The Human Live Chat Revolution for Hotels is About to Begin

PARSIPPANY, NJ – July 25, 2017   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.

 

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Lodging Interactive Integrates Live Chat Services Into Facebook For Hotels

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Lodging Interactive

 

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. CoMMingle has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses.  The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

 

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

 

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

 

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Lodging Interactive Offers Free Live Chat Service with Every New Website

 

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced its Independence Day promotion for Independent Hotels. Now through September every hotel that signs an agreement for a new website will automatically be provided with its fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat service at no additional cost.

“Website live chat is quickly becoming something consumers expect to see on all hotel websites, and the smarter hoteliers understand the tremendous competitive advantages live chat provides,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and CEO. “As the hotel industry’s largest provider of fully managed live chat services, for a limited time we’re bundling our CoMMingle Live Chat service with all new website projects.”

SIMILAR STORIES

Research continues to support that human-based live chat services (not chat bots) increases customer satisfaction levels and creates brand loyalists who then convert into paying customers. Consumers find live chat to be more efficient than calling a hotel and certainly faster than sending email to the hotel. And with today’s smartphones, live chat is simple to use and provides hotels with the power of providing exceptional customer service.

“We’ve invested heavily into developing a fully networked, fully managed, hospitality focused live chat operation in the U.S.” added Mr. Vallauri. “Our CoMMingle Live Chat agents are highly trained on the property specifics and are the best in the industry. We’re truly moving our clients above their competitors as it relates to online customer service.”

CoMMingle Live Chat Advantages

  • Fully managed – no need for hotel to hire staff.
  • CoMMingle Live Chat hours 9am-8pm EST, 7 days a week.
  • Humanizes hotel brand while customers are on hotel website.
  • Acts as a human powered FAQs page.
  • Increases brand loyalty & engagement.
  • Live chat agents can share PDFs during live chats (floor plans, menus, etc.)

For more information on how your hotel can receive CoMMingle Live Chat services at no cost, please visit Lodging Interactive’s Independence Day promotion for Independent Hotels visit: https://lodginginteractive.com/independence

#AskDJV Episode 57 – Live Chat and Live Chat Widgets on Hotel Websites

#AskDJV Episode 57 Live Chat WidgetsHello Everybody and welcome to the #AskDJV show.  This is episode 57 of the #AskDJV show.  Thank you so much for joining us this week.  On this week’s episode, I’d like to talk about live chat and live chat widgets on hotel websites

I’ve got 5 reasons, 5 top reasons why your hotel needs to have a live chat widget and service for your website customers.

5 Top Reasons Why Your Hotel Needs a Live Chat Widget on Your Website

Reason#1 – It Humanizes Your Brand

It enables you to make your brand human and to engage with another human being.  Someone wants an answer now, why not provide that to them? That will facilitate the booking.  It will create a loyal guest that says, “You know what?” “This hotel really cares about the engagement and connection with me, I’m going to give them a shot.”  “I may make a reservation.”

Reason#2 – You’re Providing Time Back to your Consumer

Specifically, you’re enabling your consumer to engage and interact with you on their time, not your time.  When you give back someone their time they will become very loyal to you, that’s for sure, 100%.

Reason#3 – You’re Going to Provide Answers in Real Time to what has traditionally been known as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Now, you and I both know that many hotel websites, in fact your hotel website, may not have an FAQ page on it, shame on you, you should have that as a bare minimum.  But this takes it up a notch.  You’re providing real time FAQ service when the consumer wants it.

Reason#4 – You’re Going to Drive more RFP submissions through your website

Here’s an example:
A wedding couple about to get married a year from now is surfing through your website. Well, without FAQ’s their kinda left on their own, but if they have a wedding planning question, it’s easy for you to engage with them via live chat to enable that conversation, to push them to filling out an RFP form vs. leaving them on their own and having them go to potentially a competitor because you’re not there servicing them in a real-time human engagement and assisted sales support channel.

Reason#5 – and this is a BIG ONE Guys – You’re Avoiding Potential Crisis Situations

We have seen examples of people going to their hotel room, trying to figure out who they need to speak with, they’re very upset, they go on your website, well, we’re able to capture them in our live chat service and speak to them and calm them down and escalate that conversation to the General Manager because that crisis situation can blow up into a real nasty fight with your hotel and that consumer and it can be aired on TripAdvisor and other OTA websites.  So crisis escalation is something that you will capture through a live chat service as well.

