Messaging Apps as Ubiquitous as Booking Engines for Hotel Websites

Live chat for hotels.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Lodging Interactive Launches Industry First Real-Time Reputation Management

Real time hotel reputation management

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Lodging Interactive

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

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

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

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

 

live chat

Why Customer Service is the New Marketing.

At any given moment, there’s a half dozen marketing buzzwords floating around in the advertising industry. We hear about growth hacking and gamification and wearables, all of which are (or have been) popular strategies designed to help businesses build their brand and market themselves.

That’s all well and great, but sometimes the most effective forms of marketing are also the most straightforward. This is true when you embrace customer service as an essential component of your hotel’s marketing strategy.

Why Is Customer Service Important for Marketing? 

Customer service and marketing have traditionally been two very separate departments, with entirely different teams handling each. While the hotel marketing staff ultimately does have a different job than your customer service representatives, there should be overlap between the two for best results.

Marketing, after all, is a discipline that focuses on showing potential guests exactly why they should be making reservations at your hotel. It’s about proving that you’re superior to your competition and that you can best serve their needs. This absolutely includes advertising, but it also can be a lot more personal, with one-on-one interactions being the most powerful.

How Exactly Does Customer Service Tie into Marketing? 

If a hotel or resort has responsive, genuine customer service, their guests will be sure to take note of that right off the bat. Customer service that is both good and fast is important to increasing numbers of guests, especially since there is more competition than ever before; if they don’t feel like you appreciate their business, they’ll take their business to your competition.  With this being such an important factor, having great customer service can help build your brand and shift client perception of you.

It’s also worth noting that customer service is now more closely tied to conventional marketing channels than ever before. Interested potential guests are more likely to contact you through social media private messaging or live chat than phone, email, or mail, so lumping customer service into the performance of your social and marketing channels is an essential part of how customers will interact with them. Some platforms, like Facebook, will even post information about your response time publicly, which can affect how users perceive your brand.

Ultimately, customer service representatives can become exceptional salespeople in addition to making sure all your guests are happy, promoting the right services, bookings, or amenities at the exact right time. Their recommendations will be more personal than autoresponders or Chabots, which utilize algorithms that most times don’t properly and become frustrating to potential guests. By giving your customer service representatives sales and marketing training, they’ll be aptly equipped to handle any guest crisis or question while understanding how to help use the interaction to strengthen your brand.

How Live Chat Can Seamlessly Integrate Customer Service and Marketing 

If customer service is the secret to better marketing, live chat is easily the secret to better customer service. Live chat lets you provide instant and excellent customer service to users who are contacting you with questions, concerns, and problems about a stay at your hotel.

For resorts and hotels in the hospitality industry, this can make the difference between landing a new repeat guest or losing them to a competitor forever. Being available to answer any questions personally and on a case-by-case  basis (instead of utilizing strict, inflexible policies) will help you build your brand and loyalty.

Best of all, live chat marketing won’t slow you down. The immediacy of this particular medium is good for guests who expect faster-than-the-speed-of-light responses, but it also works in the favor of the hotels using them; instead of getting bogged down with back-and-forth emails over several days, you can solve a guest’s question in minutes without ever facing the risk of losing them because it’s just plain taking too long.

If you’re struggling to implement live chat for your hotel or resort, look into live chat management services like CoMMingle Live. We offer full live chat management, with our live chat tool integrating with your website and social media direct messaging platforms. We have highly trained agents on hand to help your guests s get their problems solved quickly. This can help you book more, build a reputation as a brand who is invested in customer relationships, and save you money all at once while you can put time into the other areas of your hotel that need you most.

Want to learn more about how CoMMingle can help you? Get in touch with us here.   

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.

What is the ROI of Human Powered Website Live Chat?

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today offered some insightful looks into the return on investment of live chat for hotels.

 

“I am often asked by hoteliers what is the return on investment, or ROI, when implementing a live chat service on their website,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President. “Like any new product or service that is leading the way to something new and better for an industry, there is always a hesitation at first, as business operators attempt to justify the return on investment of this shiny, new thing.”

