Hotel Live Chat Instant Gratification Wins Every Time

PARSIPPANY, NJ – June 20, 2018– There’s a lot of debate about the best way to handle the huge influx of guest messages happening through private message and live chat platforms.

 

Should we be using more automation? More resources in house? More outsourcing?

 

There are a number of different services and solutions out there– not all of which are created equal– but there’s one thing that everyone agrees on: Answering customer messages quickly and thoroughly is essential. And by fast, we mean lightningfast.

 

Chief of Marketing of Booking.com Pepijn Rijvers put it perfectly when he recently stated that a slow response or no response to a private message “basically means ‘I don’t count’” from a guest’s perspective.

 

He’s absolutely right. It’s trivial and it’s maybe a little impulsive, but we live in a world where instant gratification is expected. Getting a response in ten seconds or less is no longer a sign of exceptional customer care; it’s a requirementof decent customer service, period. This puts more strain on businesses, especially those heavy in one-on-one customer interaction like hotels or resorts.

 

So what can we do about it?

 

Live Chat Expectations: The Solutions

When it comes to managing the demands of live chat messaging, there are a few common approaches.

 

Some prefer to hire multi-person, in-house teams to handle the messages. These teams become expensive to staff, train, and maintain. You either have to worry about increased pay rates for holidays and graveyard shifts, or not offer that availability to guests who may need urgent attention during those times.

 

Others, like Booking.com, opt to utilize chatbots and automate more of the process. While chatbots can help to cut down on costs and improve automation, they also lack a personal touch and are incapable of resolving guest concerns or questions in a personalized way that can provide exceptional service. For some industries that may be ok, but not for those with the high level of personalized assistance that guests need while interacting with hotels, resorts, or other businesses in the hospitality industry.

 

I agree with Rijvers earlier assessment about the importance of not only live chat but exceptionally fast live chat. I also agree with the statements that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are becoming even more important platforms for customer service. That being said, I disagree with the fact that it’s too difficult or impossible to provide fast and thorough responses without the use of chatbots, especially for hotels at a larger scale.

 

Here’s what he had to say:

“If you’re a hotel with 100 rooms you’re not going to manually respond to every message 24/7 even though you may have 150 check-ins a day that are all asking questions. You already have two staff on board that are going to do this. So you need to both enhance the customer experience and deliver services, faster and cheaper. This can be done though automation and it is better to start investing now.”

Automation is great. It’s convenient, and sure, it’s relatively cheap. But it’s not always the most effective, especially when you have large numbers of unique and personalized requests from guests that truly do require one-on-one personalization.

Why Human-to-Human Interaction Will Always Be Best

Guests would much rather know that a real person who cares about them and understands their problem in a way a robot never could is going to get that answer to their question or resolve their problem. If they don’t feel like you can offer that, they might turn to your competition who can.

Human-to-human interaction is always the right choice when it comes to investing in your guests, because they won’t care about you if you don’t care about them. An actual, trained customer service representative will be able to assess situations and address customer concerns with a personalized solution based on the guest and their specific needs.

One guest who asks for a room with a kitchen, for example, might just want a mini-fridge and a microwave; others might expect a stove, counter space, and pots and pans. The former might not be willing to pay for a full-on kitchen, while the latter may have medically-required dietary restraints that necessitates the stove and preparation ability, so they can make their own food.

Similarly, not all guest complaints are equal, so solutions can’t just be automated. Someone who had a light flickering isn’t going to need the same level of compensation as a guest whose AC went out in the Bahamas in July and gave Grandma heatstroke. Robots might offer the same solution for each of these guests, which is a disservice to both of them and to your business.

It’s also worth noting that guests can tell when they’re talking to a chatbot and they may not be happy about it. Chatbots have that painful association of long navigation menus you get while calling your insurance company; you get ten options in, and you’re still asked to hold for an operator because the system couldn’t figure out what you wanted. This doesn’t exactly bode well for guests who are demanding instant gratification and outstanding customer support.

So Is an In-House Team My Only Option

While some hotels and resorts opt to hire staff, whose sole purpose is to answer guest live chat messages, this isn’t the most practical option. We recommend outsourcing.

 

CoMMingle offers a live chat service designed specifically to help hotels and resorts handle the flood of live messages coming from multiple platforms online. All of our U.S. agents are trained in customer service excellence, and we’ll be able to answer all of your incoming messages in real-time. We’ll keep costs down and profits up, giving you the solution you need so you can keep running your business and keep guests happy.

 

Chatbots, after all, can be a big investment. We’d rather you invest in your guests instead, prioritizing people over automation and giving every guest the best experience possible with personalized attention and care.

 

 

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.

VIDEO: Freedom For Hotels

We just rolled out our new Freedom For Hotels explainer video.  You can check it out below.

Freedom For Hotels is truly a game changer for our industry.  Check out the key features:

  • NO long term contracts.
  • NO proprietary technologies.
  • Unlimited website changes made for you at no charge.
  • $5,000 website design credit every 2 years.

For more information, please click on the contact link.

