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Meet TripAdvisor’s new Director of Customer Care, John Dila

Today we announced the appointment of John Dila to the newly created role of TripAdvisor Director of Customer Care.

John is an experienced ecommerce and customer service professional. He comes to us from InnoCentive, a start-up, where he drove community and product development and, before that, eBay where he set up and ran the customer experience teams.

We took this opportunity to ask John a few questions about his role and his plans for setting up the new department.

T4B: John, I’m sure your arrival and the creation of the new global customer care department will be well received by TripAdvisor’s owner and member communities. What will your first steps be as the head of this new department?

JD: The first thing I want to emphasize is that there are two groups of customers that need attention: owners and travelers. We are in a unique situation since we provide the platform where both parties are represented, and we have to do this well and address both groups’ needs.

It is important for travelers and businesses to understand this interplay and to learn how to benefit from it. The world has changed and there is no denying the importance of customer support via many modes of communication. Ultimately, it’s incredibly important for the TripAdvisor community to understand this marketplace and it’s very important for us to understand them.

T4B: Can you give any specific examples of what you’ll be looking at?

JD: Sure. The priority at the outset for the customer care team will be owners and one example of what we’ll be looking at is Management Responses. The benefits of Management Responses to building positive relations with guests and future guests are undeniable, but it can take a while for these to be posted. As such, this spring we’ll be looking at streamlining the Management Response system to make it quicker and easier for owners to post replies to reviews.

T4B: What do you see as your biggest challenge in the new role?

JD: We have to continually listen to members and owners and learn how they are experiencing us when it comes to customer service. That’s Part I. Part II is focusing on how we organize ourselves so that we can better serve the TripAdvisor community, owners and members alike – the way they need to be served.

Hotels are all about customer service. A Hotel has to deliver an experience where the customer feels safe and looked after. We want to create a similar atmosphere with our Customer Care experience.

T4B: Many owners appreciate the marketing opportunities TripAdvisor offers them, but there are some who think that our processes are too weighted on the side of the consumer. How will you address this perception?

JD: We are in the early days of better serving owners. The key is to listen, and my team will attend events this year where owners meet and speak freely, and we’ll ask, “How are we doing?” and “Would you recommend this experience to others?” If the answer is no, we have to find out why and design a better experience. That kind of listening and acting engagement will be a major focus this year. Those are a few ways we will listen and work to change perceptions.

T4B: How do you see your customer service strategies differing by market, if at all?

JD: I have an international background – brought up bi-lingual in Quebec, so I am very aware of cultural sensitivities. I will bring this experience and understanding to the team. TA operates in dozens of countries, but we haven’t always understood that, while there are similarities, there are also differences. Recognizing that our customer base is global, we will want to be consistent across markets where it makes sense. But, we must also be sensitive to language and cultural nuances. We also need to understand the local issues and communicate with markets according to their preference.

T4B: Which companies out there do you think are doing it right in terms of customer service?

JD: Customer service is not industry-specific, it’s about understanding your customers and organizing customer support around service, not the actual product.

Some companies in other industries that I think are doing it well and using web and tech in very interesting ways are Zappos, Apple, and Mini Cooper.

T4B: If you had to sum up your approach to customer service– what would it be?

JD: Listening, hearing, compassion, empathy, communicating and taking action.

T4B: Thank you and any final thoughts?

JD: Absolutely. TripAdvisor’s mantra is speed wins, which has helped drive us to the top of our industry. However, the best service isn’t always about speed. Finding the sweet-spot between speed and quality is one of my goals.

FOOTNOTE: We will be interviewing John further in the coming months to see how things are going and give any updates via the TripAdvisor4Biz blog.

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