 

It has often been said that Customer Service is the new marketing for businesses. And for those businesses that can return valuable time to their consumers, studies have shown loyalty and engagement increase between the consumer and the brand for those businesses. This is supported by the fact that, as consumers, we lead increasingly busy and hectic lifestyles. “So time has become the new currency for the way we live,” added Mr. Vallauri.

 

Hotel operators should be extremely excited with the widely accepted technology and service opportunity known as website live chat. The excitement should stem from the fact that millions of people around the world are very comfortable with the technology and are already utilizing live chat services in other industries such as banking and insurance.  It is very rare to find a technology that has been widely used by millions of consumers around the world and see that same technology having such a profound impact on the return and profitability of a hotel website.

 

Live Chat Saves Consumers Time and Builds Trust.

 

Hotel websites have predominately always been a self-service model for consumers. Meaning when a consumer visits a hotel website, they are left on their own to navigate through what may be a complex structure of interlinked web pages in order to find what they are ultimately searching.

 

For many years website analytics professionals have always looked at the time spent on the website. This KPI or metric measurement has been utilized for the last 15 years as an indication of success when someone remains on your website for an extended period of time. After all, the longer they stay on the website, the assumption is made that they are browsing through all the website content pages finding and enjoying the content.

 

When in fact many consumers are spending more time than they need to spend on a hotel website because they simply cannot find what they need, quickly and efficiently. This can be evidenced by a couple attempting to research for an upcoming wedding they are planning. During the planning stages they will visit a hotel website to check out the wedding facilities and photo gallery as well as dig through the website to seek out any wedding packages or, better yet, catering menus and pricing. “Many times these activities are not as seamless as they should be, and they take time. And time brings me back to my initial comments of saving time for consumers,” said Mr. Vallauri.

 

Live Chat Provides Live Sales Assistance. 

 

According to recent data provided by Forrester, 53% of online buyers are likely to abandon a website if they can’t find answers to their questions quickly. And 44% of consumers stated that having questions answered by a live person is one of the most important features a website can offer.

 

Live Chat Increases Event RFPs. 

 

Now consider a hotel website that has a live chat service enabled. The couple arrives at the hotel website and immediately is greeted with a welcome and an opportunity from a real person providing assistance. A conversation ensues. The couple is guided to the exact pages they are looking for, and is even provided with catering menus, wedding packages and pricing by document sharing in real time. Even an entire wedding sales and marketing media kit or PDF document can be shared with the consumer by the live chat agent in real time. This provides instant gratification and savings of time. The conversation continues. The live chat agent offers the couple an opportunity to have someone from the hotel’s catering department contact them immediately or the next day to follow up and answer any questions or check wedding venue availability.

 

It’s all about instant gratification and saving time for the consumer. Isn’t this what we all want from companies we do business with?

 

Increase Direct Booking Opportunities. 

 

Now consider the consumer who is planning to make a direct booking on your website but is confused about the particular view or location of a room. They want to know the difference between an oceanfront room and a partial view oceanfront room.  As they pass through the booking engine, the hotel’s live chat service agent is always available to answer and clarify information for the consumer. Again doing so in real time and with the potential of moving the consumer towards placing the booking rather than leaving the website in total frustration is another opportunity to increase ROI.

 

And when you think about the real-time marketing opportunities that a live chat service can provide to your hotel website visitors, it really gets exciting.  Live chat agents are always in a position to promote specials, discounted rates or an upgrade, as they engage with the consumer in real time. This can be simply handled by providing the consumer with a specialized booking link or SRP code within the live chat engagement session with the consumer.

 

Customer Service is the NEW Marketing.

 

Clearly the way businesses and hotels can differentiate themselves from their competitive sets, is to implement a live chat service on their website. We believe live chat service for hotels will become as ubiquitous as online booking engines have become. When you have a technology that is widely adopted around the world by millions of people, saves time and provides human engagement between consumers and brands, you win the hearts and wallets of consumers, helping to increase your ROI.

 

Lodging Interactive, through its CoMMingle Live Chat Service, offers 7-day a week live chat services coverage. U.S.A. based live chat agents are all employed by Lodging Interactive and are fully trained to understand the unique attributes of the hotel customers they serve. For more information please visit: www.LiveChatForHotels.com or call us 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 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 recognizing 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 Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

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.

 

###

#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.

 

###