Chicken is Not Tofu: How to be Upfront and Not Confuse Consumers Online

I hate when I ask for one thing but get another. Especially when I paid for it. Consumers do not like being taken for a ride. So if you’d like to appease me (and your other potential customers) pay attention to where things went wrong in some of my more recent ill-fated encounters and how you can avoid them in your online marketing strategy.

Last month in London I ordered grilled tofu satay and received a stick of fried tofu instead. Last night I was served Thai chicken in my Thai tofu wrap. And a few weeks ago I stayed in a “four-star hotel close to historic attractions in Seville” that was actually a stretch for a two-star rating and was located far from any point of interest other than a number of fine dollar stores.

Let’s be clear, fried is not grilled, chicken is not tofu, and a dark, dingy hotel reeking of smoke, crawling with unruly kids, and located in the middle of nowhere is not a four-star hotel close to historic attractions in Seville.

The problems that led to my confusion and disappointment in the aforementioned events are problems I see running rampant on hotel websites. So what can we learn from my string of unfortunate events? Plenty. Let’s start with what went wrong…

1. Misleading or Outdated Information –

I am fully aware that most food in London is battered and deep fried. And I’m ok with this to an extent. But after a breakfast, lunch and dinner consisting of fried foods, I was looking for something a little lighter. So imagine my excitement when I found one lone menu item that was both vegetarian AND grilled. Imagine my subsequent disappointment when said item arrived—you guessed it—battered and deep fried. What went wrong here? Well, since I obviously didn’t misread the menu (The customer is always right, right?), I can only assume that the menu description was either misleading or outdated. Either way, it resulted in a displeased diner.

When it comes to your online content, it is important that it is properly optimized, yes, but it is also imperative that it be accurate and up-to-date. Otherwise, you’re not advertising what you’re really selling. When your pool closes for renovations, do you update that on your site? When you start offering room service, do you provide that information online? When your grilled tofu satay is now fried, do you change the menu? If not, your customers do not have an accurate picture of your product, and they may end up disappointed. Use your website to your advantage, and keep it constantly updated. Your customers will thank you. (10Best manages content for a major US hotel chain and has handled more than 15,000 site update requests since April 2008 with an average turnaround time of 48 hours. Check out our hotel services).

2. Employee Error –

When I order a Thai tofu wrap, the waitress confirms, enters it in the computer, and then brings back a Thai chicken wrap, we know that an employee messed up somewhere along the way.

Accidents happen. It is to be expected. Some consumers are understanding and will quietly pay for the Thai chicken wrap they didn’t order. Others will pitch a fit and bash your business on every online forum available. There is no way to entirely avoid bad customer reviews, but there are ways to lessen the blow by managing your online brand reputation. Monitor hotel review forums for negative reviews. Create a twitter account for responding quickly and conscientiously to customer complaints and questions. And track your brand’s mention in blogs and other news stories. Becoming a member of the online community will make it easier for you to connect with your customers so that you can respond more quickly when problems arise. (10Best can guide you in your online brand management. Send questions to @10bestsolutions on twitter.)

3. Lies –

I cannot express how truly disappointing that “hotel near historic attractions in Seville” was. I am an avid city walker, and I felt the hike into the old town was excessive. I also found the four-star rating laughable. From the revolting buffets to the complete lack of staff intervention in my war against the loud, rude, uncivilized school kids, the whole thing was one major four-star fail. I don’t think you can lie about a hotel star rating and get away with it. But you can certainly stretch the truth on your website about everything else. But why bother, Catalonia Trajano Emperador Hotel Seville? You’re left with nothing but an angry blogger that mentions you by name.

Everyone wants to appeal to what customers want. But unless you actually are what the customers want, don’t pretend you are. If you’re 30 minutes outside downtown, you are not a “downtown hotel.” Sell your hotel for what is. Someone is looking for it. (10Best writes optimized, accurate content for thousands of major hotel websites, and we do so without lying. Check out our SEO and Content Management services).

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