Hospitality Social Media News Issue – Facebook Chat Bots

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

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

Facebook Pauses Chatbot & App Review

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

What This Means for Hotels

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

Facebook Restricts Questionable Ad Targeting

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

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

What This Means for Hotels

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

Facebook Improves Split Testing on Ads

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

What This Means for Hotels

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

 Snapchat

Tagging in Snapchat Stories Now Available

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

What This Means for Hotels

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

Facbook Messenger

Facebook Opens Up 360 Video in Messenger  

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

What This Means for Hotels

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

Pinterest

Pinterest Adds a New Following Tab  

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

What This Means for Hotels

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

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

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

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.

why hotels shouldn't use chatbots

Why Human Hotel Live Chat is Better Than Chatbots

If you were to call a hotel, which would you rather get: an automated system that spent fifteen minutes and eight side menus to get through without resolving your problem, or an actual person who can help you immediately?

You’d choose the person, every time. Everyone would.

Live chat is no different. Live chat with real, actual people will be superior than conversations with chatbots on the other side every single time. It may cost a little bit more to pay someone to handle the live chat, but it’s a cost that will provide a return on investment multiple times over.

Here’s how…

Chatbots Are Stuck to Pre-programmed Responses

Chatbots aren’t “smart,” even if you program them really, really well. They are limited to only answer questions they’ve been programmed to identify, and they can only provide a set number of answers to those limited questions.

Sure, when a customer asks about amenities offered by your hotel, they can spout off information about the pool and complimentary breakfast. Your chatbot will fall short, however, when potential customers ask if there’s a limit on towels at the pool or if their breakfast can be gluten-free, dairy-free, and pork-free.

human live chat vs chatbots

 

These small, detailed questions won’t matter to 99% of customers, but the answer could decide whether or not that potential customer books with you. And while only one person will ask each of these questions, an enormous chunk of customers reaching out will have a different question that matters to them. It’s impossible to program for that.

People Understand Nuance

Chatbots only spit out binary responses. Yes and no, we have that or we don’t, I do or don’t understand the request, was or wasn’t this answer helpful? Human beings understand nuance in a way that chatbots never will. Instead of “yes and no,” we can provide “maybe, let’s take a look.”

When it comes to hotel bookings—which may include conference, event, or wedding bookings—there could easily be many grey areas. For example can you extend the number of discounted rooms for our event?

A chatbot will only routinely cycle through policies you’ve taught it; it is incapable of nuance or negotiation, which could be crucial to landing large bookings.

People Actually Care 

Whoever said business isn’t personal was flat out wrong. Business is immensely personal, and if customers feel like you don’t care about them, they’ll go straight to your competition. Chatbots, by nature, cannot care. At best they’ll appear polite, but they won’t have the capability to go above and beyond like a dedicated customer service specialist; they’ll just replay the same menu of options on a loop.

A real person will care that your customer is stressed, or upset, or confused. Since you could lose these customers quickly without turning around their experience, it is essential to have a dedicated representative ready to tackle their problem with them.

Long story short: you want to invest in human live chat instead of relying on chatbots. You can’t afford not to.

Lodging Interactive, through its CoMMingle Live Chat service, offers hotels a fully managed and affordable live chat service available 7 days a week.  For more information on Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle Live Chat for Hotels 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.

 

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.

 

 

###

Snapchat and Instagram Leading in Chat Usage over Facebook Messenger?

Generation Z as the Next Influencers

According to e Marketer, Facebook Messenger currently dominates the U.S chat app market with 125.4 million users. But the research company recently predicted that Snapchat and Instagram will become the preferred messenger service over Messenger among 18 to 24-year-olds. They also said WhatsApp is up 9.5 percent from 2016 and will have 20.5 million U.S. users by the end of this year.

 

In light of this forecast, eMarketer lowered Messenger growth projections by 9.4 million users through 2021. But don’t count out Facebook Messenger from the running. The adoption of Messenger by older internet users has been slowly increasing and, according to eMarketer, U.S. monthly users will grow 2.4% this year to 172.9 million people in the U.S. And then let’s not forget that Facebook owns Instagram as well as WhatsApp.

 

Mobile users on messaging apps.

 

 

There will be 2 billion people globally that are expected to use messaging apps by 2018 and will be growing to nearly 2.5 billion by 2021. The number of mobile internet users who have used news, weather, sports or map apps at least once per month will be steadily increasing through 2021.  An average of 20.7 apps per month will be used by Americans this year but as more users choose to combine services into a single or fewer apps, eMarketer expects this number to decline. For example, as large percentages of U.S. users seek out their news through Facebook, news apps usage would see a decline.

