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.

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.

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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#AskDJV Episode 58 – Hotel Reputation Management HSMAI Panel Discussion

#AskDJV Episode 58 - Hotel Reputation ManagementHello Everybody and welcome to the #AskDJV show. This is episode 58! I’m so glad you joined us today. On this week’s episode, we’re going to do something a little bit different.

I was on a panel discussion just a few weeks ago, on the HSMAI Greater New York (Hotel Sales & Marketing Association) related to Hotel Reputation Management and Best Practices and we had a hotelier with me as well as someone from TripAdvisor.  So, the first question was:

What can hotels do to encourage more hotel reviews from their customers?

It’s very simple. You need to ask your customers. As someone is checking out at your front desk, it takes less than 10 seconds to say, “Have you enjoyed your stay?” and they say, “Yes” and you can see how they are excited and they enjoyed their stay. “Would you mind please going to TripAdvisor?” “Here’s a little card with the website address on it and leave us a review?” “We’d greatly appreciate that.”

Also TripAdvisor has their own tools that you can download from your business account and actually go in there and see all of the resources they have, to actually help you to acquire more reviews for your website.

What Reviews Should Hotels Respond To?

Was another question, one that we get asked all the time. Our belief is that you should always respond to positive and negative reviews. All reviews, period. The first reason is because you want to show that you appreciate the time that someone took to write a review and you’re now coming along and responding because you’re showing that attention to detail, if you will, on responding to that review.

But the really, really, really, important reason you want to respond to all reviews is because you’re not really just writing it for the person who read the review. 93% of consumers will visit review websites before booking a hotel website. That’s a stat that TripAdvisor just recently put out. So, with that in mind, you want to make sure that you’re writing it with the intent of the next person coming along actually seeing your response. It shows them you care and it gives you an opportunity to correct any negative situation that happened or to thank them for a positive review and pump up your positive vibe, if you will, for the new guest opportunities that come along.

Who Should Respond at the Hotel Level to Reviews?

It should come directly from the General Manager as far as the signature. You know, you may look to find assistance by a company like ours who actually provides review response services for hotels, we do that for 100’s of hotels, we’re the largest provider handling over 200,000 reviews a year.

But don’t forget Social Media. Facebook, Twitter, Google. Consumers are also leaving reviews on those platforms and it’s important as a hotelier that you are always watching for those. We have many hotels where we are actually seeing more Google reviews every month posted than on TripAdvisor. Next question that came up that was pretty important was, “What do you do?”:

How do you address a complaint, where someone is complaining about price?”

What you want to do is address the situation by providing the following:
• One is you want to state how compatible and comparable your pricing is to other hotels in the marketplace. So it’s important that you state that because you don’t want people to think, well, they could just go to another hotel and get a better price on WiFi or parking.
• You also then want to show them a solution. Present a solution where you can say to them, “You can go to our website and actually book a package that includes WiFi or free parking.”

Another question that came up on the panel was

How do you handle fake reviews that you believe are just from disgruntled employees or competitors?

Now, we’re not really seeing fake reviews that much and competitors going on there. Rest assured that TripAdvisor takes this very, very seriously and your option is to really go and contact your account manager at TripAdvisor and have them investigate that review and potentially remove it from their site.

The last question I’ll leave you with that was on the panel is

Should a hotel website have their own reviews on their own website?

And my answer to that is, “Absolutely.”

Because we know if someone leaves and goes to an OTA website, they may never come back. They may make a reservation for one of your competitors, on TripAdvisor, for example, or go to Expedia and check out the reviews there and decide to make a reservation there for one of your competitors. So you want to keep them on your website as much as possible.

There are many technologies out there available that will enable you to do that, they all have plug-ins that you can plug in, as well as other companies like ourselves have a service where you can also integrate a guest review system into your website.

So, there you have it, those are the questions that were asked at the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association luncheon last month and I’m happy to be able to share with you our responses and our point of view.

Please be sure to subscribe to this YouTube channel so that you can stay up to date as new videos come out. Thanks again for joining and we’ll see you next week. Take care.

