Is Your Hotel ‘Customer Service Ready’ for the Holiday Season?

Lodging Interactive Holiday Season

No matter the time of year, good customer service is vital to a hotel’s survival. And as people start preparing for holiday vacations, there is a ramped up effort to be on one’s best behavior and providing great service is more critical than usual.

During the holiday season, everyone is anxious to make just the right arrangements and in time for celebrations, vacations – emotions get charged, hotels face short staffing or low supply issues, guest inquiries and complaints increase in volume, employees get distracted by their own events or travel plans.  All these distractions present challenges to providing quality customer service.

5 Holiday Season Hotel Tips

Stay on the Nice List

With the pending holiday season approaching, how can your hotel make a difference?  The best advantage you have is to make sure your hotel maintains that high level of customer service – concentrate efforts to keep guests happy and satisfied.

Focus on guests

Whether Millennial, GenXer or Baby Boomer, each generation brings their own spending power but when it comes to customer service, each generation shares a common ground – they each have a desire to feel special, unique – the added personal touch that tips them over the edge in favor of a stay at your hotel.

Though there is no doubt that generational differences present challenges, the gap closes significantly when you offer ‘personal’ customer service.

Support your staff

Hotel staff is the hotel’s most important ambassador. They are on the front line and the face of your hotel. During the holiday season they work longer hours and deal with irate customers. It’s only normal to see them more stressed and overworked.  So make sure you show your gratitude. Your staff’s appreciation will increase their job satisfaction and this will be reflected onto your guests.

Empower your guests

The desire for immediate answers and engagement has led to the live chat revolution. Hotel guests or potential guests don’t want to struggle around your website and waste time trying to find information.  Adding a great FAQ knowledge base makes for an efficient, fast and enjoyable customer experience. The integration of a live chat service on your website will make your guest’s life easier, save them valuable time and be at their disposal when they choose. It will also help alleviate staff stress and workload.

Monitor social media channels

You can expect more inquiries on social media during the holiday season so maintaining your presence by monitoring and responding is a must. Guests have a certain expectation and social customer care will help address guest needs quickly. Remember to keep a friendly voice that adds a personal feel to the conversation. This will go a long way to helping you build trust and trust is key to creating loyal guests.

The desire to take care of people we love is at the heart of any holiday season. It is also at the core of what makes a hotel’s heart beat – taking care of guests’ needs and concerns. Offering a consistent customer service experience is what builds guest confidence and trust. Provide the best possible level of service and you won’t get caught on the naughty list.

Lodging Interactive Launches End of Summer Website Sale

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced its End of Summer website sale program. Through the program Lodging Interactive will credit full service customers for the cost of developing their new website, essentially providing customers with a free website.

 

“Hoteliers realize that ongoing budgeting and investment is required in order to keep their websites competitive and with End of Summer website sale program they can be assured they have a budget for future website enhancements and development,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President.  “Every new full-service customer will receive a credit for every dollar spent on their new website which can be used to further enhance and update their website in the future.”

 

To be eligible for the website credit, new hotel customers must enter into a full-service agreement with Lodging Interactive before November 1, 2017.  For example, if a hotel spends $15,000 on a new website, Lodging Interactive will provide a $15,000 credit to be used for future website enhancements or a website redesign.

 

For more information on Lodging Interactive’s End of Summer website sale program please visit LodgingInteractive.com or call 877-291-4411 Ext 701.

 

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

What Motivates Travelers to Create and Share Content?

Summer is synonymous with vacation. What better way to create memories of that vacation than to document it with photos, videos and commentaries that are shared with friends and family? This begs the question: What gives the vacationer the motivation to go one step further and share their content online via social networks?

sharing content

Images and chatter are about sharing moments in time: Experiencing life and all it has to offer. To capitalize on these moments, hotels need to first understand the different motivators within each stage of the traveler’s journey so that they capture – and hold – the traveler’s attention in all steps of their decision-making process.

Social relationships can be complex but at the heart is the desire to gain information from peers who have previously experienced the resort, hotel, vacation spot, or activity.  People tend to associate more closely with others who they perceive to be similar to them. They’re perceived as more credible, influential and reliable. A sort of word-of-mouth solicitation that hotel’s can use to their advantage.