Top 5 reasons your hotel website shouldn’t have a proprietary Content Management System

Top 5 reasons your hotel website shouldn’t have a proprietary Content Management System

Number 1:

You’re not really in control of your website – your agency is. Your website will not operate without the proprietary CMS on the back end.

Number 2:

You cannot take your website with you should you decide to switch agencies.

Number 3:

You will be forced to pay “CMS upgrade fees” or continue with an outdated and unsupported CMS.

Number 4:

Should you decide to switch agencies, you may be forced to pay a “CMS conversion fee” to enable your site to work without the CMS.  Check your contract, you might have already agreed to this.

Number 5:

Proprietary CMS’s are clearly a tactic to “lock” your hotel into a multi-year agreement with the agency.  Some are even offering to amortize the cost of their proprietary CMS over a 3 year period…how considerate of them.

#AskDJV Episode 31: Hotels can learn from Apple Customer Service

This week’s #AskDJV Episode 31 is a bit unconventional in the fact that DJ Vallauri talks about his recent customer service experience with Apple Computers.  How does this relate to the hospitality industry, you might wonder?  Read on for more insights into customer service.

 

Hotel Customer Service

Recently, DJ went into the Apple computer store to purchase the Apple Watch.  While the Apple team was pitching him about the watch and explaining all the features and advantages, DJ explained to them that he had purchased another Apple product 30 days ago and that he wasn’t very satisfied with the product.  He knew that it was past Apple’s usually 14 day return policy, but he expressed his concerns anyway.

Customer Satisfaction

Sometimes, it isn’t all about you (the hotel hearing the complaint), it is all about your hotel guest and how they feel, what they want and overcoming their objections (or in this case, DJ’s dissatisfaction with a previous Apple product).  You want to do this in a timely fashion, but more importantly, you want your guest to feel like they matter to you.  The ultimate customer satisfaction comes with a positive review and re-booking your hotel.

Quality Customer Service

The way to provide quality hotel customer service is to listen to your guests, ask their opinions, and find ways to make their experience at your hotel even better than they anticipated.  Every hotel has something special that resonates with their guests.  Look for more ways to improve the quality of your customer service, similar to the way Apple did with DJ.

Check back for next week’s episode of #AskDJV.  We look forward to seeing you!

#AskDJV – Episode 18: Is Your Hotel Using Meerkat Streaming Video to Increase Bookings?

On this week’s episode of the #AskDJV Show, I am talking about emerging technologies and Meerkat, a new application that will help humanize your hotel.

*Update: Emerging technologies change quickly! Between shooting the latest episode and sharing it with you Twitter cut off Meerkat‘s ability to access its social graph, but Meerkat released an update that added a number of new features including search functionality.*

Want more #AskDJV? Visit our website to view all of the episodes we’ve posted.

You can also check back here each Friday for the latest episode.

Do you have a question for me?

Tweet me @DJVallauri using the hashtag #AskDJV, and your question could be featured on the show!

Thanks for watching!

 

Social Customer Care IRL: JetBlue Uses Social Media for Customer Service, Marketing and All-Around Good

Ann Handley TweetAnn Handley, Author and Chef Content Office at MarketingProf, recently penned an article about leaving a signed copy of her latest read, Show Your Work, on a JetBlue plane after a flight to Philadelphia.

Spoiler alert: She is reunited with said book.

Why does this matter?

Well, Handley details the events that led to getting her book back and the story is one that should serve as an example to businesses on social media.

(Hint: It all started with a tweet, venting her frustration about losing her Austin Kleon’s book.)

What we love about the post is Handley’s analysis of how JetBlue’s use social media, and social media as a whole, is no longer just a marketing or just customer service tool, but really both.

The biggest take away, though, has to be the basic yet essential sentiment every business on social media — especially those in the travel industry –  should know and live by in order to extend the type of customer care their consumers (and the general public) want and need. And that is:

“Make social the central nervous system, not just the face.”

With the increasing use of social media as the front line of customer service, the division between social media as a marketing tool and your business’s customer service department no longer exists. Social media has become the way millennials, travelers, and connected individuals alike wish to reach out to share their praise, questions, like or dislike for your company, product or service. To survive, and in order to ever thrive, businesses need to be tuned into these conversations at all times, on all levels in order to deliver a high caliber of customer service satisfaction and maintain a positive online reputation to match.

Give Handley’s article a read here.

What resonates with you from her article? Does it change your company’s approach to social?

Need Help Replying to Online Reviews?

In addition to monitoring online chatter, CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive quickly replies to guest comments on each hotel’s behalf to better manage its online reputation


PARSIPPANY, NJ , November 13, 2013 – In today’s hospitality climate, it is very important that hoteliers monitor what people are saying about their properties online and in social media. Monitoring one’s online reputation is just the first step to a maintaining a stellar image. According to CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive, a social media marketing and engagement agency that develops customized solutions for hotels, restaurants and spas, the missing piece to the reputation-management puzzle is responding to the negative and positive guest reviews.