Hotel Customer Service Through Social Media Channels

In today’s digital world we all communicate through social media to one degree or another regardless of generational differences. It has become the medium we use to exchange ideas or opinions and create or maintain relationships with not only friends and family but with every industry including, and perhaps especially, when discussing hotel customer service in the hotel industry.

For hotels, it offers a direct channel for guests to provide feedback, from compliments to requests to complaints. And, together with advances in technology, social media channels have created opportunities for hotels to provide and improve customer service.

Social Ecosystem woven in Social Search

The Three R’s of Social Hotel Customer Service

Revenue: Hotels that deliver great social customer service will become more profitable than hotels that do not.  It is the avenue that influences purchasing decisions and creates booking opportunities.

Reliability: Addressing complaints and resolving issues quickly shows your hotel listens and cares about guests. That spontaneous and authentic contact is what your guests and prospective guests crave. It creates a bond between your hotel and guests that creates loyal followers.

Reputation: Guests that experience a positive customer service experience are 25% more likely to become advocates and influencers of your hotel. But they can just as likely stop coming to your hotel and give bad reviews because of a poor experience.

Social Hotel Customer Service Guidelines

When it comes to a social hotel customer service strategy, there is no magic route your hotel can follow to find the best social customer service practices. It all depends on your hotel’s structure, processes, message and identity. But there are some guidelines that will help shape your hotel social customer service practices and serve as a reminder that responsiveness is everything.

 

  • Staff Ambassadors: Your hotel staff is first in line for interacting with your guests. Guests want to feel their issues are as important to you as it is to them. Respectfully take care of any issues and show that your hotel makes them your number one priority. To avoid confusion, ensure your staff is consistent with their handling of all issues by setting standard practices for basic issues but allow some flexibility so that staff can make decisions that make them feel they are part of the solution.

 

  • Chat Messaging: Provide a messaging service between staff and guests as a solution for handling volume requests of basic issues – like needing towels or an extra pillow. It will also assist your staff in attending all guest needs in a less stressful and efficient way.

 

  • Guest Expectations: When guests or prospective guests engage with your hotel through social media platforms, they expect a response in real time. This is your opportunity to shine. There are many live chat services available that can give you the chance to connect with your guests on a more personal level and show your hotel cares – all in real time!

 

Simply put, properties that take the time to include social hotel customer service as part of their social media marketing strategy will be the ones that will reap the benefits of repeat business and increasing their chances for profitability.

Top 5 Reasons Live Chat is a Must for Hotel Websites

PARSIPPANY, NJ – May 22, 2017 Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry recently launched CoMMingle Live, its fully managed Live Chat service for the hospitality industry.  Over the past 6 months, the company has gained valuable insights on how consumers interact with hotel Live Chat agents and now shares the Top 5 reasons Live Chat is a must for hotel websites.

“Our CoMMingle Live Chat service provides an assisted sales function for hotel websites, where there currently is none,” stated DJ Vallauri, Founder & CEO of Lodging Interactive.  “As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to interacting via Live Chat services with many brands and it’s time the hospitality industry provides conversation commerce support as well, especially as hotels look to increase their share of direct website business.”

Most consumers today are very comfortable using Live Chat to engage with brands and find it extremely convenient to be able to do so at a time and place of their own choosing.  Yet, the hospitality industry has been slow to adopt this technology as a method for real-time customer engagement.  Technology and staffing issues around the clock 7 days a week undoubtedly are reasons for the slow adoption.

Last summer Lodging Interactive launched a fully managed Live Chat service exclusively for the hospitality industry to help hotels improve their guest and potential guest engagements.  Through our Live Chat service, hotels benefit from real-time customer engagement without the headache and expense of managing Live Chat internally.

Top 5 reasons Live Chat is a Must for Hotel Websites

Here are the top 5 reasons why today’s hotels must have a human Live Chat service on their websites:

 

Live Chat Reason Number 1: Time is Money.

Time is something we, as consumers, have very little of these days. Any business that can provide additional time to its customers is going to win in the loyalty game. And loyalty is what creates business opportunities. For hotels, this means booked rooms.

