Live Chat Best Practices and Etiquette for a Better Hotel Guest Experience

While the traveler begins to explore the endless possibilities for that perfect hotel stay, they will search sites that have the most appealing visuals and the easiest, quickest responses to their questions. This initial emotional connection becomes the hotel’s opportunity to tap into the traveler’s journey and ‘wow’ that prospective guest into choosing your hotel. With the right approach and tools, hotels could start building relationships that turn into satisfied guests who will give repeat business – Here enters live chat.

 

The live chat agent could be one of the first contacts a guest or prospective guest will have with your hotel. So a hotel would want to ensure that they have a warm, friendly approach and provide informative, clear and accurate information. To the prospective guest, the experience should feel like they are asking advice or information from a trusted friend. Live chat ‘friends’ would be there to guide them and gently push them along toward clicking on that book now button.

 

So you have the right tool with live chat on your website. Now you need to make it all about the guest experience. The key is to treat visitors as people – show your human side. To provide the best customer experience, live chat agents should:

 

  1. Own the conversation: Be truly helpful. Ask precise but simple questions that leave nothing to interpretation. Build trust and credibility with the customer using warm language that is tone of voice in chat, avoiding sarcasm and opinions. Ensure people they are in capable and friendly hands.

 

  1. Be pleasant & empathetic: Put yourself in the requestor’s shoes. Your tone will carry through the written conversation so be respectful. Never leave a question unanswered. Leave your attitude at the door. The whole point is to make the person contacting you feel they can trust you. Be polite and show you value the guest.

 

  1. Communicate professionally: The very nature of live chat is written communication. So be clear. Dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s. Avoid typos. Use proper grammar, punctuation and spelling. Write complete sentences. No colloquial jargon or acronyms as not everyone would be familiar with them.

 

  1. Answer quickly and concisely: Being there the moment someone reaches out is the natural promise of live chat. It’s the immediacy of help or direction that catches the requestor’s attention. So keep their attention by promptly responding to every message. No stalling or fumbling for words as you not only risk having the person leave the chat but your hotel would lose the opportunity for guest satisfaction.

 

  1. Show you are an expert: Agents needs to be well trained and have a good knowledge base. You need to be sure what you are saying when sharing information and providing website guidance to visitors. It’ the best way to win over the visitor’s confidence and have them come back again and again.

 

Once these basics are set, your hotel is on its way to providing guests with the wow factor. Chats that leave the prospective guest feeling happy create a positive experience they will not forget and will want to share with others – they become your ideal hotel ambassadors.  Have you added live chat to your customer service strategy?

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Social Media Crisis Management – Are You Ready?

I have three pieces of advice that are critical to any social media crisis management plan and will help you get through any crisis – social media or otherwise.

Panic Cartoon Face on Social Media Crisis

Don’t Panic about a Social Media Crisis!

OK, here goes…

1) Do not panic
2) Stop Panicking
3) See step 1 and/or step 2

When you go into panic mode, bad decisions are made. A bad decision regarding a crisis on social media is unforgiving. And that is the last thing you need when the responsibility of your hotel’s reputation is on your shoulders.

Do not panic.  Take a deep breath.

 

This is where your leadership skills come into play:

  • Gather your marketing team, even those outside of social media, and members of whatever department is the focus of the crisis.
  • Discuss the situation – Is it a crisis or just an outburst?
  • Select one lead person to manage the situation
  • Create a plan and strategy for handling the situation

Simple, right? The issue is in the 4th bullet point. How do you create a plan and strategy for a crisis or an outburst on social media? The important part of addressing this question is that the plan needs to be in place BEFORE a social media crisis or outburst arises.  The plan will feel like a security blanket and not panicking will be easier than you think.

Think of it like house insurance. You have it, hopefully never need it. Should there be a fire in your home, you are covered. Having a social media crisis plan in place is like insurance for your reputation.

Yes, social media content is fast paced, immediate and ‘fun’. The truth is that social media for businesses is a bit more serious.

Social media planning for businesses involves many areas, including:

  • Marketing Strategy
  • Advertising Spend
  • Content Calendars
  • Business Need Focus
  • Target Audience
  • Crisis Management

This is usually the time when upper management realizes that hiring an inexperienced intern wasn’t the best idea. I always joke with my team that posting a picture of a cute kitten is easy, but the cute kitten isn’t going to help you in a crisis.

Every crisis or outburst on social media is different and should be dealt with accordingly. If I could offer one piece of advice when creating your crisis management plan, it would be to accept you cannot control the situation but you can certainly influence it.

