Hotel Live Chat Instant Gratification Wins Every Time

PARSIPPANY, NJ – June 20, 2018– There’s a lot of debate about the best way to handle the huge influx of guest messages happening through private message and live chat platforms.

 

Should we be using more automation? More resources in house? More outsourcing?

 

There are a number of different services and solutions out there– not all of which are created equal– but there’s one thing that everyone agrees on: Answering customer messages quickly and thoroughly is essential. And by fast, we mean lightningfast.

 

Chief of Marketing of Booking.com Pepijn Rijvers put it perfectly when he recently stated that a slow response or no response to a private message “basically means ‘I don’t count’” from a guest’s perspective.

 

He’s absolutely right. It’s trivial and it’s maybe a little impulsive, but we live in a world where instant gratification is expected. Getting a response in ten seconds or less is no longer a sign of exceptional customer care; it’s a requirementof decent customer service, period. This puts more strain on businesses, especially those heavy in one-on-one customer interaction like hotels or resorts.

 

So what can we do about it?

 

Live Chat Expectations: The Solutions

When it comes to managing the demands of live chat messaging, there are a few common approaches.

 

Some prefer to hire multi-person, in-house teams to handle the messages. These teams become expensive to staff, train, and maintain. You either have to worry about increased pay rates for holidays and graveyard shifts, or not offer that availability to guests who may need urgent attention during those times.

 

Others, like Booking.com, opt to utilize chatbots and automate more of the process. While chatbots can help to cut down on costs and improve automation, they also lack a personal touch and are incapable of resolving guest concerns or questions in a personalized way that can provide exceptional service. For some industries that may be ok, but not for those with the high level of personalized assistance that guests need while interacting with hotels, resorts, or other businesses in the hospitality industry.

 

I agree with Rijvers earlier assessment about the importance of not only live chat but exceptionally fast live chat. I also agree with the statements that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are becoming even more important platforms for customer service. That being said, I disagree with the fact that it’s too difficult or impossible to provide fast and thorough responses without the use of chatbots, especially for hotels at a larger scale.

 

Here’s what he had to say:

“If you’re a hotel with 100 rooms you’re not going to manually respond to every message 24/7 even though you may have 150 check-ins a day that are all asking questions. You already have two staff on board that are going to do this. So you need to both enhance the customer experience and deliver services, faster and cheaper. This can be done though automation and it is better to start investing now.”

Automation is great. It’s convenient, and sure, it’s relatively cheap. But it’s not always the most effective, especially when you have large numbers of unique and personalized requests from guests that truly do require one-on-one personalization.

Why Human-to-Human Interaction Will Always Be Best

Guests would much rather know that a real person who cares about them and understands their problem in a way a robot never could is going to get that answer to their question or resolve their problem. If they don’t feel like you can offer that, they might turn to your competition who can.

Human-to-human interaction is always the right choice when it comes to investing in your guests, because they won’t care about you if you don’t care about them. An actual, trained customer service representative will be able to assess situations and address customer concerns with a personalized solution based on the guest and their specific needs.

One guest who asks for a room with a kitchen, for example, might just want a mini-fridge and a microwave; others might expect a stove, counter space, and pots and pans. The former might not be willing to pay for a full-on kitchen, while the latter may have medically-required dietary restraints that necessitates the stove and preparation ability, so they can make their own food.

Similarly, not all guest complaints are equal, so solutions can’t just be automated. Someone who had a light flickering isn’t going to need the same level of compensation as a guest whose AC went out in the Bahamas in July and gave Grandma heatstroke. Robots might offer the same solution for each of these guests, which is a disservice to both of them and to your business.

It’s also worth noting that guests can tell when they’re talking to a chatbot and they may not be happy about it. Chatbots have that painful association of long navigation menus you get while calling your insurance company; you get ten options in, and you’re still asked to hold for an operator because the system couldn’t figure out what you wanted. This doesn’t exactly bode well for guests who are demanding instant gratification and outstanding customer support.

So Is an In-House Team My Only Option

While some hotels and resorts opt to hire staff, whose sole purpose is to answer guest live chat messages, this isn’t the most practical option. We recommend outsourcing.

 

CoMMingle offers a live chat service designed specifically to help hotels and resorts handle the flood of live messages coming from multiple platforms online. All of our U.S. agents are trained in customer service excellence, and we’ll be able to answer all of your incoming messages in real-time. We’ll keep costs down and profits up, giving you the solution you need so you can keep running your business and keep guests happy.

 

Chatbots, after all, can be a big investment. We’d rather you invest in your guests instead, prioritizing people over automation and giving every guest the best experience possible with personalized attention and care.

 

 

About Lodging Interactive

 

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas.

CoMMingle has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses.  The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter and is a Forbes.com Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

June 12, 2018 – Hospitality Social Media News

Hospitality Social Media News

 

 

 

 

June 12, 2018 Issue

Latest Updates – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Yelp

 

A lot of social media changes have happened in the past two weeks, giving us features ranging from Instagram Ad updates to new ways to connect with guests on Yelp. This edition of our biweekly newsletter takes an in-depth look at all of them and how they will affect your hotels and resorts moving forward. Let’s get started.

