From Microsoft Engineer to Digital Marketer
The answer: The Power of Social Media.
Circos is a company that helps hotels understand the hidden meaning in social media chatter. Within two years, they have more than 5000 clients all over the world, including Marriott, Mandarin Oriental, and Starwood Hotels and Resorts – of which the W Hotel and Le Meridien are subsidiaries.
Taiwanese-American CEO, Morris Sim, was born in Taiwan and graduated from Stanford University. He joined Microsoft when he was 21 and became the youngest Senior Vice President in Microsoft ‘s history at the age of 27, reporting directly to Bill Gates. Later, he founded the “Imagine Cup” – which is the “American Idol” equivalent of a computer programming competition for students. The significance of the competition effectively reshaped the image of Microsoft amongst students. Sim is one of the rare few who can effortlessly blend computer programming and marketing so well that it creates something new.
Although he is a computer engineer by profession, Sim is also very sensitive to inter-personal relationships. Circos was birthed from the inconveniences he experienced when traveling and having to rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and colleagues despite the amount of information available on the internet.
Analyzing comments: Turning online reviews into scorecards
Hence, he created a new methodology to extract information: First, he compiled a database of over 400,000 hotels by using a key-word researching technology. Then, using text-mining, the system distinguishes both positive and negative comments by the linguistic structure, after which it is given a score ranging from -6 to 6; the higher the score, the better the impressions it makes to other reviewers.
Through this system, hoteliers simply need to input the name of their hotel/brand and they will be able to find out the sentiment from their guests all over the world. At the same time, they can also retrieve their scores on a variety of drivers such as food and beverage, mini-bar, bathroom, etc.. Even subtle issues such as the softness of pillows, blanket thickness, and lighting can be individually identified and presented in a user-friendly index for reference on the tool. As a result, hoteliers save time and energy as compared to the inefficient Guest Satisfaction Survey and the amount of human labor that is involved in monitoring the internet round-the-clock for guest comments before seeing comments from their faithful guests.
According to TripAdvisor.com – the most popular traveling website in the world – up to 72% of travelers will research for hotel comments on the internet before making a booking. “The ‘collective wisdom’ found on the internet has become the most influential factor to a hotel’s brand management and it even affects the profits.” says Mr. Chuang Yi-Ming, TripAdvisor’s Director of Commercial Department.
Fang-Cheng Shen, CEO of Hotel Royal-Taipei, says that it is hard to describe one’s feeling about a hotel. In the past, people would rely on their friends’ recommendations to get a better idea about a hotel. However, due to the overwhelming growth of the social media and mobile communication, things have changed. Guests can share their comments about the hotel’s service on Facebook or Twitter via a smart-phone right after they check in.
Therefore, the system that Sim created seeks to transform these “indescribable feelings” into concrete feedback, complete with numbers. The more buzz there is about a hotel, the more accurate the guest sentiment and the system can also probe into the hotel’s weak point(s).
Such instantaneous and broad communication methods have completely changed the way a hotel does marketing. “It puts a lot of pressure on the Duty Manager” admitted Yuan-Wei Ding, General Manager of L’Hotel de Chine. Hoteliers used to review the performance on a monthly basis, but now they need to do it weekly, or even daily. “It’s getting harder and harder to run a hotel.” said Ding frankly.
Analyzing comments: One-of-a-kind system allows more objective reviews.
To keep track with social media, hotels would hire people to monitor all the relevant buzz on the social media channels. However, this incurs high labor costs and more often than not, the manual interpretations are too subjective.
“It took us more than three years to integrate the techniques of key-word researching, linguistic analysis and data-mining and to develop them into program.” says Sim. By doing so, the program can go a step further and analyze comments more objectively, avoiding biased judgments that bloggers tend to have.
Within a very short period of time, the product has aroused the interest of many hoteliers. In the past, branding information is kept highly confidential within the company, yet Circos is able to reveal it by analyzing information that is available on social media. A marketing manager of a five-star branded hotel was very disturbed after listening to Sim’s presentation and asked: “Where did you get this information about us?”
“So he signed the contract with us immediately.” laughed Sim.
Consulting Services: Using Facebook to engage younger clients
Circos not only analyzes information from the internet, but it also provides consulting services in Marketing. Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts – an example of a conventional and conservative hotel brand that was losing touch with the young generation online – worked with Circos to shed its traditional image and set up a strategic Facebook fan page, which, over the next six months, garnered over 100,000 loyal fans, claiming bragging rights as the first five-star branded hotel to do so.
“Circos gives us the most effective solution to execute with whatever limited resources that we may have.” says Greg Albertini, Vice President, Asia Pacific office of Marriott International, Inc.
“The hospitality industry is just a starting point.” says Sim confidently. ”After further refining our product, we will be able to apply it to any industry that we want.”
Read the original mandarin version here.
Reporter: Neil Lin – Business Daily
Translated by: Kay Lin – BKU Editorial Team
Edited by: Avery Ho – BKU Editorial Team