Influence allows you to change the perception, guide it to where you need it to go, manage the outcries and be human about the issue to your audience.

Do you have a social media crisis management plan in place for your hotel?

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Guest Moments with Hotel Live Chat

You know you want to get away for a bit but have no particular destination in mind. So you turn to your smartphone, tablet or desktop and start surfing the net looking for inspiration. You dream about sea, surf, beach view rooms, mountain cabins, good eateries, activities and spa treatments you would love to try out. Now you need to figure out the where, when and how – so many choices. Is your hotel there in the traveler’s journey to ensure their online experience moves them onto your hotel doorstep?

 

Life is not measured by the number of breaths, but by the moments that take our breath away.

 

When guests start their journey with no particular hotel in mind but rather searching to see what and who best fills their needs and wants – those places, hotels or activities that will realize their idea of a dream stay – your hotel should be searchable. Whether it’s at the moment a potential guest starts surfing the net, in the planning stages or during their stay, hotel marketers need to tap into those snippets of time offering the most relevant information that will capture – and hold – the traveler or guest interest.

 

Hotel marketers have the perfect opportunity to find ways to capitalize on these guest moments. Providing great visuals is a start as people are likely to gravitate toward what comes to them visually than something they read. But while the photos or videos will lure in the guest, live chat will provide quick answers, direction and information that will keep the traveler on your site.  At the same time it will lower overall contact center costs as live chat can handle multi-guest interactions eliminating additional hires.

 

Your hotel needs to capture the traveler in all steps of their decision-making. Making information easily accessible, you will speak to the guest’s needs and not miss the chance of gaining their loyalty or increasing chances of a booking. Too many steps might exasperate the inquisitive traveler who just wants quick details and live chat can help them narrow down their choices. Live chat will also create the potential to increase sales as it provides the chance to upsell by leading a guest to the correct place to reserving a room or booking a meeting.

 

Live chat puts a personal touch to the conversation and gives you the edge in providing the greatest customer service that guests will remember during their search moments.  You will be speaking to the guest’s needs and not miss the chance of gaining their loyalty, keep them coming back and spread the word to others.

 

Ensure your hotel is part of the guest’s journey from visualizing that dream spot or wedding to planning to booking. The moments of their journey become your opportunity to earn a stronger ROI.

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Lodging Interactive Expands Its Fully Managed Hotel Live Chat Service to 7 Days a Week

licechat image for blog

Lodging Interactive, the leading digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced its expanded CoMMingle Live ChatSM service for hotels and resorts.  The fully managed live chat service now provides properties with coverage 7 days a week.  CoMMingle Live Chat provides hotels with the ability to enable their websites with live chat capabilities that are fully managed by Lodging Interactive’s US based lived chat agents, 7 days a week.

“Our goal has always been to enable hotels and resorts to provide website sales support to their customers and to so, 7 days a week,” said Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and CEO. “Our expanded 7 day coverage fulfills this vision and maximizes the online conversion opportunities for our hotel and resort clients.”

The CoMMingle Live Chat service is a fully managed, turn-key service that combines best-of-breed SAAS (Software as a Service) cloud based technologies and Lodging Interactive’s internal network of highly trained live chat agents.  The result is a highly effective customer engagement and sales support service hotels can utilize to maximize their direct to website booking channels.

“The way consumers expect to communicate with hotels has changed, and consumers are increasingly turning to live chat as their preferred and fastest route of communication for hotel customer support while in the booking process,” added Mr. Vallauri. “A recent Gartner report suggests that live chat as a customer engagement channel will increase from 2% to 10% by 2018, with over 80% of companies making live chat available for their customers by 2020.

 

CoMMingle Live Chat service benefits for hotels:

  • Real-time customer engagement throughout the booking process
  • Provides conversational commerce while assisting in the booking process
  • Increase in direct bookings and event RFP submissions
  • Reduces negative reviews/comments posted to TripAdvisor & OTA sites
  • Crisis alert escalation to property as needed
  • Offers true market differentiation within competitive set
  • Unlimited live agent fully managed chats for low monthly fee
  • 100% mobile responsive enabled
  • 100% US based live chat agents, employed by Lodging Interactive

Getting started with CoMMingle Live Chat is easy and implementation only requires a small snippet of code be added to the hotel website.  For more information please visit: https://LiveChatForHotels.com

 

 

About Lodging Interactive

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement 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. 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. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

Contact: DJ Vallauri, Founder & CEO

dj@lodginginteractive.com / 877-291-4411 ext 704

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Webinar: Conversational Commerce Drives Group RFP’s and Direct Bookings for Hotels

PARSIPPANY, NJ – September 17, 2016   Lodging Interactive, the leading digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, will be holding a free online webinar to discuss how hotels and resorts can use its CoMMingle Live Chat service to immediately increase group/wedding RFP submissions and drive direct bookings.