Organic Instagram Posts Can Be Made Into Ads

Previously, Instagram’s organic posts could only be promoted through an ad system if they were boosted natively on-platform. Now, you can turn single image and single video organic Instagram posts into actual ads through Power Editor and the Ads Manager.

These ads will give you more objectives, better targeting, and more bidding options than boosted posts did. If you’re worried about all the engagement disappearing, that shouldn’t be a concern; all likes and comments will be aggregated on the original organic content.

What This Means for Hotels

Hotels and resorts can use this new feature to gain a large amount of engagement in likes and comments on their organic content very quickly, in addition to building brand awareness and encouraging more bookings. Since Instagram has recently rolled out the new CTA buttons that allow for reservations to made, making your content look as good as possible with likes and comments could help get you more bookings.

Facebook Stories Get Instagram-Style Polling 

Instagram Stories polls have been a great way to drive engagement and get feedback from followers. Now these polls are now coming to Facebook. Poll stickers will let you ask a question and fill in two potential answers.

Image source: Facebook

What This Means for Hotels

Facebook users haven’t engaged with Stories as often as they do with Instagram’s counterpart, but that may change thanks to the increasingly engaging features being added to the platform. People love to share their opinions, so now would be a great opportunity to ask guests that they think about a vacation at your resort. Some questions you could ask include:

  • “What’s your favorite part of your stay? Spa or Restaurants?”
  • “Which would you choose: Pool view or Ocean view?”
  • “Favorite resort activity: Snowboarding or Skiing?”

Facebook Events Testing New Ticketing Feature

Facebook is currently testing new functionality for their Events feature, including new ticketing and messaging options. The ticketing feature will allow businesses to offer two purchasing options, including through the site or ad the event, or to request/purchase tickets through Messenger.

What This Means for Hotels

If your resort hosts any kind of event or conference and sells the tickets directly, this could help you boost attendance by offering more convenient ways to purchase tickets and the ability to answer questions quickly.

Facebook Tests Review Scores on Business Pages

The traditional ratings system on Facebook utilizes a 5-star scale. The platform is currently testing a new review system that factors in ratings, user reviews, and the recommendations people share on platform. Instead of five stars, the new system gives you a score out of ten.

Image Source: Social Media Examiner

What This Means for Hotels 

Reviews from guests are always important, and that’s still true. If you only have a few ratings and some other feedback on-site (or a single negative rating and plenty of positive general feedback on the platform), check and see if this new system works for you. Right now some Pages have the option to choose one over the other, though that may not be the case forever. Take advantage of that while you can, and use the system that helps you promote your hotel most effectively.

Pinterest Tests Screen-Wide Video Ads 

Pinterest is currently testing a new promoted video format that will take up the full width of a mobile screen. It’s only being tested by a few big name companies like Kohl’s, American Express, and Tropicana, but hopefully we’ll see more from this soon.

What This Means for Hotels

Full-screen video ads will ensure that you have a user’s full attention, making it easier to accomplish higher video completion rates from users and making your ad more impactful.

Once available, you can showcase the stunning views around your hotel and resort. When possible, use text to explain what users are seeing if you want to get the most clicks (and bookings!). Remember that Pinterest is used to make buying decisions, so once this ad format is available, take advantage of that to put a full-screen ad in front of users doing research for their next vacation or event.

Yelp Rolls Out Collections

Yelp has just rolled out a new feature called Collections, which provides users with personalized, “hand-picked” recommendations based on their Yelp activity. The Collections will be made up of recommendations from friends and top-rated recommendations from the Yelp community in general. New recommendations are provided weekly, and users can create their own Collections of favorite brands, stores, and (of course) hotels. 

What This Means for Hotels  

We don’t know a ton yet about how exactly to be featured in a Collection by Yelp, but this is a feature that we’ll keep an eye on as personalized suggestions containing your resort could be a goldmine.

In general, encourage users to leave reviews on the platform with follow-up emails after their stay, or mention it during checkout. Yelp is already partially a numbers game as it is, so getting more reviews could only help you if you want to be featured in Collections moving forward, too.

Subsrcibe Now – It’s Free & Never Miss an Issue.

Big Changes from Facebook and Instagram

Subsrcibe Now – It’s Free & Never Miss an Issue.

GDPR has everyone scrambling to make big changes, and in the midst of all of it, there’s a handful of big social media changes that have slipped through unnoticed, coming from both Facebook and Instagram. In this latest edition of our biweekly newsletter, we’ll take a close look at the ones that will directly impact hotels and resorts.

Instagram New Call to Action Buttons Include Booking Options

New Call to Action (CTA) buttons are coming to Instagram soon. These new options include Reserve, Get Tickets, Start Order, and Book. These new CTA buttons will work alongside a number of different partners, including Booksy, ChowNow, OpenTable, Reserve, Tock, Yelp Reservations, and SevenRooms.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Previously, hotels and resorts (and the restaurants and salons within them) had to rely on a “call us” or “message us” CTA to encourage reservations, sending users through an extra step. Now, users can book reservations at your resort, appointments at a salon, or even order room service right through Instagram. Convenience is key, especially for guests on vacation.