 

Lodging Interactive Smartphone Penetration

 

The new predictions also include a look at ad spend which show in-app mobile ad spending will account for 80.6 percent of U.S. mobile spending by 2018. Mobile web spending  is growing but its total mobile share is decreasing and ads that only run on mobile apps will rise 29 percent this year to $7.57 billion.

 

Messaging apps, like social media channels, change as people’s needs change and every generation has different needs and expectations. Baby boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials might currently have the most disposable income but, as Generation Z currently makes up 25% of the U.S. population and accounts for $44 billion of the U.S. economy, they will be the next group of influencers on purchases and – hotel bookings.

 

As Generation Z matures, they will be the ones using messaging apps to connect with hotels, watch content and browse offers. So when considering your advertising or marketing spend, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the expectations of this future hotel guest. Then you will know what to consider in your content marketing strategy and what messaging app is best to invest your budgeting dollars.

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.

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

Lodging Interactive Holiday Season

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

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

5 Holiday Season Hotel Tips

Stay on the Nice List

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

Focus on guests

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

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

Support your staff

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

Empower your guests

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

Monitor social media channels

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

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

The Changing Face of Customer Service for Hotels

Customer service has come a long way in the last hundred years but the most dramatic changes have happened – and quickly – in the last thirty. We have gone from brick and mortar shopping to online shopping – from using travel agencies for vacation bookings to searching social networks and using messaging apps.

hotel customer service

From the early 90s into the 21st century, the Internet and social media platforms changed the way we find and share information. Where we once looked directly to advertisers, fellow workers, business customer service staff, family or friends for information and ideas during our travel journey, we now look to online reviews, social networks and hotel websites.

 

We also seek out the opinion of peers online to help us sift through all the available offers, products and services we want or need to find that perfect hotel stay, vacation spot or foodie experience. Then just to mix things up a bit, different generations have different expectations.

 

Through all these recent social and technological innovations as well as different generational expectations of what great customer service entails, there are common needs that bind it altogether and exemplify the changing face of customer service for hotels:

Omnichannel Integrations

 Customer service and the customer experience expectations of today’s travelers have changed forever.  Whether it’s the tech savvy millennial or older generations, guests expect hotels to respond on their preferred channel.  So a seamless integration of services like social media, email and chat into one eCommerce platform will be in sights for the future. For the hotel, it means customer service agents get notifications from all channels coming into one place and a unified voice across all channels for messages that go out.

Self-service 

Making the customer experience easy and enjoyable is what it’s all about. Hotel guests or potential guests don’t want to struggle around your website and waste time trying to find the information they need.  Things like integration of a live chat service to your website, building a user-friendly website with great functionality or adding a great FAQ knowledge base make for an efficient, fast and enjoyable guest experience. Also, with mobile usage on a continuous rise, a responsive website is a must. For the hotel, it means you are making your guest’s life easier and saving them valuable time – two things that will go a long way in gaining and keeping their loyalty.

Guest empowerment and emotions

The human need for emotional bonding is a huge factor in providing great customer service and a strong motivator that drives bookings. Making your guests feel uniquely valued, special and important is a means to gaining their loyalty. You can’t currently make a chatbot empathize with your guest needs. For the hotel, it means keeping in mind that it is the genuine authentic relationship that sustains growth.

With so much digital competition, the new face of customer service for hotels is all about the guest experience. The genuine, feel good moments are not just a chance to complete a sale but an opportunity to strengthen your hotel’s connection to guests and potential guests. It’s what draws them into your hotel and keeps them coming back expanding your follower base and generating revenue.

The Rise of Messaging Apps for Hotels

Messaging apps are changing the way people communicate and, as messaging companies like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat build out their services, there are greater opportunities to reach out to guests by connecting hotels with users.

messaging apps

Gartner recently conducted a mobile apps survey showing that the number of people using messaging apps is steadily growing. Some interesting finds from their survey include:

 

  • People are looking for an app that has many services without the user having to leave the app. The main reason is that people are searching for a more engaging experience.
  • Businesses and app providers need to enhance their services by developing more engaging strategies for messaging and personal assistant apps.
  • For personal assistant apps, marketers should be looking at what’s needed to create a more friendly search strategy.
  • Social media apps are still the most popular but usage fell behind messaging apps. Messaging, personal assistant and shopping app usage was on the rise because of features like user-generated videos, customer service chats and m-commerce capability.

