The Changing Face of Customer Service for Hotels

Customer service has come a long way in the last hundred years but the most dramatic changes have happened – and quickly – in the last thirty. We have gone from brick and mortar shopping to online shopping – from using travel agencies for vacation bookings to searching social networks and using messaging apps.

hotel customer service

From the early 90s into the 21st century, the Internet and social media platforms changed the way we find and share information. Where we once looked directly to advertisers, fellow workers, business customer service staff, family or friends for information and ideas during our travel journey, we now look to online reviews, social networks and hotel websites.

 

We also seek out the opinion of peers online to help us sift through all the available offers, products and services we want or need to find that perfect hotel stay, vacation spot or foodie experience. Then just to mix things up a bit, different generations have different expectations.

 

Through all these recent social and technological innovations as well as different generational expectations of what great customer service entails, there are common needs that bind it altogether and exemplify the changing face of customer service for hotels:

Omnichannel Integrations

 Customer service and the customer experience expectations of today’s travelers have changed forever.  Whether it’s the tech savvy millennial or older generations, guests expect hotels to respond on their preferred channel.  So a seamless integration of services like social media, email and chat into one eCommerce platform will be in sights for the future. For the hotel, it means customer service agents get notifications from all channels coming into one place and a unified voice across all channels for messages that go out.

Self-service 

Making the customer experience easy and enjoyable is what it’s all about. Hotel guests or potential guests don’t want to struggle around your website and waste time trying to find the information they need.  Things like integration of a live chat service to your website, building a user-friendly website with great functionality or adding a great FAQ knowledge base make for an efficient, fast and enjoyable guest experience. Also, with mobile usage on a continuous rise, a responsive website is a must. For the hotel, it means you are making your guest’s life easier and saving them valuable time – two things that will go a long way in gaining and keeping their loyalty.

Guest empowerment and emotions

The human need for emotional bonding is a huge factor in providing great customer service and a strong motivator that drives bookings. Making your guests feel uniquely valued, special and important is a means to gaining their loyalty. You can’t currently make a chatbot empathize with your guest needs. For the hotel, it means keeping in mind that it is the genuine authentic relationship that sustains growth.

With so much digital competition, the new face of customer service for hotels is all about the guest experience. The genuine, feel good moments are not just a chance to complete a sale but an opportunity to strengthen your hotel’s connection to guests and potential guests. It’s what draws them into your hotel and keeps them coming back expanding your follower base and generating revenue.

The Rise of Messaging Apps for Hotels

Messaging apps are changing the way people communicate and, as messaging companies like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat build out their services, there are greater opportunities to reach out to guests by connecting hotels with users.

messaging apps

Gartner recently conducted a mobile apps survey showing that the number of people using messaging apps is steadily growing. Some interesting finds from their survey include:

 

  • People are looking for an app that has many services without the user having to leave the app. The main reason is that people are searching for a more engaging experience.
  • Businesses and app providers need to enhance their services by developing more engaging strategies for messaging and personal assistant apps.
  • For personal assistant apps, marketers should be looking at what’s needed to create a more friendly search strategy.
  • Social media apps are still the most popular but usage fell behind messaging apps. Messaging, personal assistant and shopping app usage was on the rise because of features like user-generated videos, customer service chats and m-commerce capability.

 

Messaging apps, like social media channels, change as features change and these changes happen quickly. Messaging apps are no longer just on a peer-to-peer level. People are now also using messaging apps to connect with hotels, watch content and browse offers so their adoption into businesses is rapidly growing.

 

Facebook Messenger boasts 1.2 billion monthly active users and its integration with Uber and Lyft shows their plans to move toward broader partnerships. Then there’s WhatsApp with plans to introduce a new commercial messaging platform specifically for businesses. Caesars Entertainment Corporation became the first to use messaging apps in the hospitality industry when they recently debuted WeChat Pay at selected locations and plans to have it roll out to all outlets in Caesars Palace and resorts in 2018.

 

Social media and messaging apps have become an ingrained part of daily hotel business. They have features that are valued by guests and potential guests who are on-the-go for both internal or external communications. With increased messenger app usage, hotels need to consider changing their content marketing strategy to reach out and connect with their guests and potential guests.

 

The projected growth of messaging apps is expected to be 2 billion people using messaging apps by 2018.  Hotels are always looking to see how to reach out to guests in all phases of their travel journey, creating memorable guest experiences and turning satisfied guests into loyal customers. As these messaging apps are expanding their functionality to connect brands with users, it is well worth exploring how they could be incorporated into your hotel marketing plans.

Learn more about Lodging Interactive’s live chat service for hotels.