Instagram Updates Inbox for Better Guest Interaction

Instagram is rolling out a new, simplified inbox that’s designed to improve communication. This inbox will automatically sort messages into a direct inbox, and a pending inbox. The direct inbox will only have messages sent by users, eliminating the onslaught of Stories mentions. There will also be new features that allow you to star and filter your conversations for improved follow up.

Image source: Instagram

What This Means for Hotels

Improved guest interaction is something all hotels and resorts strive for, and with guests increasing turning to Instagram to message us, it’s essential that we’re able to identify any incoming communication and respond in a timely manner. This will make it easier to follow up if necessary, making it a little simpler to provide exceptional customer service on this platform, too.

Instagram Tests Native Payment Option

Instagram has made big strides when it comes to selling through the platform, and now they’re testing native payment options that will allow them to sell on the platform. And don’t worry, this isn’t just for ecommerce businesses; an Instagram spokesman confirmed that users will be able to utilize feature when booking appointments and reservations at restaurants, salons, and—you guessed it—hotels.

Image source: TechCrunch

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Though this feature would take a little while to roll out, there’s a lot of potential for usage amongst hotels and resorts. While guests can absolutely still book reservations through your site, having an additional channel of selling—especially one that’s so visual and filled with social proof from past guests—can help you get more bookings and keep your rooms full. You can also use this feature in your resort’s restaurants and salons, letting users know up front that this is an option so they don’t have to worry about the hassle of carrying cash with them.

Facebook Updates Ads Reporting

Facebook has announced that they’ll be updating their Ads reporting interface for faster review and analysis. There will be a drag-and-drop feature that will let you choose which metrics you want to include in your reports, and will allow you to analyze factors like age, gender, placement, and more. This will start rolling out within the next month.

Image source: Facebook

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Faster and easier ads review means that hotels and resorts will be able to better determine what campaigns are working and—most importantly—why they’re working. You may find different audience niches to target in future campaigns so that you can increase bookings and increase ROI.

Facebook Adds New Features to Live Broadcasts 

Facebook has introduced three different live broadcast updates that are designed to make it a little easier for Pages to go live. They’ve already rolled out the ability to crosspost live videos to multiple different Pages as unique original posts, increasing views. Persistent stream keys are now available, simplifying the process of collaborating with different locations and team members. They’re also testing a rewind feature, that will allow users to rewind live videos, catching up on what they’ve missed while the video is still broadcasting in real time.

Image source: Facebook

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

If your hotel goes live on Facebook, these are all features that you can take advantage of to get more out of live. Share your content to different Pages (especially if you have a salon and restaurant in-resort with different profiles) for maximum views, and use the persistent stream keys with encoders to coordinate with multiple team members, potentially broadcasting from different sister resorts or even different locations within a single resort.

Hospitality Social Media Marketing News – May 16, 2018

Social media normally evolves quickly, but the past few weeks have been a flurry of new updates that seem to be coming at us faster than ever. In this bi-weekly edition of our newsletter, we’ve got big updates from Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Keep reading to see how they affect you and your hotel.

Facebook Rolls Out New Analytics App

Facebooks has recently made some big additions to their analytics suite. The first of these changes is a new analytics mobile app that allows admins to review metrics and insights on the go. They’ve also added a new featured called Journeys, which provides anonymous omni-channel data reporting that helps you evaluate the relationships users have with your business before they purchase. This ties in with their new feature that automatically detects sales funnels and common paths to conversions.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

More data is always good. Being able to access insights on the go is always convenient, but being able to get a better understanding of how guests interact with us online (and not just on Facebook) before they convert and book reservations is incredible. We can see which offers and packages are most effective at increasing bookings, and how more of our guests are interacting with us.

Facebook Announced New Integrations for Workplace

Increasing numbers of hotels and resorts are testing out Facebook’s Workplace to create a cohesive, online work environment. Facebook has sweetened the deal even more, announcing a large number of new integrations for Workplace. These integrations include many of the world’s leading enterprise cloud services, including Hubspot, Hootsuite, Zoom, and SurveyMonkey. Facebook has also improved extension sharing and search features for Workplace.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

For hotels and resorts using Workspace for their teams, this will improve functionality on the platform. Being able to integrate with third party cloud services and more easily share extensions with your staff will streamline the process and make online teamwork a little more efficient.

Facebook Refines Targeting Policies & Exclusion Targeting

In attempt to keep their ad services in good standing, Facebook has announced that they have removed thousands of exclusion targeting categories from the ad system. Advertisers use exclusion targeting to eliminate irrelevant audience members from seeing an ad, ensuring it was seen by the right people instead. While there are plenty of legitimate uses for this feature, Facebook was worried about abuse.

Image source: https://www.facebook.com/business/news/reviewing-targeting-to-ensure-advertising-is-safe-and-civil

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

There are still some exclusion targeting categories available, so your marketing strategies haven’t been thrown out the door if you use this on your ad campaigns. Facebook supposedly focused on removing topics that related to sensitive or personal attributes like religion, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. You’ll still be able to exclude users who are already connected to your Page if you want to target new users only.

