Forget Loyalty Programs: Customer Service Matters Most to Travelers

Most hotels and resorts offer some sort of loyalty program, allowing guests to accrue points based on stays and purchases that they can later use for free or discounted bookings. Publix’s BOGOs are great, after all; why not set up something similar for hotels?

 

While many guests are avid users of your hotel’s rewards program, they’re likely avid users of your competitors’ rewards programs, too. It’s almost a guarantee, after all, that almost all of your competitors will have their own similar programs in place.

 

Think with Google recently conducted a study  to find what matters most to high value travelers and see which factors will affect where they choose to stay. Loyalty programs were a factor, but not a major one, ranking fourth on the list of considerations that high value travelers focused on.

 

So what was the number one factor that guests took into consideration when choosing where to stay?

 

Customer service.

 

Why Customer Service Comes in First

Many hotels may automatically assume that if their loyalty program is superior to their competitors, that’s all it will take to create true loyalty, but we already know that isn’t the case. So why is customer service so important?

 

Image source: Think with Google

 

There’s several answers to this. The most obvious is that the market is now saturated with loyalty programs that are all so similar that they’re no longer unique; they’re almost expected in many cases. Customer service has become the true differentiator.

 

Excellent customer service will also directly impact a guest’s entire experience with you, from the pre-booking research all the way to the checkout and beyond. It will be the difference between whether they struggle (or fail) to book a reservation with you, get the accommodations they need, and have a positive experience, or whether they walk away dissatisfied (or worse).

 

How quickly and personably you can resolve any concerns will be what sways them, because when it comes to where they’re staying, they need to know they’re in good hands. Strong customer service builds trust, and trust can begin to foster true brand loyalty.

 

Meanwhile, loyalty programs don’t actually impact a guest’s experience at all; it just affects their wallet. And since only 21% of most high value travelers— the kind you really want to get on board– will sacrifice comfort for a lower cost, those savings only amount to so much when they can find something similar elsewhere.

How You Can Offer Exceptional Customer Service to Every Guest

While it goes without saying that being warm and accommodating in person is an important part of customer service, true customer excellence needs to start long before they show up at the check-in desk with their bags in hand.

 

Every guest– and every potential guest– not only expects but demandstop of the line customer service at every turn, and if they don’t see it from the get-go then you’ve already lost their booking. And in today’s world, that means focusing on your website’s online communication with guests.

 

More and more guests prefer to find questions about a potential booking online, whether that’s through your site’s information or through a live chat service. They want the information fast, and they want it without a big hassle or having to wait on hold or go through an automated phone system.

 

It’s no surprise, therefore, that while customer service was the first priority for guests when considering where to book, an easy-to-use website came in at second place. The two now go hand-in-hand for many guests, so in order to deliver outstanding customer care, you need to do so in the communication of their choosing. That means improving your live chat services immediately if you haven’t already.

 

Live Chat for Hotels & Resorts: No Longer Optional

The writing is on the wall here, and with websites and customer service both valued so highly by high-value, high-spending travelers, you can’t afford to skimp out on live chat for your site.

 

And when we say live chat, we’re not talking about robotic, badly-programmed chatbots. We’re not even talking about chatbots that have been programmed really well, because customers don’t want to go through anykind of automated process; they want to be put in touch with an actual human representative who they feel cares about them and can help them immediately. No chatbot can offer the kind of personalized help and attention that high value guests have come to expect, so they’ll let you down in the long run.

 

Instead, human-to-human live chat through your site is the only way to go. While it may sound like a lot to tackle, it doesn’t have to be.

 

CoMMingle Live Chat, for example, offers full, 24/7 live chat management for hotels and resorts so we can pick up the slack while you focus on the guests who are actively staying with you. Potential guests will receive immediate responses from real, highly trained representatives who all have experience in the hospitality industry and will learn the in’s and out’s of your specific hotel to deliver personalized customer service just like you would.