Those are the 5 reasons why your hotel website needs to have a live chat service.  Now, if you can’t do it for yourself, we have a live chat for hotels.com website, you can check that out, livechatforhotels.com and you’ll be able to get information on what we can do to support you with our own live chat agents, 7 days a week, full coverage.
Thanks again for joining us on this week’s episode on the #AskDJV show.  Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can be informed when new episodes come out.  Thanks again and we’ll see you next time.

Top 5 Reasons Live Chat is a Must for Hotel Websites

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

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

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

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

Top 5 reasons Live Chat is a Must for Hotel Websites

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

 

Live Chat Reason Number 1: Time is Money.

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

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

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

 

Live Chat Reason Number 2: live chatHumanizes Your Brand

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

 

Live Chat Reason Number 3: Offer FAQs in Real Time

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

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

 

Live Chat Reason Number 4: Increase Group RFP’s

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

 

Live Chat Reason Number 5: Immediate Crisis Management

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

 

BONUS: Competitive Advantages / Marketplace Differentiation

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

 

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

 

 

About Lodging Interactive

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. CoMMingle has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses.  The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

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

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

 

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Conversational Marketing is The Future of Hotel Customer Service

Use of messaging and chat apps at hotels are fast becoming the preferred means to communicate with guests and, with this, come the endless possibilities to build relationships and increase sales. Hotel guests can chat in real-time and receive valuable and convenient customer service. This builds a trusting relationship that will go a long way toward loyalty and guest retention as well as lower overhead costs with efficient daily operations.

The technology is not new but primarily it is the exponential increase of mobile usage in recent years that is at the heart of the resurgence of messaging and chat apps. A Forrester Research study shows consumers spend nearly 78% of their time on smartphones and more than 3 billion consumers world-wide are heavy users of instant messaging platforms.

Conversational Marketing and Building Hotel Guest Relationships

The implication of conversational marketing might be to drive sales but its use now-a-days is more toward providing good customer service.  Uber’s Chris Messina coined the term conversational commerce and, simply put, it refers to the trend toward interaction between consumers and businesses through messaging apps, chat apps, and voice-activated technology. Consumer engagement can be through a human representative, chatbot or a fusion of the two.

For hotels it provides an excellent tool for hotel staff to automate customer service messages to guests. This increases hotel staff efficiency and provides a great guest experience. Hotels can interact with guests to quickly answer questions, resolve issues and provide personalized recommendations  – all in real-time and at the guests’ convenience.

 

conversational marketingIn the artificial intelligence market, there is now IBM’s Watson Technology. It’s essentially a supercomputer system that answers questions using natural human speech with filters for intent and context.  The likes of Facebook, Google and Microsoft have their own versions that are free within their platforms.

 

Facebook Messenger is now able to accept payments through chatbots that not only increase guest engagement but create the possibility to translate the conversation into booking transactions without ever leaving the application. This makes it easy and convenient because it means there is no jumping back and forth between website and text conversations. Reducing the number of sources hotel guests need to turn to will shorten the distance between a prospect and a booking.

 

Conversational Marketing and The Hotel Guest Journey

Regardless of how conversational marketing reaches you, guests want help, advice and direction while they work through their decision-making process. It should be an effortless process for your guests and gives a chance to establish a better rapport with your guests and prospective guests. A quick turn-around to questions/inquires, convenience and personal attention mean everything to your guests. So it’s vital to have the conversation stay natural – human – real.

 

Effective conversational commerce can successfully get your hotel to increase customer satisfaction and foster meaningful relationships. Hotel marketing strategies should carefully consider ways to provide a better customer experience by fusing with emerging technology that will help make those engagements turn into bookings.

Hotel Executive CEO Interview: Dj Vallauri

Human Powered Websites are the Future

CEO INTERVIEW: DJ VALLAURI, LODGING INTERACTIVE FOUNDER & CEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodging Interactive Offers Hotels All-Inclusive Digital Marketing Packages

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

 Hotel All Inclusive Digital Marketing Packages

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

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

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

Hospitality Digital Marketing

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

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

Hotel Digital Marketing Packages

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

For more information and to receive a price quote please visit Hotel All-Inclusive Digital Marketing Programs or call 877-291-4411ext 701.

About Lodging Interactive:

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

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

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

 

 

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The Best Hotel Marketing Strategy should include Chat Messaging

Chat messaging has become a useful tool in marketing strategies of the hospitality industry to meet growing consumer demand. The Economist reported 2.5 billion people worldwide had installed at least one messaging app and that number was expected to grow to 3.6 billion within a few years. A recent OpenMarket study this January found that 57% of mobile device users worldwide found the best way to communicate with hotels is via messaging.

