barbados, I reported the experience to the customer relations headquarters and received an automated response. Months went by and even after sending several reminders by email, nothing more was heard.
About 11 months later, I was almost ready to forget the issue and had resigned myself to never using the company again, even though I had been a regular client for at least two decades.
One more try perhaps. So I posted my displeasure on the company’s Facebook page. Literally within seconds a polite and apologetic response was received, with the added bonus that some upgrade vouchers for future use had been mailed to me.
The world may never have witnessed my few “internal” emails, but now it was out there for a large chunk of the Facebook community globally to view.
And this is how we have to treat tourism today.
Any tardy ill-informed response lacking empathy can do so much damage to the business and, by extension, the destination.
Reputations are valuable assets that need to be guarded, nurtured and managed every single day of the year.
Not only do we have to respond, but equally crucial, we have to be seen to respond, and frankly that is where we often fail dismally.
It is absolutely critical to monitor negative comments on social networks together with other media outlets and attempt to promulgate at least a balanced and positive point of view.    
I would like to conclude by adapting some words which may accurately reflect the malaise that many feel is presently enveloping our tourism industry.
It starts with leadership, whose role is to inspire, direct and champion change.
Leaders lead by example.