Engaging With Customers Correctly in a Digital-First World

Hootsuite chief marketing officer Penny Wilson points to client AccorHotels, a French hotel group, as an example of how companies can use digital to boost their growth and customer engagement. The company, which has 4,000 hotels in 92 countries and recently bought the Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta and the Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, started to build a social desk a couple of years ago.

The desk allows local hotel staff to engage with guests booking a room, and respond to complaints or feedback during or after their stay. According to Wilson, the company’s audience grew by 550 per cent in one year to 27 million users.

“The Accor social desk is a perfect example of digital transformation at scale,” Wilson told the Traction conference in Vancouver. “We need to create customer-centric, scalable businesses.”

While the theory is no different than marketing strategies in the past, Wilson says the rise of mobile, social and real-time has changed the game.

“They’re accelerating the rate of change faster than we can possibly imagine,” Wilson says, calling mobile “the defining trend of our age.”

“We live in a world where our customers are always online, in any location, on any device.”

She also cites statistics from Twitter showing that 60 per cent of people who complain online expect a response in 60 minutes.

“This expectation of immediacy, this need for an instant response, it isn’t a nice-to-have for a business anymore. It’s a must have,” Wilson says. “It’s a fundamental shift in our culture,” driven by demographics and generations growing up in the digital world.

It’s also an opportunity for brands to take advantage of the massive audience that can be found on social and develop one-on-one relationships with customers — online.

“Social is personal, where every customers’ voice has an opportunity to be heard in the moment and where there are no geographical boundaries. It’s really the power of the collective,” Wilson says. “Social is an opportunity to communicate with individuals in the right time, at the right place in their journey with you. It’s a two-way conversation.

Adds Wilson: “Marketers are no longer in ‘send’ mode. Marketers are in ‘receive’ mode and we have to be authentic, personal and relevant.”


Playing on the word “scale,” Wilson breaks down her advice to marketers like this:

  • Social: “Aligning your business to customers at every touch point in the digital journey,” Wilson says.
  • Customer centric: “You’re not leading your customers, you’re letting them lead you.”
  • Authentic: As well as personal and relevant. “Really communicating at the right time and at the right place.”
  • Listen: “Allowing you to create those memorable customer moments that scale.”
  • Enagage: “Make it happen across the organization. Every employee can get involved in social with customers.”