 

Messaging apps, like social media channels, change as features change and these changes happen quickly. Messaging apps are no longer just on a peer-to-peer level. People are now also using messaging apps to connect with hotels, watch content and browse offers so their adoption into businesses is rapidly growing.

 

Facebook Messenger boasts 1.2 billion monthly active users and its integration with Uber and Lyft shows their plans to move toward broader partnerships. Then there’s WhatsApp with plans to introduce a new commercial messaging platform specifically for businesses. Caesars Entertainment Corporation became the first to use messaging apps in the hospitality industry when they recently debuted WeChat Pay at selected locations and plans to have it roll out to all outlets in Caesars Palace and resorts in 2018.

 

Social media and messaging apps have become an ingrained part of daily hotel business. They have features that are valued by guests and potential guests who are on-the-go for both internal or external communications. With increased messenger app usage, hotels need to consider changing their content marketing strategy to reach out and connect with their guests and potential guests.

 

The projected growth of messaging apps is expected to be 2 billion people using messaging apps by 2018.  Hotels are always looking to see how to reach out to guests in all phases of their travel journey, creating memorable guest experiences and turning satisfied guests into loyal customers. As these messaging apps are expanding their functionality to connect brands with users, it is well worth exploring how they could be incorporated into your hotel marketing plans.

Learn more about Lodging Interactive’s live chat service for hotels.

 

The Human Live Chat Revolution for Hotels is About to Begin

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, predicts that the way hotels engage with consumers online is about to change and that hoteliers can expects total disruption ahead.  Online consumer engagement disruption is a good thing for hoteliers who want to increase their website direct bookings and minimize their OTA contributions.

 

“The progression towards live chat services for hotels is natural and expected. Consumers have already become accustomed to communicating with their banks, cable companies and cell phone providers via online live chat,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & President.  “Consumers like that live chat offers mobile convenience and the fact that they get to control when to initiate the conversation.  Live chat empowers the consumer to control the time and place of their choosing to get questions answered; no waiting on telephone hold or 24 to 48 hours for an email reply.”

 

 

Automated chat bots are not as impactful as many have predicted they would be within the travel and hospitality industries.  According to the recent report, Are Bots Worth The Bother?, published by EyeforTravel Ltd, a mere 15% of hotel companies are offering booking assistance on Facebook Messenger.  The report also stated that 29% of hotels take between 24 hours and one week to respond on Facebook Messenger. For an industry built on providing hospitality to customers, the response time is disappointing.

 

Mike Slone, Chief Experience Officer at Travelaer stated, “The small percentage of travel bots that are live don’t impact the customer journey in a meaningful way, are gimmicky and don’t fit into an overall digital strategy.  Customer service is the most demanded feature, no commerce.”

 

As live chat technology providers continue to enter the marketplace, the latest being Apple’s Business Chat powered by its iMessage services launching with iOS 11 this fall, hotel operators will need to consider how hotel live chat services will play into their overall digital customer service and website sales strategies.  Hoteliers will need to come to grips that human powered live chat is coming and that the “train has left the station” on this one, there is no going back.

 

“Social media platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) and Twitter all provide human live chat service technology platforms.  And with Apple about to launch its iMessage Business Chat, there is no doubt that the consumer’s appetite for immediate, live chat engagement with a human is here to stay,” added Vallauri.

 

So, what are the operational challenges hoteliers will face in this new world of real-time engagement?  For over a year Lodging Interactive has been providing CoMMingle Live Chat service for hotels, and it has experienced the same challenges hoteliers will experience when deciding to launch their own hotel’s live chat service.  Challenges include:

 

  • Selecting the right live chat technology platform that can scale with hotel chat volume and is secure.
  • Live chat coverage 7-days a week requires the hiring of approximately 8-10 agents to cover operational shifts and agent time off/vacations.
  • The cost of hiring, salary and health benefits can be upwards of $42,000 per live chat agent.
  • Initial and ongoing training expenses for every live chat agent.
  • Continual motivation and retaining live chat agents.
  • Scheduling of live chat agents to ensure prompt, real-time engagement with customers. Consumers expect real-time responses within 3 minutes or less.

 

“Clearly, for any hotel managing a live chat operation on property is no small feat. With staff budgets contracting and the escalating costs of health benefits, it becomes challenging to show management how a property based live chat team makes any ROI sense,” said Vallauri. “Lodging Interactive has made the substantial infrastructure investments and we’re committed to providing the hospitality industry’s premier fully managed live chat service.”

 

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 fully understand the unique attributes of the hotel customers they serve.  For more information please visit: www.LiveChatForHotels.com or call us on 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.com Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

 

###