5 Stages of the Guest Journey 

There are five stages in the guest journey. Within all stages people will look to others who have already joined in on a unique activity or visited that location on an off-beaten path, that hotel with great service, that local restaurant with delicious food.

  1. Inspiration: This first stage is the desire for the traveler to fulfill wants and needs for fun, relaxation and/or adventure so your hotel should be searchable.
  2. Planning: This is the stage when the traveler begins searching out possible destinations, hotels, transportation etc. in consideration for a booking. Your hotel needs to tap into this stage by offering the most relevant information to capture the traveler’s attention.
  3. Booking: It’s in this third stage that the traveler finalizes plans based on the search for information including shared content from other travelers who have “been there, done that”.
  4. Experience: In this stage the traveler takes in the best of destination, hotel and local area offerings.
  5. Sharing: At this point the traveler is now the “expert” and shares their experiences and spreads the word about the location, hotel stay etc. with friends, family and through online social channels.

Travelers Motivation for Sharing Content Online Via Social

In the sharing stage of the guest journey, travel photos not only provide personal messages about experiences, but also show brand affinity and can influence others on the same social networks. So the next traveler looking for that unique spot or get-away will look to the shared content that can influence their booking decision.

Olapic , together with Kantar Added Value, analyzed more than 2, 000 social travel images in an effort to determine what motivates people to share travel content online. The data points to what makes the traveler want to share experiences. 38% showed they want to share what they believe to be a unique experience. 23% wanted to share their moments of how to unwind and relax. 21% are excellent quality images that are very engaging. 18% just like to share their entertaining, fun experiences.

The most shared images were famous landmarks, cities or big events (54%); urban, off the beaten path images (44%); parks, mountains or forests (40%); and ocean, pool or blue skies (34%).  These were followed by images of Mother Nature, posing with friends and dining-shopping-eating like a local.

Through images there is a social sharing of the emotion experienced. Hotels want to get travelers to convert in any one of the guest journey stages. So these shared moments in any one of the traveler’s journey becomes a hotel’s opportunity to drive engagement, gain loyalty and earn a stronger ROI. What is your strategy to engage guests from inspiration to post stay?

 

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.

Takeaways from Google’s Presentation at 2017 SMX Advanced Seattle

The mecca for search marketers are the SMX conferences where they find sessions and training workshops covering all things SEO and SEM related. At the June 2017 SMX Advanced conference held in Seattle, Google’s presentation did not disappoint search marketing gurus.

 

Google’s Mobile-first Indexgoogle's presentation smx advanced

 

The Google presentation included the latest goings-on regarding their Mobile-first Index. Here are a few important summary points:

  • The switch to Mobile-first Index could take as many as four to five years to completion but is expected to start rolling out in 2018.
  • A responsive website is preferred by Google within their Mobile-first Index. If your website content is only for the desktop, you would still get indexed but how well you get ranked after the Mobile-first complete launch is another story.
  • Google is reconfiguring all their page speed metrics to be Mobile-first so we can expect many updates are forthcoming.
  • Google said that anything longer than a 5 second load time for mobile is too long and you will need to improve site speed to have your website rank well within the new Mobile-first Index.
  • A new mobile testing tool is under consideration that would allow site owners to see what would change on their site once the Mobile-first Index is launched.
  • The Link Graph is not working well for mobile so Google said they continue to work on it to see what they can do to make PageRank effectively work on the Mobile Web.

 

Concentration on a Better User Experience

 

There were some other important takeaways but all of them, in the end, were to benefit the end user with a better experience:

  • At Google’s May 2017 keynote, AI-First was the theme but, at SMX Seattle, there were no plans mentioned for machine learning updates coming any time soon but Google Voice Search Analytics is underway.
  • While there is no exact word count qualifier, websites with word counts of 1536 words or more, rank no.1 and 2 on Google.
  • If you’re in Ecommerce, you need to optimize your conversion process to be 3 clicks or less for a better user experience
  • User engagement is still the measuring stick for Google to see how well their algorithms are performing.
  • Google made a whopping 1,623 algorithmic changes to their index in this past year alone.
  • Well known SEO consultant, David Mihm, said that when many people get the online conversation about you going, it is most favorable for establishing a strong Local Ranking Factor within Google’s local search algorithm.
  • Google has no plans to add a new meta tag (allowing publishers to control whether or not their content would be shown) to Featured Snippets and no plans for Featured Snippet Analytics.
  • Removing old, outdated content that has no traffic might give you a ranking boost. Disney gave a convincing case study to prove this.
  • Google still frowns upon buying links and is going after the big sites selling them such as Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine. They say not to purchase links as it considers the practice of buying links a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Google will not penalize you if you hide content for a better user experience (UX). Examples include the “read more” and “more” links on your site.
  • Google has a clear focus on Progressive Web Apps (PWA) for providing a better user experience.