“Since the launch of CoMMingle Live Chat, dozens of hotels have made the commitment to improve their online website customer service and to build loyalty by increasing online engagement with their customers,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder & CEO.  “The results have been increased online submissions of group and wedding RFPs as well up-selling opportunities that drive direct bookings.”

CoMMingle Live Chat service benefits for hotels:

  • Real-time customer engagement throughout the booking process
  • Provides conversational commerce while assisting in the booking process
  • Increase in direct bookings and event RFP submissions
  • Reduces negative reviews/comments posted to TripAdvisor & OTA sites
  • Crisis alert escalation to property as needed
  • Offers true market differentiation within competitive set
  • Unlimited live agent fully managed chats for low monthly fee
  • 100% mobile enabled
  • 100% US based live chat agents, employed by Lodging Interactive

Learn how adding real-time CoMMingle Live Chat service to your website can immediately drive increased RFP submissions and direct bookings to your hotel.   Join Lodging Interactive’s Founder & CEO on September 28, 2016 at 1pm EST.

Register for the free online webinar: http://lodginginteractive.com/live-chat-for-hotels-webinar

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The Importance of Hotel Digital Marketing Plans

A key component to successful digital advertising for hotels is to put a digital marketing  plan in place.  A digital marketing  plan is a clear and concise way to map out your goals for the upcoming year, as well as the strategies that will be put in place to help achieve these goals.  Because a digital marketing  plan will be for the upcoming year, it is advisable to begin planning in the summer of the current year and that your plan be outlined by quarter.  Outlining by month can become overwhelming and quite cumbersome.

You want the primary focus of your digital marketing  plan to be on the goals of the hotel, so it’s a good idea to gain an early understanding of what you’ll be concentrating your efforts on in the next years.  Perhaps you want to book 75 weddings or increase group business.  Maybe you need help with transient business on the weekends.  Your goals may also be dependant on the time of year.  Some hotels, depending on the market, have more difficulty obtaining room nights based on the quarter.  Whatever the case may be, it is important that you convey to your account manager what you are looking to accomplish.  Then you can collectively work on suggestions to help reach these goals.

In addition to focusing strategies on your hotel’s goals, you also want to work on strategies for holidays throughout the year, events going on in the market, and what your competition is doing.  Major holidays are a great opportunity for many hotels to get ahead with room/dining reservations.  If you offer certain holiday specials or provide holiday menus, such as an Easter Brunch or a Thanksgiving Dinner, you’ll want to include these items in your plan and stick to a timeline as to when such items should be available for posting on your website.  You always want to make sure your holiday specials/menus are posted at least 2 months prior to the occasion.  Potential guests are making plans well in advance these days.

What about events specific to your hotel’s market?  There are excellent city planning guides available for most major cities that are chock full of great information, including top attractions in an area, major conventions coming to town or events that could be potential demand drivers for your hotel.

You also want to know what the competition is doing, so you can stay ahead of the game.  Competitors may have  great ideas or insight that you can capitalize on.  It’s also a wise move to check out the comp set when it comes to holiday postings.  You don’t want to be caught without your holiday specials/menus posted, while other hotels in the market are making their specials readily available weeks in advance.  That’s a surefire way to lose customers.  What about new competition?  Make sure you know about new hotels opening in your market.  New competition will always be something you want to be prepared for.

If you want your hotel to be successful in the digital digital marketing  arena, follow a digital marketing  plan.  It’s an easy and effective way to work through your goals, organize strategies and maintain a timeline of your efforts throughout the year.  You’ll be impressed with the results.

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Live Chat Messaging Apps and the Future of Hotel Customer Service

Uber testing driverless cars in Pittsburgh.  Siri giving us directions and information. Boomerang Respondable helping us write effective emails. Messaging apps providing quick responses to queries. Artificial Intelligence that only seemed possible in a Star Trek episode is in our daily lives right here and now. So hang onto to your FitBit because hoteliers will need to step it up a notch with what’s in store for the future of hotel customer service.