When potential guests are visiting your website, and have questions about your property or destination, they traditionally must either call or send an email and then wait for a reply. We have all had this experience as consumers but it is not the best way to provide immediate customer service to potential customers. Live Chat addresses this service gap for hoteliers.

Our CoMMingle Live Chat service on your website is an enabler that connects your potential guests with business opportunities for your hotel via Live Chat operators who are always standing by ready to support your website visitors needs.  And because our CoMMingle Live Chat service is completely mobile enabled, potential guests can request immediate service and assistance from anywhere. Our hotel Live Chat live service agents will always be there ready to assist them.

 

Live Chat Reason Number 2: live chatHumanizes Your Brand

Real-time Live Chat service enables your hotel to connect with its guests in a human manner. No robots allowed.  Today’s consumers want to feel connected to a brand or company on a human level. With all the automated messaging, artificial intelligence and chat bots available today, your hotel can really standout by providing a human connection with your guests.  Use Live Chat to engage with them as you would on a telephone call.  And because it is a human interaction, your emotion and empathy will clearly come through to win the customer.

 

Live Chat Reason Number 3: Offer FAQs in Real Time

Hotel websites that offer FAQs are in the minority.  It is a shame that most hotel websites do not offer frequently asked questions pages. As consumers, we have come to expect FAQ pages on every e-commerce website we visit. Yet for whatever reason, the hospitality industry has not adopted such a practice.  With the competitive nature of direct online hotel bookings, maintaining an FAQs page on your website should be as ubiquitous as your booking engine.

Live Chat can take the FAQs page to and even higher level by providing a real-time human engagement experience with your customers.  Providing our service on your website increases the likelihood potential customers will begin to engage with your Live Chat agents as they are clicking through your website; side by side and even when the customer transitions from your website into your booking engine.

 

Live Chat Reason Number 4: Increase Group RFP’s

Through the use of Live Chat, agents are able to share group related documents in real-time with potential customers while they’re on your website.  For example, agents can immediately share floor plans, catering menus and even available event booking specials. This form of “assisted sales” has resulted in an uplift of group RFP’s submitted on a month-over-month basis.

 

Live Chat Reason Number 5: Immediate Crisis Management

When a potential crisis situation begins to flare up, Live Chat agents can be the first line of defense for your hotel.  They can engage with customers immediately and potentially defuse the situation and potential stop negative guest reviews on TripAdvisor.

 

BONUS: Competitive Advantages / Marketplace Differentiation

And, as an added bonus, a Live Chat service on your hotel’s website is a competitive advantage and a true differentiator.  When you consider that Live Chat is only available on a handful of hotel websites across the country, there is no doubt that your hotel can clearly differentiate itself from its competitive set within the marketplace.  Research continues to support that consumers would rather do business through websites that have Live Chat verses those that do not. In fact, 63% of consumers are more likely to return to a website that had Live Chat verses one that did not.

 

For more information on how to add CoMMingle Live Chat to your website, please visit: www.LiveChatForHotels.com or contact Lodging Interactive at 877-291-4411 extension 701.

 

 

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. 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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Lodging Interactive CEO to Speak About Hotel Reputation Management on HSMAI NYC Luncheon Panel

hsmai

PARSIPPANY, NJ – May 8, 2017 Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced that DJ Vallauri, the Company’s Founder & CEO, will be a guest panel member at the HSMAI NYC Chapter luncheon on Monday, May 22, 2017 at the 3 West Club in New York City.  The panel discussion, titled Online Reputation Management – Perception vs. Reality, will discuss and share insights hoteliers can use when managing their online reputation.

“I’m honored to be part this month’s HSMAI NYC luncheon panel to discuss the importance of correctly managing hotel online reputations,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & CEO. “For more than 15 years our firm’s CoMMingle division has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services to the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 hotel reviews for clients.”

Industry expert and speaker, Tim Peter, will moderate the luncheon panel and additional panel members will include Adele Gutman, Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Revenue for the Library Hotel Collection and Mark McCullough, Senior Key Accounts Manager for TripAdvisor.

For more information and to register for the luncheon, please visit: http://www.hsmainyc.org/.