 

Though Google’s process to Mobile-first Index completion is a complicated one, there is no time like the present to be prepared for the effects it will have on your website rankings.

Is Facebook Still a Relevant Platform for Hotel Social Media Marketing?

Most social marketers still consider Facebook their most valuable hotel social media platform and it shows by the amount of ad revenue poured into the platform. 2017 ad revenue for Facebook is nearly three times as much as Google.

 

According to eMarketer, Facebook grew by 12.8% to 1.34 billion users in 2016 and recently Mark Zukerberg announced that Facebook has hit 2 billion monthly users. But so far this year growth has actually waned to 9.6% and is predicted to slow to 7.9% growth through 2018.

 

As a consequence ad revenue is predicted to slow down.  A contributing factor is that Facebook ads have nearly saturated user news feeds to the point where consumers don’t even look at the ads anymore. For hotel marketers, this means there will be some fierce competition for ad space and the cost to advertise will increase all while consumer engagement declines.

 

 

Despite these issues, hotel social media marketers are not stopping or slowing down any advertising in Facebook. In fact, 62% of marketers consider Facebook their most important marketing platform. The reasons seem to be because of the sheer size of Facebook’s user base and perhaps the hope that Facebook will make some changes to turn this situation around.

 

Facebook is acutely aware of the growing ineffectiveness of their news feed ads and the rapidly declining click-through rates it causes so they presented another option in Messenger ads for both Facebook and Instagram.  Facebook states over 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month and, if stats hold true, this could mean booking possibilities for hotels.

 

According to a recent Social Media Examiner report, marketers need to change it up a bit and use varied ad formats as a work-around to the news feed overload. SME shows 75% of the participants in their report said they would use video content and 61% would use live video. So adding video to your hotel content strategy might be just the thing to catch users’ attention.

 

Like anything new, there are bugs to work out. Facebook has had their share of questionable metrics but corrected the problems and have shown their resilience over the years by turning mistakes into lessons learned. None-the-less, hotel social media marketers should be mindful of metrics for any new Facebook ad initiatives to ensure that they are getting the most out of their advertising spend.

 

 

Lodging Interactive Integrates Live Chat Services Into Facebook

PARSIPPANY, NJ – July 11, 2017  Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the integration of its fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat services into Facebook’s social media platform. As a result hoteliers can now benefit by providing Live Chat services to consumers when they visit their hotel’s Facebook page.

 

“Consumers are increasingly using Live Chat services to engage with hotels in real time and our Facebook integration ensures the hotel always has fully trained Live Chat agents available 7 days a week to respond to potential guests,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President. “Our fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat service is a game changer for hotels who truly are looking to step up their customer service.”

In today’s fast paced mobile environment, hotels can effectively differentiate themselves against their competitive sets by providing online Live Chat customer service. Engaging with potential guests in real-time while on the hotel website provides opportunities to surprise and delight resulting in more wedding, group and event leads and creates guest loyalty to a hotel.  Research continues to show that 65% of consumers would return to a website that had Live Chat services over one that didn’t.

 

“Customer service is the NEW MARKETING and hoteliers who understand how low current customer expectations bar is,  can deploy our CoMMingle Live Chat service to win new customers,” added DJ Vallauri. “Our fully managed Live Chat service offers US based, fully trained Live Chat agents and provides coverage 7 days a week. And now with our Facebook integration we’re increasing opportunities for hotels to always be available where and when their guests are.”

 

For more information about the fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat services for hotels visit: www.LiveChatForHotel.com or call 877-291-4411 extension 701.

 

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.

 

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