 

Messaging apps usage is creating a sonic boom throughout the hotel industry. Though they have been around for more than 10 years, messaging apps have experienced a resurgence that has grown beyond their use in retail. With the explosion of mobile usage and messaging apps allowing for easy integration into websites, hoteliers need to be mindful of the potential use of live chat apps in expanding their follower base and generating revenue.

 

There is no magic to it. The technology has been around for many years and the recipe to creating a successful digital imprint is already in the hotel digital marketer’s cookbook – just add some simple spices to reap the benefits of live chat apps:

 

  • Inviting dialogue and encouraging exchanges is already part of your hotel’s online strategy but with live chat apps this has never played a more important role. It will be the differential between your hotel and competitors. You need to keep the chat conversation real by adding a human touch to your chat – no robotic responses. Making better guest experiences means more loyal followers. The value of peer-to-peer marketing is limitless!

 

  • Responding in real time is the true strength of live chat apps. Which room has the perfect beach view? What restaurants do you recommend? What rooms are available for my wedding date? Answering questions like these in real time through a live chat app will provide your guest with instant gratification and the incentive to click onto that final booking.

 

  • Providing guidance as potential guests navigate your website is another strength of chat apps. If your visitor gets stuck while trying to finalize a booking, they are relieved to see someone is on standby ready to give the instructions toward their final booking. Your live chat agent saves the day and the guest experience is sweet. A two-fold benefit: Great customer service and a customer loyalty opportunity.

 

  • Delivering the greatest customer service all comes down to relationships formed with guests. Whether it’s your hotel staff or your marketing department/agency, the first impression is what sets the tone of your guest’s entire stay and what will become the tone of your online presence. Live chat apps provide the perfect venue to set a lasting, positive tone that resonates across all online platforms and using the feedback you will get to improve services is invaluable!

 

  • Boosting bookings and reducing costs are two important end goals to your marketing efforts. Just think of all the time you save in follow up when you can provide the answer quickly through a chat message. Better response time means better online reputation. Better online reputation means more bookings. More bookings translate into more revenue.

 

Messenger apps are providing a completely new way to expand your hotel’s organic online presence, provide great customer service and create new revenue opportunities. Don’t miss out on the chance to make your mark. Welcome to the future!  For more information on how your hotel can benefit from offering guests a Live Chat experience in a cost effective manner, please visit: LiveChatForHotels.com.

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Lodging Interactive Drives Direct Bookings with Fully Managed Live Chat Service for Hotels & Resorts

logo_commingle_live

Lodging Interactive, the leading digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the rollout of CoMMingle Live ChatSM the hospitality industry’s first real time, fully managed live chat service for hotels and resorts. The industry launch follows a six-month BETA test and the hiring of a dedicated team of in-house, US based CoMMingle Live Chat agents.

“CoMMingle Live Chat enables properties to offer website customer service and to assist consumers with real-time online direct sales support at the time of booking intent,” stated Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s President and CEO.  “CoMMingle Live Chat combines the latest in live chat technologies with our US based live chat agents to assist potential guests in making reservations on the hotel’s website.”

While Live Chat technology is not new, it is increasingly becoming the preferred hotel website communications vehicle for consumers seeking additional information missing from hotel websites. With the ubiquity of responsive hotel websites and fast mobile broadband Live Chat services provide hotels with the ability to provide customer service and assisted sales support via their websites, where there currently is none.

“CoMMingle Live Chat enables us to provide the highest level of customer service even before our guests arrive,” said Ed Reagoso, General Manager of the Wilshire Grand Hotel. “I’ve been amazed at the level of customer engagement CoMMingle Live Chat has been able to achieve which helps us build long term loyalty and book more business.”

“CoMMingle Live Chat enables conversational commerce” added Mr. Vallauri. “It’s not about the technology so much, but rather the ‘human-to-human’ connection and engagement.  Consumers booking online hotel rooms don’t want to deal with bot technology or artificial intelligence, they want hospitality…a human connection and this is what CoMMingle Live Chat delivers.”

The CoMMingle Live Chat service is available for hotels seven days a week and is priced on a low monthly subscription fee.  Unlike a call center environment CoMMingle Live Chat agents are dedicated to small number of hotels which allows each agent to fully know the properties they’re managing.  The result is an efficient and seamless experience for the consumer every time.