Facebook Reopens App Reviews

In our last newsletter, we shared an update that Facebook was pausing app reviews while they sorted through privacy issues. We’re happy to announce that Facebook has reopened the review process.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

If you have an app for your hotel or resort and are trying to get it approved, reviews are now open, making it possible. If you were waiting to submit until after the pause was over, now is your chance.

Instagarm Updates Stories & Posting Functionality  

Stories is an exceptionally popular on feature on Instagram, and now we have new functionality when using it to market to potential guests. It’s now possible to upload multiple photos and videos to a story at once, saving you a significant amount of time.

They’ve also improved location tagging, with Stories automatically suggestions location stickers based on where the photo or video was taken.

These new features are currently available on Android devices and will be rolling out to iOS in the following weeks.

Image source: https://instagram-press.com/blog/2018/04/24/improvements-to-stories-uploads/

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Since third party posting tools can’t post to Stories but it’s an essential marketing tool, being able to upload more content at once will save hotels significant amounts of time without sacrificing any of the benefits. Even more importantly, location stickers being suggested to guests can increase the number of user-generated content posts your resort gets, as users may be more likely to tag you if the platform does it for them.

Pinterest Releases New Business Profiles & Insights

Pinterest has revamped the appearance of business profiles, which features a dynamic cover image that lets you showcase certain boards or recent activity. In addition to the new sleek, modern look, we’re also getting more insights that include the number of users who saw your pins within 30 days.

Image source: https://business.pinterest.com/en/blog/new-profile-new-insights-new-ways-to-get-discovered

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

The new look of the Pinterest business profiles is already a plus, but the rest of the updates are what will affect hotels and resorts most. Choose your dynamic cover image carefully; instead of highlighting recent activity, use it to share boards of your most popular destinations or spa packages to give them maximum visibility. And as the new insights feature rolls out fully, you can use it to evaluate how your audience is responding to your pins.

Live chat for hotels.

Lodging Interactive Launches Next Generation ADA Conforming Websites for Hotels

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced its next generation, ADA conforming websites for hotels. Lodging Interactive’s “next-gen” websites include a unique mix of technology and management services designed to drive maximum direct bookings for hotels while staying in compliance with ADA guidelines as they continue to evolve.

“Our next-gen hotel websites leverage the latest website design and development technologies combined with our full-service website management model,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & CEO. “Today’s hotel website needs to tell the property’s visual story while being technologically advanced to ensure a mobile-first user experience and conform to all ADA WCAG 2.0 Guidelines; in addition, it needs to load very quickly for users.”

While many digital marketing agencies provide hotel website design services, only Lodging Interactive can offer a fully managed hotel website, digital & social media marketing to support the website and fully managed human live chat services 7 days a week.

Success Factors for The Modern Hotel Website.

Open Source Development and No Proprietary Content Management System (CMS).

Lodging Interactive designs and develops visually stunning hotel websites using Internet Open Source technologies. This enables the highest level of design flexibility while maximizing the hotel website’s search engine optimization (SEO) and the fastest page loading speeds. “Most digital agencies insist hotel websites be developed and managed through their proprietary CMS. While this ensures the hotel is “locked-up” with the agency for many years (good for the agency), it ‘handicaps’ the property in other areas such as page loading speed, design constraints, ADA conformity and SEO,” added Mr. Vallauri.

Fully Managed, Professional Webmaster Services.

Being able to ‘manage’ your hotel’s website changes yourself, sounds really good during the agency sales process and offers the illusion of the property being in total control of its website.  Yet reality has shown quite the opposite is true. Being able to manage your own website changes, means your website will have a CMS (see point above). Sure, with the proper training you’ll be able to change simple text images and in some cases the images on a page, butadding pages, modifying menu items, managing SEO components and maintaining ADA conformance won’t be possible. For that you’ll need to budget additional development dollars.

ADA Conforming Website Design.

Ensuring your hotel website is ADA conforming and meets all WCAG guidelines is not only good business practice it will avoid legal demand letters and potential lawsuits.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, often abbreviated to WCAG, are a series of guidelines for improving web accessibility. Produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the WCAG are the best means of making your website useful to all of your users.  Every new website Lodging Interactive designs and builds meets all WCAG 2.0 guidelines and positions our hotel clients with a path towards compliance with the ADA laws governing websites.

Ongoing ADA Conformance Checking & Maintenance.

The modern hotel website is always changing, new content is added weekly and at times new content will present ADA conforming issues that will need to be addressed.  An example of this, is the uploading of a non-conforming PDF document. In order to safeguard our customers, Lodging Interactive runs monthly ADA conforming checks to ensure the hotel website remains within the ADA conforming guidelines. Should any issues arise, our team will fix the issues and continue to monitor for potential future issues. “ADA legal action against hotel websites that are not in compliance with the current WCAG 2.0 guidelines continues to increase and hoteliers should understand that adhering to future ADA website laws will be necessary and should budget accordingly,” said Mr. Vallauri.

Human Powered Website Live Chat Provided 7 Days a Week.

