Uproxx editor-in-chief Brett Michael had a lot on his mind when he booked a trip to Sydney. Specifically, he was worried about where he could go in the city to watch Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference finals, which he feared might not have been available on the hotel’s TV. Michael even tweeted about his dilemma, probably hoping one of his Twitter followers would know a good place to catch the game.

Imagine his surprise when he checked into his room at the Old Clare Hotel and saw this waiting for him:

brett michael tweet

That’s a framed copy of his tweet, surrounded by helpful suggestions from the hotel staff and complimentary grooming supplies to help him look his best while he’s out in town. This kind of personalised service, which involves hotels, restaurants, and other establishments searching their customers’ social media profiles for ideas on how to make their visit special, is becoming increasingly common.

While at first, it seems a bit intrusive – and maybe even a little scary, considering what some people post to their social media accounts – the results suggest that customers are starting to appreciate the extra effort.

When I contacted The Old Clare Hotel to get an insight into their ‘stalking’ process, here’s what Shari Knott (Marketing Executive) had to say:

Alice, our Guest Services Manager, is quite savvy in finding out things to surprise any incoming guests. We always want to make a great first impression and thankfully social media gives us insight into many people’s daily life without invading their privacy, as they themselves choose to share thoughts/images/memories publicly.

As we have guest’s names on their booking, we basically research on google what social media platforms they use. In this case, our guest was quite active on Twitter and recently mentioned his upcoming visit down under and sudden worry not to be able to catch the game whilst here. Thankfully Alice caught that and ensured the guest would have two options to choose where to enjoy the game with a fresh beer and some good food.

According to research done by Yahoo, 78 percent of customers want at least a little bit of personalisation with their service, and for some, the more they get, the better.

2 tweets

Clearly this approach is working for some, and it’s not hard to guess why. One way to think about businesses snooping around their customers’ public profiles is as an extension of something they already do. The cafe where I used to go in Sydney for my serious coffee fix, for example, is staffed with baristas who know me on sight and who have my regular order ready before I get to the counter. I have a similar relationship with my hairdresser who cuts my hair and some of the wait staff at my favorite restaurant.

Googling your customers before they walk through the door is, if anything, just a faster way to build this bond between customers and your business.

As neat as this trend is, a certain measure of discretion is definitely required. Some customers value their privacy, and a personal occasion such as an anniversary dinner might not be the best thing to pry into. For some, just knowing that an orgsanisation has been looking into their likes and dislikes can feel like an invasion of personal space.

That’s why most businesses that try this approach limit themselves to just looking over their patrons’ publicly shared information and the things they’re comfortable posting to social media. Hopefully, this strikes a balance between a warmly valued personal touch and a deeply resented personal affront.

personal space comic kapil

The Digital Age has brought us more than the convenience of booking a hotel room online, it has enabled that hotel – or any customer-facing business – to learn what it needs to know in order to provide exceptional personal service that in the past was the exclusive domain of millionaires in gentlemen’s clubs. While there’s still a grey area between gathering information to provide customers with more than they were expecting and intrusive snooping, personalised service is here to stay.

What about you? I’d like to know your thoughts or experiences on businesses using social media to research their customers. Please share your comments below. 

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