Chat Messaging Makes Efficient Use of Hotel Resources

Where there is demand, hotel marketing professionals need to respond. Hoteliers are discovering the value of chat messaging apps with time and labor saving strategies of the hotel’s front desk staff as well as helping guests or potential guests make purchasing decisions.

But using chat messaging is not only making more efficient use of your hotel staff’s time. It also gives your hotel the means to ensure great customer service and increase both conversion rates and RFP submissions. Of course let’s not forget that chat messaging provides engagement opportunities. When you have engagement, you create loyalty and with loyalty come the opportunities to close business.

Human Powered Live Chat Messaging vs. Automated Chat Bots

As consumers we want instant gratification – getting answers to our questions/inquiries right away – and so it would be with people who contact your hotel. But who wants programmed answers from a chatbot? People prefer the human contact – it is more personal, warm and welcoming than an automated, cold bot!

The argument is that an automated chat bot could have algorithms set up so that basic questions – information about amenities, pricing etc. – are answered but what happens when the person contacting your hotel has specific needs or questions that an automated bot is not programmed to give? Would you want your answer to be “Sorry, I can’t understand. Please call the hotel at …..”?

The person might end up calling but now they use up the very resources the hotel was trying to get to work more efficiently. So using an automated bot defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Then not-to-mention there is the person’s building frustration when your the front desk clerk can’t provide a quick response either as they’re attending to other hotel guests.  “Hold please” is not an answer anyone wants to hear. Now your hotel has the potential of having this person just drop contacting your hotel altogether and move on to other choices.

The best solution for your hotel is the combination of both the technology and the human element. But regardless of whether you will have automated or human powered chat messaging, your hotel can expect chat messaging to grow more popular and that its presence will be around in the years ahead. Are you ready?

Guest Expectations: Hotel Customer Relations Challenge

In this digital age, use of social networks has become the new word-of-mouth communication channels amongst peers. Spreading the news about your hotel’s handling of customer relations may have a new delivery method but it can still make or break your hotel’s reputation – only now it is in cyber space and much more far reaching!

Whether your guests are Millennials, GenX or baby boomers, each group has different expectations from their hotel stay and want to be reached through different social channels.  This presents a challenge for hotels to provide exceptional customer service to the different demographics of each group.

 

Hotel Customer Relations

The string that binds hotels with these different groups is delivering high-quality customer service. What hotel wants to turn away bookings or future bookings? The answer is right in your hands! If guests perceive your hotel in a bad light, the ramifications of poor customer service will inevitably lead to a bad reputation and loss in sales. But you can turn this around by ensuring you listen to your guests needs, handle the issues – big or small – with speed, respect and graciousness.

eMarketer chart of people who have stopped doing business with companies due to poor customer relations

 

Going above and beyond to help make your guest’s experience a memorable one shows your hotel provides value to your guests so that they make the original booking and keep coming back again and again.  It all comes down to hotel customer relations with your guests. No matter the age, how well you treat your guest means great reviews, attracting potential guests and positively affecting your bottom line.

To be heard, one must first learn to listen

Listening to each group’s needs and wants is the key to providing great customer service. Who doesn’t want to feel special? Whether it’s the millennial looking for the next happening eatery or the baby boomer looking for a fun activity to share with their family, carefully listening to the expectations and feed back of each group is the best way to successfully manage them.

Provide the unique guest experience

When choosing a hotel, today’s guests want that special experience and the human-touch that makes them feel connected. If your hotel embraces the neighborhood, taking in every bit of the area and extending the uniqueness of your community out to guests, it would provide a personalized experience your guest will not forget.

Accommodate guest lifestyle preferences and expectations

There is a definite shift in preferences and expectations of today’s hotel guest. There is a service-oriented lifestyle together with the need to be engaged and entertained.  There is a desire for the human-to-human factor that makes a guest hotel stay comforting and welcoming. The saying goes home is where the heart is. Make your guests love their hotel stay by showing them your hotel is not traditional and stagnant but is warm and inviting. It is the relationship you build with your guests that will make your hotel be the “it” place to be.

In the end, the best way to handle guest expectations, no matter the demographics, is ensure you provide the best quality customer service. Your hotel will become the destination point that provides the personal, authentic experience today’s hotel guest expects and craves. Hotel marketers need to be mindful of this and adapt hotel marketing strategies to meet the challenge.