Customer service is the ‘new marketing’ and hotel websites can differentiate themselves by offering their website visitors real-time, human powered, live chat services. Not only is live chat a great customer service differentiator it provides real value to potential guests visiting your website and has proven to increase group and wedding RFP submissions. “Conversational commerce happens when you move your hotel’s website experience from a ‘self-service’ model and start to provide real-time support,” stated DJ Vallauri.

For more information on Lodging Interactive’s next generation ADA conforming websites for hotels, please call 877-291-4411 ext. 704 or visit LodgingInteractive.com.

About Lodging Interactive

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas.

CoMMingle has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses annually. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter and is a Forbes.com Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

Messaging Apps as Ubiquitous as Booking Engines for Hotel Websites

Live chat for hotels.

Technology has made us more dependent on its abilities to plan better vacations and business trips. In recent times hotel websites have come a long way from simply being online static e-brochures to becoming more experiential. Online hotel website experiences sell rooms and create loyal guests. Yet, for the majority of hotel websites, the experience remains mediocre and “ok” at best. Think about it, when you visit a hotel website you are basically on your own without any human connections or the ability to engage and ask questions that you are sure to have when you consider booking a hotel online. Why is that? It’s 2018 after all, so it can’t be a technology issue or is it?

 

Personal technologies over the last 10 years have changed our lives and the world we live in. When you consider how far we have come and how comfortable we have become in being interconnected through mobile devices, it’s no wonder that we crave immediate responses to our hotel questions. And mobile technology is the enabler as nearly every human on the planet carries computing power that can fit in one hand what once took large data centers, and millions of dollars, to equal the same power. Do you realize that Apple’s iPad was introduced to the world only 8 years ago? That Uber launched in 2009 and Snapchat was launched in 2011?

 

There is no turning back, we are all online and we are all connected. As a result, we have the ability and, many times, we demand immediate gratification. This is where I believe most hoteliers are missing tremendous opportunities to book more business and build loyalty. By leveraging the power of website live chat and guest messaging, hoteliers can really gain market share. We constantly read about hoteliers wanting to drive more direct business to their websites with the intent of lowering their OTA and third party booking costs.

 

Website live chat has been around for many years and, as consumers, we have become comfortable when a live chat window pops up while we’re shopping for a pair of shoes online. After all we can decide to engage, or not, and we control the conversation. Live chat agents are not applying hard sales tactics, they are supporting us as we navigate through the online purchasing process.

 

Let’s not forget that the hospitality industry is all about being hospitable and providing service to guests when they are in-house but in my experience, hospitality and service needs to start on the hotel’s website before a potential guest books a room. This is where live chat engagement can make a huge difference. Live chat leverages the same technologies we have all become so dependent upon and it provides that immediate guest gratification we want while supporting the online sales process.

 

The smart hoteliers understand that the overall hotel guest experience begins at the website level when the guest first experiences the hotel. This is evidenced by the abundance of personalization technologies promising to deliver a “unique experience” for every website visitor. Yet most hotel websites are cold and impersonal. They provide the potential guest with a self-service browsing environment and the only option is to figure it out for themselves. Why? It doesn’t have to be this way when the technology is here today and with zero learning curve from the consumer’s perspective. Clearly every hotelier I speak to about online customer service agrees that having a live chat channel available on their website makes perfect sense. I have yet to come across any hotelier who disagrees.

 

The clear recurring comment I receive from hoteliers is that budgets and appropriate staffing is the issue preventing their website from becoming more useful to visitors and more effective at driving direct business: Two things they most desperately want by the way. While I agree that on-property staffing specifically for website live chat doesn’t make sense for the majority of properties, all properties can benefit from partnering with a company that provides fully managed live chat services for hotels. Our agency provides USA based fully managed live chat services to hotels, 7 days a week year-round. And while other agencies provide similar services, hoteliers should keep in mind that quality really matters with live chat. The worst possible situation that can happen is for a hotel to partner with a live chat service overseas who has live chat agents that don’t have a good understanding of “American” English and its nuances.

 

I’m a firm believer that just as hotels post telephone numbers on their websites, so too will live chat widgets become as ubiquitous as booking engines have become. Staffing issues aside, there is no downside when you’re trying to help your potential customers do business with you.

 

Messaging services are also becoming increasingly widespread within the hospitality industry. Much of this has to do with the amount of venture capital chasing new technology platforms in an attempt to disrupt the hospitality market. Live chat has not experienced the same level of fervor due to live chat technologies not being the shiny new technology du jour. After all live chat has been in existence for over a decade in other industries.

 

I believe messaging platforms work well at the property. It makes perfect sense to provide streamlined communications for in-house guests. While it is easy for a guest to pick up the phone in their room to request more towels be sent up to their room, it is not always the case where the hotel answers the phone fast enough. We’ve all be there I’m sure, calling the front desk or operator during check in and check out time only to have the phone ring 15 to 20 times before we hang up in frustration. On site guest messaging certainly helps with this, but only if the hotel staff…yes a human is on the other end ready, willing and able to respond in a timely manner. Perhaps when it all plays out with on-property messaging, the same “staffing” issue will become evident. Only time will tell on this one.