 

Whether you invest in a service like CoMMingle or take on the process yourself, immediate-response live chat isn’t so much a great option as it is a necessary one. It will only become more important moving forward, so stay ahead of your competition and adapt now if you haven’t already. Your loyalty programs, after all, can apparently only help you so much, so it’s best to make investments where they’ll matter post: the actual experience of the guests themselves.

Live chat for hotels.

Lodging Interactive Launches Next Generation ADA Conforming Websites for Hotels

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced its next generation, ADA conforming websites for hotels. Lodging Interactive’s “next-gen” websites include a unique mix of technology and management services designed to drive maximum direct bookings for hotels while staying in compliance with ADA guidelines as they continue to evolve.

“Our next-gen hotel websites leverage the latest website design and development technologies combined with our full-service website management model,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & CEO. “Today’s hotel website needs to tell the property’s visual story while being technologically advanced to ensure a mobile-first user experience and conform to all ADA WCAG 2.0 Guidelines; in addition, it needs to load very quickly for users.”

While many digital marketing agencies provide hotel website design services, only Lodging Interactive can offer a fully managed hotel website, digital & social media marketing to support the website and fully managed human live chat services 7 days a week.

Success Factors for The Modern Hotel Website.

Open Source Development and No Proprietary Content Management System (CMS).

Lodging Interactive designs and develops visually stunning hotel websites using Internet Open Source technologies. This enables the highest level of design flexibility while maximizing the hotel website’s search engine optimization (SEO) and the fastest page loading speeds. “Most digital agencies insist hotel websites be developed and managed through their proprietary CMS. While this ensures the hotel is “locked-up” with the agency for many years (good for the agency), it ‘handicaps’ the property in other areas such as page loading speed, design constraints, ADA conformity and SEO,” added Mr. Vallauri.

Fully Managed, Professional Webmaster Services.

Being able to ‘manage’ your hotel’s website changes yourself, sounds really good during the agency sales process and offers the illusion of the property being in total control of its website.  Yet reality has shown quite the opposite is true. Being able to manage your own website changes, means your website will have a CMS (see point above). Sure, with the proper training you’ll be able to change simple text images and in some cases the images on a page, butadding pages, modifying menu items, managing SEO components and maintaining ADA conformance won’t be possible. For that you’ll need to budget additional development dollars.

ADA Conforming Website Design.

Ensuring your hotel website is ADA conforming and meets all WCAG guidelines is not only good business practice it will avoid legal demand letters and potential lawsuits.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, often abbreviated to WCAG, are a series of guidelines for improving web accessibility. Produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the WCAG are the best means of making your website useful to all of your users.  Every new website Lodging Interactive designs and builds meets all WCAG 2.0 guidelines and positions our hotel clients with a path towards compliance with the ADA laws governing websites.

Ongoing ADA Conformance Checking & Maintenance.

The modern hotel website is always changing, new content is added weekly and at times new content will present ADA conforming issues that will need to be addressed.  An example of this, is the uploading of a non-conforming PDF document. In order to safeguard our customers, Lodging Interactive runs monthly ADA conforming checks to ensure the hotel website remains within the ADA conforming guidelines. Should any issues arise, our team will fix the issues and continue to monitor for potential future issues. “ADA legal action against hotel websites that are not in compliance with the current WCAG 2.0 guidelines continues to increase and hoteliers should understand that adhering to future ADA website laws will be necessary and should budget accordingly,” said Mr. Vallauri.

Human Powered Website Live Chat Provided 7 Days a Week.

Customer service is the ‘new marketing’ and hotel websites can differentiate themselves by offering their website visitors real-time, human powered, live chat services. Not only is live chat a great customer service differentiator it provides real value to potential guests visiting your website and has proven to increase group and wedding RFP submissions. “Conversational commerce happens when you move your hotel’s website experience from a ‘self-service’ model and start to provide real-time support,” stated DJ Vallauri.

For more information on Lodging Interactive’s next generation ADA conforming websites for hotels, please call 877-291-4411 ext. 704 or visit LodgingInteractive.com.

About Lodging Interactive

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

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

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

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

Messaging Apps as Ubiquitous as Booking Engines for Hotel Websites

Live chat for hotels.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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.