Hotel Executive CEO Interview: Dj Vallauri

Human Powered Websites are the Future

CEO INTERVIEW: DJ VALLAURI, LODGING INTERACTIVE FOUNDER & CEO

There is no doubt that, as consumers, we are always looking for solutions that save us time. Time is the one factor in our daily lives of which we never seem to have enough of. Large consumer brands such as Amazon, Best Buy, Comcast, and many others understand this important human factor and take advantage of opportunities to return “time” back to consumers. But how are they doing this and why haven’t hotel brands followed suit?

Recently Benedict Cummins from HotelExecutive connected with DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President, to discuss his vision on human powered websites and why he believes they are the future for the hospitality industry.

Benedict: DJ, your agency has been in the digital marketing space for over 15 years now, offering hotels the tools and services to drive direct bookings via their websites. As it relates to hotel websites, how have things changed in the past few years and where are things headed?

DJ: Hotel websites have come a very long way in the past 15 years. Hotel websites are no longer considered “brochureware” but rather are active sales tools operating on a 24/7/365 day a year basis. Most recently new technology developments have occurred in the area of making desktop websites more manageable and effective on mobile devices. One specific example of this is the responsive adaptive technology. The majority of hoteliers have come to understand the importance in providing consumers with an exceptional online browsing experience via their mobile devices. As a result, the majority of hotel websites today are properly rendering on mobile devices. The hospitality industry has never been known to be on the cutting edge of technology But when Google introduced search engine ranking penalties for non-mobile friendly websites, I believe this pushed the hospitality industry to make the proper investments in responsive website technologies.

Benedict: Yes, mobile technologies have certainly affected the entire Internet and not just the hospitality industry. But is it all about technology or is there more? How do you see the hotel website evolving in the next few years?

DJ: That’s a great question, but let’s step back for a moment. The hospitality industry is all about being hospitable towards people. We’re about the human-to-human connections we have with our guests. We’re about providing experiences our guests will remember for a lifetime and will hopefully share with their network of friends and families either in person or via social media channels. The experienced hotel operator clearly understands this concept of “humanizing” their property. Operating a property with this mindset clearly provides a competitive advantage for those General Managers that “get it.” You see, it’s no longer about the technology. The technology is purely the price of entry today. The hotels that will win over the next 24 months will be those that introduce the human elements of real-time engagement via the technology. In other words, leveraging the technologies available to better engage and build relationships with their guests via human connections. Hotel websites have traditionally been a one-way conversation that hotels have with their potential guests. A website visitor simply clicks around the website to search for the information they need. Sometimes they’re successful but most times they’re not. The website of today and the next 24 months, flips this model upside down and enables two-way conversations between the hotel and their potential guests, in real-time while they’re online.

Benedict: That’s interesting. Can you please elaborate on this?

DJ: The hotel industry has always been slow to adapt new technologies, but what I’m going to discuss is not new technology. In fact it’s been around for over 15 years. I’m specifically referring to live chat technologies. As consumers we’ve been using live chat for many years. When we visit websites like Amazon, Comcast, American Express or nearly any major online retailer, we find online live chat to be very efficient when we’re in need of a little more information than most websites can provide prior to making a purchase. Live chat has always felt comfortable to consumers because it’s certainly easy to use but, most importantly, it allows us to control the conversation and interaction on our own time. As I mentioned earlier, time is one asset that we have very little of these days. Why would someone go through endless telephone IVR prompts only to be put into a holding queue?  Now when you consider how consumers use their mobile devices… today’s consumers are “attached” to their mobile devices nearly 24/7 and certainly their mobile devices are always nearby and within easy reach. And those mobile devices are always connected via broadband to the Internet. It’s only been recently that live chat applications have been made totally mobile allowing consumers to “ask questions” anytime and on-the-go. Such power in our pockets… it’s very exciting.

Benedict: So are you saying that live chat is going to flip the hotel-consumer engagement model?