 

While I’m on the topic of having “humans” on the other end of live chat and messaging technology platforms, lets discuss the chatbot and its relevance for the hospitality industry. Going back to the beginning of this article, we’re in the hospitality business and in a business where customer service always wins. All the technology in the world won’t help your hotel if you are not able to meet or exceed customer service expectations.

 

Having engaged with (uhm, tested) many chatbots I can say that I’m not very impressed with the level of understanding they have or the engagement opportunities they offer. Going beyond asking a chatbot “what time is check in” or “does your hotel have onsite parking”, chatbots are useless other than to aggravate customers and potentially hurt business opportunities for a property. I believe chatbots for the hospitality industry is simply not ready for prime time. Why would any hotelier risk his property’s reputation and customer service to a chatbot who can’t complete the conversation with a human? Smart hoteliers will want to wait until the artificial intelligence technology improves, which experts say is 10 years away. Customer service and building guest loyalty is so important and still requires humans after all.

 

Oh, one more thing. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no turning back for hotels when it comes to providing website visitors with live chat engagement services. Research confirms this.

 

Live chat is the natural way we, as consumers, have been conditioned to interact online. The successful hotelier is the one who understands this and uses live chat as a true differentiator for his or her property. Our own research indicates that less than 5% of hotel websites in North America offer live chat and real time human engagement services. This presents a huge business opportunity for the smart hotelier.

 

Hospitality Social Media News May 2, 2018

The last few months have been a whirlwind of social media updates coming from every direction, many of which have been fueled by the Facebook controversy. In the midst of all the news, it’s been difficult for many of our clients to sort out which changes are most relevant to them. Take a close look at all the updates below and see how they’ll affect hotels and resorts.

Some Facebook Page Admins Need to Be Verified  

Facebook has actively been making a large number of changes to protect user privacy. One of those changes will directly affect many hotels and resorts, as the admins of Pages with large follower counts will need to be verified.

What This Means for Hotels 

There’s a lot we don’t know about the specifics of this update—we just know that it will be happening. Facebook hasn’t yet announced what counts as “large followings,” or how admins will be verified, but keep an eye out for this, and we will, too.

Instagram Is Getting Ready to Launch Nametags 

TechCrunch recently shared the first look at the soon-to-be-launching Instagram nametags. These nametags are a copycat of Snapchat’s QR codes, and they’ll allow business profiles to create unique images that people can scan with their Stories camera to follow you on Instagram.

Image source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/09/instagram-nametags/

What This Means for Hotels 

Any feature that makes it easier for guests to follow you on social media is automatically a good feature. You can place small signs around your hotel or in your guests’ rooms or brochures containing the new nametag and encouraging them to share their experience and tag your hotel in the process.

Streamlining the process and making it easier for your guests increases the likelihood that they’ll follow through, giving you more followers and possibly more UGC all in one fell swoop.

Instagram is Testing a Q&A Sticker 

Another Instagram feature—which is likely slightly further down the road than the Nametags but hopefully still coming soon—is a new Q&A sticker. This feature will allow Instagram users to ask questions in a Story. Users will be able to respond privately. It’s like a more elaborate version of the current polling sticker, which already has proven to deliver great engagement.

Image source: https://wabetainfo.com/instagram-to-support-question-and-answer-sticker/

What This Means for Hotels 

Hotels and resorts can use this feature to jumpstart conversations with guests and get direct, private feedback. You can ask followers what special offers, services, or packages they’d like to see from you. You could also ask what their favorite part of their stay was, and then ask if you can share their response publicly. In the latter instance, you could make this part of a social media contest, offering an incentive like a free night, dinner on the house, or an upgraded room for the winner.

Snapchat Released New Spectacles 

This is a small update, but it’s one that could affect resorts and hotels. Snapchat’s spectacles work as a hands-free camera that you wear, looking like sunglasses. They capture what you see in circular photos and videos, and automatically load your content to Snapchat so you can choose what to share.

The new spectacles, which were just released, are smaller in profile, making them more comfortable, and they’re also now water-resistant.

What This Means for Hotels 

You can link a single pair of spectacles to multiple different devices, and syncing them is easy. If your hotel has some extra money to spend for social media marketing, you could have a few pairs of spectacles on hand for guests to enjoy while on property. This could encourage Snap creation, and more UGC in the process.

Lodging Interactive Launches Industry First Real-Time Reputation Management

Real time hotel reputation management

 

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the launch CoMMingle Live Real-Time Reputation Management for hotels and resorts.  CoMMingle Live provides the highest level of reputation management by writing and posting guest review responses on all major OTA’s, social media platforms and for major hotel brands. The service also ensures franchised properties remain in compliance with brand guidelines while maximizing brand quality scores.

“There is no question the guest review landscape continues to change at a rapid pace. TripAdvisor once the ‘defacto’ guest review site now gives way to Booking.com and Google reviews, which when combined make up to 50% of the industry’s total guest review volume,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & president. “And according to a recent Moz report, the quality of native Google reviews is a huge factor in the search engine’s ranking algorithm.”

CoMMingle Live, is the hospitality industry’s first reputation management service to include real-time live chat human engagement via Facebook and the hotel’s website. The company’s USA based live chat agents are at the ready to assist any guest, potential or past guest 7 days a week.