CoMMingle Live Chat service benefits for hotels:

  • Real-time customer engagement throughout the booking process
  • Provides conversational commerce while assisting in the booking process
  • Increase in direct bookings and event RFP submissions
  • Reduces negative reviews/comments posted to TripAdvisor & OTA sites
  • Crisis alert escalation to property as needed
  • Offers true market differentiation within competitive set
  • Unlimited live agent fully managed chats for low monthly fee
  • 100% mobile enabled
  • 100% US based live chat agents, employed by Lodging Interactive

Getting started with CoMMingle Live Chat is easy and implementation only requires a small snippet of code be added to the hotel website.  For more information please visit: https://LiveChatForHotels.com

 

About Lodging Interactive:

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement 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. 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. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

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Finding Your Hotel Staff Ambassadors

Human beings are an emotional bunch: Emotions lead to a great customer experience. It’s the emotional experience that shows how well your hotel succeeds in providing great customer service. Emotions are a strong motivator that drives bookings. One thing for sure – it’s important to not just consider exchanges with hotel guests as a chance to complete a sale but an opportunity to strengthen your hotel’s connection to guests and potential guests.

Great customer service comes down to the relationships that hotel staff forms with guests and the good feelings that create unforgettable memories for guests. It’s that genuine authentic customer relationship that promises sustained growth.

This is where hotel ambassadors come to play such a vital role. They create a buzz about your hotel to their many followers. Their influence is what brings more attention to your hotel and there’s nothing like tapping into the wealth of peer-to-peer marketing!

But are you only thinking about your influencers in terms of social media champions? Well think again. It’s time to look internally and recognize the value of your own staff.  Your staff ensures a smooth consistency of your hotel’s service from online presence to the actual hotel stay experience – no empty hype. They are the face that guests remember making them feel uniquely valued, special and important.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

First impressions are lasting ones and your staff is the first to have a face-to-face exchange with guests. The last thing you want is bad customer service taking on a life of its own where guests and/or potential guests end up taking their business elsewhere. So it’s important to empower your staff so that the guest experience is pleasurable and memorable:

  • Take care of the guest issue in a timely manner. Guests want to feel that you are respectfully and quickly trying to find a resolution to their issue, whether big or small, and that their issue is as important to you as it is to them.
  • Listen and inspire empathy not apathy. Guests want to feel your caring about their concerns is sincere and that they have been heard. They need to know they matter and your attention makes them feel they are important.
  • Provide service consistency: Whether it is a guest or potential guest, staff needs to treat them both exactly the same. Your online presence should be consistent with the face-to-face interaction at your hotel. It is the best word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Be kind and have a great attitude: These will go a long way to affecting your guests and reflect back onto employee productivity. Happy employees make for happy guests. Treat your employees with kindness and respect and it will have a ripple effect toward your guests. Kindness is contagious. Pay it forward!

When staff finds harmony with hotel values that’s when you find – and keep – hard working staffers. Recognizing employees when they hit the mark on hotel goals, challenges and expectations gives them a sense of being part of the team and play a vital role in the bigger economic picture of the hotel. If your staff has an emotional stake in their job it creates loyalty to you and this in turn creates customer loyalty. So listen to your staff. They are first in the line of fire with your guests and know what guests want and need.  Make them part of the solutions you provide and don’t miss out on their invaluable feedback. So who are your hotel staff ambassadors?

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Facebook Messenger and Mobile Messaging Apps

Facebook Messenger is one of many messaging services offering immediate customer response. The particular features offered by each app as well as what demographic it attracts determine what content fits and which app should be used.  The main purpose of these apps is to connect people together by sending free messages, pictures and videos.

Here are some compelling stats: WeChat has grown quite popular in the Asian market and has more than 697 million monthly active users.  Snapchat has 100 million daily users and is popular with millennials though its user base is aging up. Over 16000 companies from 140 countries use LiveChat. WhatsApp has 900 million users worldwide in 109 countries and is popular in markets outside the US. Facebook Messenger has now become the most popular of all messaging services with 1 billion users.

Almost every major messaging service has grown exponentially in recent years and is dominating mobile usage. This warrants the attention of hotels in seeing the importance of having a messaging service in place on their websites and leveraging chat toward providing efficient customer service.

Hotels can provide instant guest gratification with their on-the-spot answers and, since issues are resolved on the fly during the chat session, it significantly reduces follow up time. Hotels can also provide guidance toward making the final booking all the while potential guests are navigating their websites.

It’s not just about discount programs or loyalty points. Show your guests they are important and make them feel special.  Find and use a messenger app on your website and make it all about your guest or potential guest’s happiness.  It’s the guest experience that will create your hotel’s loyal followers.

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