DJ: Yes exactly. When we researched the market viability for a fully managed live chat service we found that, of 2500 hotels in North America, less than half of 1% had a live chat widget on their website. This equates to only 12 of 2500 hotels that had live chat enabled on their website. This got us very excited as it confirmed the market opportunity for us. It would be our challenge to come up with a cost effective business model and service to address the market need. This is why we developed our fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat service for the hospitality industry. Our model is to license the best live chat platform available on the market and to hire US based live chat agents and put them on our payroll. We certainly looked at outsourcing our live chat agent services to existing companies in the Philippines but felt the quality of service we could provide through them would not be acceptable. So we now have our own live chat agents, on our payroll and part of our company. This decision has proven to be the right decision for us and our hotel clients.

Benedict: So your live chat service is completely managed for the hotel? How do your agents know enough about the hotel?

DJ: Yes our CoMMingle Live Chat service is fully managed and we handle all the live chat sessions for each property. During the onboarding process, our agents are trained on the property information as well as the specific voice and tone the property is seeking in their customer live chat engagements. Additionally, we have other training programs to ensure our agents are as knowledgeable as they would be sitting at the property. Also because our live agents are 100% dedicated to the operation, we have instilled our own core customer service values and salesmanship. The entire process is very efficient.

Benedict: What about all the talk of artificial intelligence and robotic chat bots. Do automated chat bots offer an even more efficient live chat model for hotels?

DJ: Well one thing that became entirely clear to us when we launched our live chat service for hotels was that you cannot automate, nor should you, a conversation between a potential guest and a hotel. We have seen live chat engagements turn from a simple question about the destination to actually making an online reservation and assisting the future guest with spa reservations as an add-on sales opportunity. Our agents are not only working to provide the highest level of customer service while someone is browsing the hotel website, but they also act as what we call “assisted sales agents”. Meaning, our live chat agents can assist in closing business. They share sales materials such as floor plans, catering menus and wedding package information with potential customers via the live chat session. Our agents truly act as a sales support team when someone is in the buying mode. Chat bots can be effective when consumers are looking to book point-to-point air travel, a simple conversational string that can present airfares and flight options. But trying to automate hotel live chat sessions is like trying to automate a telephone conversation; it simply cannot be done. There are too may variables involved just as there are with telephone conversations. Why don’t you try the Expedia Messenger chat bot for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. Their chat bot experience is not so great, and I’m being polite. Besides this issue, try telling a hotel General Manager that a chat bot will be engaging with their potential customers. Trust me, you won’t get far with that conversation.

Benedict: But can hotels just add their own widget for live chat to their website? Why do they need to outsource this?

DJ: They could and many hotels have tried exactly this in the past. But the issue within our industry is having the qualified staff available to handle the live chat engagement and staffing has always been a challenge for properties. We heard from General Managers who have tried to handle live chat on their own and they’ve all echoed the same staffing issue. You see live chat volume will vary from day to day and week to week. This makes it practically impossible to staff at the property level with one or two dedicated people.

Benedict: So clearly you’re very bullish on live chat for the hospitality industry.

DJ: You can mark my words, live chat will become as ubiquitous as the online hotel booking engine has become today. This will happen very quickly, within the next 24 months or sooner. Live chat is what all consumers want and, with zero learning curve, it is even more certain that live chat will become the norm very quickly.

DJ Vallauri, Founder & President of Lodging Interactive, has been proactive and successful in all his social media initiatives over the last five years through CoMMingle. DJ saw the void of participation on social media from individual hotel properties and in 2010 CoMMingle was born.Through his insightful projections, CoMMingle has become a successful division of Lodging Interactive solely dedicated to social media marketing, social customer service and reputation management for the Hospitality Industry. Every industry’s social media needs are different and DJ understands the needs and challenges faced by hotels. Mr. Vallauri can be contacted at 877-291-4411 ext 704 | Lodging or dj@lodginginteractive.com

The Hotel Business Review is a weekly journal of best practices in hotel management and operations and is available at www.hotelexecutive.com. HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review.

Lodging Interactive Offers Hotels All-Inclusive Digital Marketing Packages

PARSIPPANY, NJ – March 6, 2017 Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced it is offering all-inclusive digital marketing packages for hotels and resorts.  Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has been exclusively serving the hospitality industry and helping hotel clients maximize their direct online booking opportunities.

