The Tale of Two Companies

For my blog comparing a successful Social Media campaign to an unsuccessful Social Media campaign, I am back to one of my favourite social-media tools, TripAdvisor. I will be comparing another favourite of mine, The Kimpton Hotel chain, to The Original London Sightseeing Tour.

Kimpton is a relatively new boutique chain of hotels operating solely in the United States. As part of their social media campaign, they have made it part of each manager’s mandate to keep their hotel in the top 20 listings for TripAdvisor for that particular city. I am sure that in cities where there is more than one Kimpton Hotel, there are some interesting intrachain rivalries that I would love to hear about, but I imagine those are company secrets.

If you read the reviews for the hotels in the chain at http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Search?q=kimpton+hotel&sub-search=SEARCH&geo=&returnTo=http%253A__2F____2F__www__2E__tripadvisor__2E__ca__2F__ you will see very prompt responses to any negative reviews as well as gratitude for the glowing reviews, proof that Kimpton is listening very closely to the social media tool that is so relevant to their industry. In fact, one manager explained that he is expected to check TripAdvisor daily and respond immediately to any postings that could affect occupancy levels.

Conversely, while I was in London I tried to find a Hop on Hop Off bus tour that was highly rated. I was only there for a few days, so I wanted to see as much as possible as quickly as possible and walking tours and bike tours do not offer the speed for that. Not to mention that urban cycling terrifies me, particularly in a city I don’t know where they drive on the wrong side of the road. Because I would be touring alone, I avoided the increased costs of a private tour. Speciality tours were out because I would not see as many sights as possible. I usually save speciality tours for after I know what I want to go back and see. A Thames cruise was possible, but being late fall, the weather might not cooperate.

A visit to TripAdvisor showed that the Hop On Hop Off tours did not make it into the tour listings until page 4, being pushed behind walking, cycling and speciality tours, as well as tours of Britain, not just London. The first one, Big Bus Tours, was number 94 out of 294 sightseeing tours. I ended up settling for The Original Tour because it was giving a second day away for free along with a number of extras for the off season and, with a ranking of 110, did not seem to be much worse than the Big Bus Tour. Visit http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attractions-g186338-Activities-London_England.html#TtD to see the reviews.

My first day, I hopped on at Tower Hill and decided to ride most of the way through the tour before getting off to do any exploring. I found a good seat in the upper part of the bus under a canopy. Later in the tour I managed to move to the front seat for the best view available. The plug-in audio system worked very well and the only complaint from the myriad on TripAdvisor that I could agree with was that there were rather long waits at some of the pickup points while they tried to convince other tourist to use their service. Because this was not a private tour that was a disadvantage I was willing to tolerate. The two-day tour also came with a free river cruise and complimentary walking tours. After spending part of the afternoon on the river, I congratulated myself on getting such great value for my £26.

The next day I ran into some of the problems outlined in the reviews. The first bus I took to the gallery I wanted to visit had a live guide giving the commentary in English. Several other riders did not speak English and talked throughout the commentary to the point where those listening could not hear it. After visiting the gallery I hopped on another bus to find seating available only on the bottom floor. The first jack I plugged my headphones into did not work when set to English, although I could get other languages. The second jack had the children’s commentary bleeding into the adult English one.  I had run out of jacks to try, so I listened to the muddled commentary for the rest of the ride. I spent part of the afternoon on one of the complimentary walking tours, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I do not know if Original Tours has any type of Social Media strategy, but if so it is poorly implemented. By simply addressing some of the issues outlined in the reviews and posting the fact that they are working to improve things, they could probably move significantly up in the rankings. While I still believe they offered significant value for my pounds, to run a tour company with inoperable audio systems is simply unacceptable.

As far as I can see, the difference in the two campaigns is that the hotel is listening closely to its clients and reacting appropriately to both their praise and complaints, while the tour company is playing the ostrich game, much to their detriment.

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