The full interview is available here
The internet, and the fact that it allows unlimited access to information, is one of the main reasons why the customer has power when planning a trip or thinking about a holiday. Dr Hamill, co-ordinator of the International Expert Team, will be presenting new strategic and management approaches in an era where the customer is king.
“In this sense, customer management needs to go beyond just customer service and customer satisfaction. The goal posts have moved.”
Those operating in any business, including the tourism industry, need to deliver exceptional customer experience with the aim of building a quality customer base – those who are very loyal to your brand, provide you with repeat business and are willing to act as advocates on your behalf.
Talking about the e-business course, Dr Hamill referred to a second revolution on the internet. A website used to promote a business activity now needs to be looked at in the context of Web 2.0 and social media.
“This second revolution is having a massive impact on the tourist industry because it is characterised by C-to-C marketing (customer-to-customer marketing).”
E-business is all about maximising the opportunities of social media and minimising the threats they present.
“How do you fully leverage online word of mouth effects? It is a massive challenge that requires an understanding of how social media works and the development of practical skills to implement social media strategies. Most tourism businesses take to social media intuitively.”
Dr Hamill will be talking about user generated content and ‘creating the buzz’, explaining the way tourism businesses should be using social media to engage with and energise their online networks.
This requires a total change in mindset, he said, adding that marketing in a social media environment is best seen as marketing as a conversation with the customers.
Traditional marketing is about broadcasting messages to people, whereas with in social media, you need to engage with your audience.
He explained that websites, for example, needed to be much more interactive: what is needed is two-way dialogue rather than one-way broadcasting.
As for small companies, they can keep their website very simple and use it as a door to other social media channels such as Facebook.
Speaking about the situation in Malta, Dr Hamill said the majority of tourism businesses are probably already aware of social media. “They will be excited and frightened; maybe some of them have already started using social media. What they will need is a clear idea of a strategy, a vision on integrating social media into their core business activities.
“They need to be trained in ways of applying performance measures (key performance indicators) and then ways of implementing their strategy.”
Dr Hamill explained that there are a number of social media monitoring tools available that can be used to identify who is talking about your brand. This, he said, saves a lot of work that would have traditionally involved customer surveys and research.
“You can be monitoring online conversations and replying to them; if positive comments are being made, then you should thank your customers, and if you come across negative comments, you should be responding and acting upon them.”