 Hotel All Inclusive Digital Marketing Packages

“With the introduction of our all-inclusive digital marketing packages, our innovative approach in hospitality digital marketing continues to evolve,” said Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President.  “For more than fifteen years we have created award winning services for our hospitality clients with our CoMMingle Social Media Marketing Service and most recently our CoMMingle Live Chat Service for hotels leading the pack.  Now, we are the only digital marketing agency that brings all the required pieces together into an all-inclusive digital marketing service platform for hotels.”

 Lodging Interactive’s all-inclusive digital marketing packages include:

  • Modern website designs to maximize direct booking opportunities
  • Professional in-house website copywriting services
  • Complete website management services
  • Dynamic website content delivery and personalized segment targeting
  • Hotel Search Engine Marketing (SEO & PPC)
  • Annual Digital Marketing Plan creation
  • Social media marketing & engagement services
  • Reputation management services for guest review sites and OTAs.
  • Live Chat fully managed services, 7 days a week
  • Dedicated, first-rate customer service and ROI KPI reporting

Hospitality Digital Marketing

“Effective hospitality digital marketing is no longer just about having a new responsive website and launching organic Hotel Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and a Facebook page,” added Mr. Vallauri.  “Today, the smart hotelier understands it takes more of a commitment than this to drive direct hotel bookings.”

A recent 2017 Travel Website Behavior Study showed that consumers, between the ages of 18-34, visit an average of 4.6 unique websites prior to making a hotel reservation.  This is down from just a year ago.  As a result it has become extremely important for hotels to impress their hotel visitors with personalized and targeting content and live chat support to answer any questions they may have in the booking process.

Hotel Digital Marketing Packages

Lodging Interactive’s all-inclusive digital marketing packages offer hotels the complete solution for a fixed monthly fee. The hotel digital marketing packages are designed to attract qualified visitors, show them personalized and relevant website content, provide real-time human powered live chat support to close the business, ongoing social media engagement and follow-up online reputation management and guest review responses.

For more information and to receive a price quote please visit Hotel All-Inclusive Digital Marketing Programs or call 877-291-4411ext 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. 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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Lodging Interactive Handles 200,000 Guest Review Responses

PARSIPPANY, NJ – March 1, 2017  Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced that it has responded to over 200,000 guest reviews for its hotel clients.  Since the launch of its CoMMingle service the agency has worked with numerous iconic 4 and 5 star independent properties as well as branded properties representing global brands such as Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, IHG, Wyndham, to name a few.

 

“The continued growth of our CoMMIngle reputation management service can be attributed to the “white glove” service we provide to every guest review we write for our hotel clients,” said Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President. “As a fully managed service we understand the hotel’s reputation is at stake with every guest review we write and the importance of responding in the hotel’s voice and persona.”

 

Unlike other services that outsource the writing of guest reviews to third world countries, Lodging Interactive continues to invest heavily in its CoMMingle operations team based in the USA.  All guest reviews are responded to with custom responses and adhere to the high standards set by the many hotel brands the agency services.  The CoMMingle service monitors and manages all guest reviews posted on review and OTA sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Yelp, Google, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Orbitz.com, Facebook, and Google.  Additionally, CoMMingle also monitors and responds to major hotel brand website guest reviews.  The CoMMingle service is offered 7 days a week and provides daily posting of hotel management responses.

 

“According to research provided by TripAdvisor, 68% of consumers will book a room at a property that responds to reviews versus one that doesn’t,” added Mr. Vallauri.  “And as the volume of guest reviews continues to increase on a year over year basis, property human resources will continue to be insufficient and will be unable to handle the volume and workload involved in responding to all guest reviews.  This is precisely why we have made significant investments in our infrastructure to ensure we can accommodate the growing volume of guest reviews.”  

 

CoMMingle reputation management offers guest review monitoring and management response services in 12 languages.  “As a global service, CoMMingle recognized the need for a multilingual approach to a world audience of our clients. Offering response service for reviews of various languages, addressing past guests as well as focusing on the potential future guests of the same language demographic,” said Rosella Virdo, CoMMingle Managing Director.

 

CoMMingle reputation management services are offered to hotels, resorts and restaurants.  For more information and to receive a price quote please visit www.LodgingInteractive.com or call 877-291-4411 ext 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. 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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