 

Lodging Interactive Launches Stay.Play.Explore Local Content

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the launch of its localized Stay.Play.Explore micro website services for hotels. Stay.Play.Explore provides hotels with fully curated local destination content and lifestyle activity based information for hotel guests.

“Hotel websites rarely provide deep localized content to inform and inspire guests when they’re in the travel planning phase,” said DJ Vallauri, Founder & President of Lodging Interactive. “Our Stay.Play.Explore micro websites provide curated local content tailored around things to do near the hotel and differentiates the property against its competitive set. This kind of localized, human curated content helps to drive direct bookings.”

 

Lodging Interactive Stay Play Explore Live Like a Local Marketing Micro Websites

 

Lodging Interactive marketing landing pages for hotels.

 

 

SIMILAR STORIES

 

Stay.Play.Explore adds value to any property seeking to drive more direct bookings and minimize its dependence on OTA’s. By providing deep, local information that is designed to complement the local destination, hotels are playing a more involved role in the guest’s travel planning process. Lodging Interactive copywriters curate and create unique content to appeal to all travel demographics.

“Stay.Play.Explore for branded properties, is the perfect content addition to brand.com property pages,” added Mr. Vallauri. “Providing potential guests with recommended weekend sightseeing itineraries and helpful local hints communicates to all demographics, business travelers, leisure travelers and family vacationers.”

Facebook integration of the Stay.Play.Explore micro website also extends the value to the hotel’s social media network.

 

Lodging Interactive Facebook marketing for hotels.

“Inspiring travelers throughout the travel journey is critical in closing more direct bookings. Anytime you can enable travelers to ‘Live Like a Local’ in a foreign destination, you win,” stated DJ Vallauri.

For more information on how to add Stay.Play.Explore localized content your hotel’s brand.com website pages, visit Lodging Interactive or call 877-291-4411 ext. 704.

Contact
DJ Vallauri
President & Founder
Phone: 877-291-4411
Fax: 877-833-7375

Lower Hotel Guest Satisfaction Associated with Bookings made through OTAs

The 21st annual J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study was just released. The study measures overall hotel guest satisfaction and this year’s study showed that guests are more likely to be less satisfied with their stay when booking through independent travel websites.

 

Here are some key findings of the JD Power 2017 study:

  • OTA vs. Direct Booking: Guests are more likely to experience issues that decrease their satisfaction with their stay when booking through an independent travel website instead of directly with the hotel.
  • Reward Membership: 75% of hotel reward members are more inclined to book directly with a hotel than the 47% that are not members, and guest satisfaction is higher.
  • Mobile Apps and Reservations: The number of online reservations made on mobile devices has risen to 25%, up from 14% in 2014. Of these users, most are in a younger age group or business travelers. 38% of guests who have a hotel’s app on their mobile device don’t use it during their stay. Only 4% use the mobile app at check-in and only 1% at checkout but guests that do use the app show they have a greater satisfaction with their stay.
  • Loyalty: Those guests who use a hotel’s mobile app have a greater satisfaction with their stay and greater loyalty to the hotel.
  • Social Media: 86% of people who experience a problem are very likely to post to social media. Despite this, those who share their experiences via social channels appear to be more satisfied overall.
  • Hotel Reviews: 52% of guests have read a hotel review in the past month and 46% of these guests wrote a review in the past six months. Also, people who read and write reviews are more likely to have higher guest satisfaction.

An increase in mobile usage has caused a growth in mobile app services in hotels. This presents both opportunities & challenges for hoteliers. Major chains like Marriott and Hilton have launched campaigns promoting direct bookings with promises of discounts and perks.  But Phocuswright estimated that OTA’s will have increased their share of online U.S. hotel bookings to 52% by 2020.  With this growth comes the likelihood that guests will finalize their booking through an OTA rather than book direct with a hotel.

 

Bookings through OTAs are notoriously associated with lower guest satisfaction. Over the last 10 years, the CoMMingle division of Lodging Interactive has seen this come to light through our own analytics in reputation management for hotels.

One way to influence your reputation is by incorporating mobile apps into a hotel stay because it is associated with higher guest satisfaction. It makes guests more willing to share their positive hotel experiences on social media.

 

The fact of the matter is that mobile apps have become central to the guest experience. The challenge for hotels to have guests book direct are many but hoteliers can help themselves by creating and strengthening guest relationships and providing great customer service. The best way to combat dissatisfied guests who booked via an online travel site is to be armed with a strong mobile and social media strategy that will provide quick action and resolve issues. To do this, hoteliers will need to seek resources to help them know their rankings on various online sites and social media channels. With these tools in hand a hotel can get enough control over distribution to entice those direct bookings and increase revenue.