In addition, CoMMingle Live monitors and responds to guest reviews on:

  • TripAdvisor
  • Booking.com
  • Expedia
  • Hotels.com
  • Travelocity
  • Orbitz
  • Facebook Reviews
  • Google Reviews
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Marriott Verified Reviews
  • Starwood PHG Reviews
  • Hilton Hotels Reviews
  • IHG Brand Reviews

Serving hotels and resorts since 2009 Lodging Interactive’s CoMMingle Social Media Division has established itself as the industry leader in full service hotel reputation management and social media marketing and engagement. Customers include the Omni Berkshire Hotel in New York, the Boston Harbor Hotel, the Hawks Cay Resort and hundreds of other properties.

“Our team responds to over 200,000 guest reviews per year and works with hundreds of properties around the globe” added Mr. Vallauri. “We believe CoMMingle Live is a natural service extension and delivers unmatched value to our customers.”

For more information please click here or call 877-291-4411 ext. 704.

About Lodging Interactive

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas.

CoMMingle has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses annually. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter and is a Forbes.com Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

 

Hospitality Social Media News Issue – Facebook Chat Bots

Typically when it comes to social media updates, Facebook is leading the charge with the most significant changes and the largest number of them. When our last newsletter ran, Facebook was busy tackling the privacy debacle they’re now in. At the end of the day, we firmly believe Facebook remains key to any hotel’s social media and engagememnt strategy.

Here are the social media updates that have happened in the last two weeks and how they will affect those in the hospitality industry.

Facebook Pauses Chatbot & App Review

It’s no secret that we’re not a fan of chatbots here at CoMMingle, and this is an enormous development even if it is just for a little while. Facebook has temporarily paused the chatbot and app review system, preventing pending chatbots new apps from getting approved and running. If yours is already up and running, it will continue to function.

What This Means for Hotels

If your chatbot is already functional (as functional as chatbots can be, anyway), you should be in the clear. If you’ve been considering chatbots or rely heavily on them, however, take a look at hiring a live chat service like CoMMingle to handle your private messages for you. You’ll be able to provide better customer service to your guests and you won’t be susceptible to chatbot shutdowns.

Facebook Restricts Questionable Ad Targeting

This likely is a result of the backlash of all the talk and concern about privacy and data breaches on Facebook. They’ve recently announced that they’re cracking down on several things related to ad targeting. The highlights of this are:

  • Enforcing the rules against creating and using custom audiences from emails without users’ consent. According to TechCrunch, this includes the inability to share custom audiences across multiple linked ad accounts.
  • Shutting down partner categories for ad targeting, which enabled third-party data providers to offer ad targeting information to businesses.

What This Means for Hotels

Most hotels and resorts won’t be directly affected by this as long as they’re already following Facebook’s guidelines. The exception is hotel branded properties or resorts with multiple Pages (like a Hilton Orlando and a Hilton Denver), which may have been using the same custom audiences for multiple campaigns. If you’ve been utilizing these strategies, adapt and make sure that you can prove you have customer consent to keep your ad account in good standing.

Facebook Improves Split Testing on Ads

Split testing is an important part of any ad campaign. It allows you to see what’s working and optimize your campaigns for maximized results and profit. Facebook just released a new Quick Creation Flow to improve split testing and make it easier and faster. It will allow you to create multiple creative variables for each main campaign, speeding up the process significantly.

What This Means for Hotels

Split testing will help you better evaluate what creatives are working best for your hotel. You can test different offers for different audiences, like featuring different services in your wedding package when targeting brides or different excursions your resort offers. This will speed up ad creation on a massive scale, too, making it much more simple to run and test larger number of ads for your resort.

 Snapchat

Tagging in Snapchat Stories Now Available

According to engadget, you can now tag other users in Snapchat Stories in their new Mentions feature. This is groundbreaking as far as Stories across all platforms go, with neither Facebook or Instagram offering this feature yet. To tag users, just type in the @ while creating your story, followed by their username. Viewers watching your Story can swipe up to see the tagged account’s public Stories or see their profile. This should be coming in the next few weeks.

What This Means for Hotels

This feature is a big one for hotels and resorts. By asking users to tag you in their Stories, you’ll be able to find more user-generated content and guest reviews that you can ask to feature on your profile. If users swipe on one of these Stories, they can also see all the public Stories from your hotel and resort, too. This is a great way to get more visibility and increase word-of-mouth marketing for hotels in a way that users will find appealing.

Facbook Messenger

Facebook Opens Up 360 Video in Messenger  

Facebook’s incredible 360 degree photos and HD quality videos can now be sent through the Messenger platform. This can be used to share specific high-performing content with individual users as appropriate, making Messenger a more visual platform.

What This Means for Hotels

There’s a lot of incredible use cases of 360 photos and high quality videos, but hotels and resorts can best take advantage of them by showcasing full, dynamic views of their properties, activities, and individual rooms. Imagine having a guest ask a question about a specific room type and being able to send them a 360 degree photo of the exact room in question. This could help answer guest questions quickly and increase bookings.

Pinterest

Pinterest Adds a New Following Tab  

Followers now mean more than ever before on Pinterest thanks to their new Following Tab. Users can click on this tab to see all of the latest pins (in chronological order) from the people they follow. This will help people see more content from those they want to see it from, and it makes followers more valuable because they’re more likely to see more of your content.

What This Means for Hotels

It has previously been difficult to get your pins noticed, even with a large follower count. This new feature allows you to turn pins into something resembling more of an Instagram feed for your followers. Hotels and resorts should find the best times to post online to appear at the top of the feeds. This will likely vary for each individual business, but take time zone of your guest’s home locations into consideration in addition to the time zone where you reside.

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Hospitality Social Media News is brought to you by Lodging Interactive, a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. For more information: Telephone: 877-291-4411, Email: info@lodginginteractive.com

Hospitality Social Media Marketing News – April 4, 2018 Issue

It’s just been two weeks since we sent our last social media update newsletter, and so much has already changed. Keep reading to see what these changes mean for hotels and resorts in the hospitality industry, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for biweekly updates moving forward! We don’t want you to miss a single thing that could improve your hotel’s social performance, so we’ll be compiling bi-weekly lists of the most important changes happening on social media and how it will affect the hospitality industry.

InstagramNew Working Hashtags & Account Links in Bios

Instagram just released a new feature that allows users to attach links and actual, working hashtags to your profile. Many hotels will feature their branded hashtag in their profile, and now this will allow you to make that hashtag clickable.When it comes to the account links, you’ll be able to put links to other Instagram accounts in your resort’s bio. This includes linking to your hotel or resort’s other Instagram accounts.

How Hotels Should Use This Feature

There’s two parts to this new update, and we’re going to break down what both mean for hotels and resorts.

Being able to add an actual, clickable hashtag to your profile is a big deal, especially if your resort gets a lot of user-generated content. Imagine having a potential guest click on that hashtag and see not only posts that you’ve shared, but pictures of and videos of smiling guests enjoying splashing around in your oversized pool or raving about their spa weekend. This is immensely more persuasive what even the most talented strategists could create on their own.

The account links also give hotels and resorts a distinct edge. Now, you can send users to other sister resorts and hotels if applicable. If your resort has separate accounts for your restaurant, spa, and/or wedding venue, this feature also gives you an excellent opportunity to promote those from your main profile, too. This will boost followers across the board on all accounts, and make your marketing seem a little more seamless.

Instagram screenshot

Instagram’s Updated Algorithm

A good while back, Instagram caused a Facebook-eque when they announced that they would be rearranging the newsfeed. Since then, users are shown content that’s deemed to be most relevant to them, and it’s no longer in chronological order. Instagram will be changing this back to the way it was, focusing on newer posts.

What This Means for Hotels

This is good news for hotels and resorts building up their following and engagement, as you’ll no longer get dinged by the algorithms. Make sure to find your peak posting times when your users are most likely to be online so you can post accordingly and get better results. In the meantime, post plenty of Stories, which last 24 hours.

SnapchatSnapchat’s Map Explore

In our last newsletter, we talked about how Snap Map was expanding. Now, the Snap Map Explore feature lets users better see what’s going on around them by seeing where their friends are on the map. According to engadget, users will be able to see updates from their friends who have chosen to share their locations.

What This Means for Hotels

If your target audience is active on Snapchat, this could be a big advantage for you. Imagine having users sharing stories and locations while they’re relaxing in the cabana or enjoying dinner in the resort. People at large conferences could be inspired to meet up with other attendees, for example, giving you a few extra heads during the dinner rush.

Twitter

Twitter’s Verification Will Soon Be More Widespread

Twitter is currently working on finding a way to scale that much-coveted blue checkmark, making verification more available to more users. Their verification system was originally created to help celebrities and influencers verify their identity and protect them from potential imposters or spammers. According to Business Insider, plan is to allow all users to access this feature to prove they are, indeed, who they say they are.

What This Means for Hotels

Hotels and resorts who are not yet verified will be able to accomplish this much easier, getting a nice boost of credibility along the way. This will help customers feel more confident in who they’re engaging with, increasing the likelihood that they’ll reach out for help if they need it through Twitter’s messaging feature.

Snapchat

Snapchat’s Location Data

Snapchat historically hasn’t done so well with providing businesses data about how users are interacting with their content, especially when compared to Facebook. They’re trying to compensate for that with their new location data, where they’ll offer brands free statistics about how many users are visiting their locations.

According to AdWeek, the platform will soon be telling brands how many visitors came to their store, and how many came back at a later date. The data may even include information about demographics or users’ interests.

What This Means for Hotels

Hotels and resorts are inherently location-based, and this update shows that Snapchat may be trying to take center stage as a location-based platform. This information, combined with a unique and highly engaged demographic that uses on Snapchat, could be an enormous advantage for those in the hospitality industry, especially if you want to learn more about your audience for future marketing campaigns.

Snapchat screenshot

Hospitality Social Media News is brought to you by Lodging Interactive, a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. For more information:Telephone: 877-291-4411Email: info@lodginginteractive.com

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