Recent studies confirm that 95 percent of unhappy customers will return if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently. But with an abundance of social media websites, blogs, podcasts, news sites, video sites, and more, it’s nearly impossible for hoteliers to effectively monitor the chatter on their own, let alone respond to each review. The best way to truly manage a hotel’s online reputation is by partnering with a full-service agency that offers both monitoring and response services.

“Hotels have an abundance of loyal, happy guests who don’t feel the need to review the property online, but if they do review a property, a response acknowledges their loyalty and creates a social influencer,” said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. “Meanwhile, a few dissatisfied guests are willing to voice their experience on TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, or any other review forum they can find online. Because those sites have leverage with the major search engines, influencing the sentiment of the reviews will impact the perception of the property on a search results page. Happy guests or dissatisfied guests, they all play a part in a hotel’s online reputation. Hoteliers no longer control the perception of the property; that is in the hands of guests. But hoteliers can influence that perception.”

A new study reveals that 53 percent of consumers expect a brand to respond to a tweet within an hour. When asked how quickly a response is expected from a brand on Twitter, 65 percent of the survey participants said they want a response in two hours time or less, with 20 percent expecting a response in 30 minutes or less. The study found brands that respond to tweets in a timely manner garner more favorable reactions from consumers, with 47 percent of respondents more likely to recommend the brand through social media and 34 percent likely to buy more products from the brand. Sixty percent claimed they were more likely to take a negative action toward brands that did not respond to tweets in an acceptable time period.

“Unlike other services that only provide alerts when someone makes an online comment about the hotel, CoMMingle provides timely responses back to the original posting – providing a true social media monitoring and online reputation management service,” Virdo said. “CoMMingle will work with hotels to PLAN their social media strategies. Then we will assist hotels to SOCIALIZE with customers, managing and monitoring their Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Next, we help hoteliers INFLUENCE their online reputations by writing management responses on TripAdvisor and other review sites. The hotel approves the response, and the CoMMingle team takes care of the post. Finally, CoMMingle provides analytics to help each hotel MEASURE results of each campaign.”

To put the PLAN + SOCIALIZE + ENGAGE + MEASURE = ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT plan into action today, call CoMMingle at 877-291-4411 or visit www.commingle.me.

 

Lodging Interactive Earns ‘Travel Weekly’ Gold Magellan Award

Lodging Interactive, a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, has once again earned a coveted Magellan Award from Travel Weekly in the Hospitality Website Category. This year, the company was selected as a 2013 Gold Magellan Award Winner for its "outstanding" design and development work for Green Mountain Inn.

"Once again being selected as a Magellan Award Winner is an important accomplishment because it proves to our customers that we represent a high standard of excellence within the travel industry," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive founder and president.  "While our competitors make claims to being the 'best' our award-winning track records speaks for itself. By earning this Gold Magellan Award, Travel Weekly is saying that 'Lodging Interactive is among the best in the travel industry.' We couldn't be more proud."

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has provided more than 650 hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in more than 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online marketing services, including: website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. The full-service agency also has developed website management tools for optimizing search, maximizing bookings and protecting each hotel's online reputation.

Since January, Lodging Interactive has added the following tools and programs to enhance its services portfolio:'

· Gift Hotel – A service that enables properties to create gift card listings on www.GiftHotel.com and receive qualified sales directly to their websites where transactions are processed. There are no commissions to pay or revenues to share.

· eNewsletter Service – A fully managed program that includes professional copywriting, creative design, email list management, distribution and analytics reporting. 

· Facebook Widget – An addition to its popular online Guest Review System, Lodging Interactive's new Facebook Widget links comments from the hotel's website to its Facebook page in real time. The tool enables potential guests to read guest reviews on Facebook and enables past guests to leave reviews directly on Facebook. 

· HotelFAQs – A tool that enables hotel websites to offer comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) pages.  The results are increased booking conversion rates, reduced customer calls to the front desk and exceptional online customer service.

Green Mountain Embracing Digital Marketing

In addition to website design, Green Mountain Inn, located at 18 Main Street in Stowe, Vermont, has turned to Lodging Interactive for expanded SEO and pay-per-click services to enhance the efficiencies of its award-winning website. The historic property, built in 1833, also relies on CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive, an engagement and social media marketing agency, to help grow its social media presence and protect its online reputation through consumer sentiment monitoring and more. Green Mountain Inn also utilizes Lodging Interactive's eNewsletter service to send a consistent message from the hotel to its email list.

"Lodging Interactive does much more than build hotel websites," Vallauri said. "We are a company committed to full-service digital marketing and social media engagement. Keeping website and mobile web content fresh is just the first step to hotel success in today's digital media age. Scrutinizing the property's reputation via the web and social media channels and responding to guest reviews is critical for operational success and true customer-relationship management. Adding in supplemental services that also help to increase revenues, provide analytics and keep travelers connected to the hotel and to each other across the social media channels is a value-added bonus. More than ever before, hoteliers can count on Lodging Interactive to provide consistency of managed services across the board for all their managed digital marketing needs.

"For Lodging Interactive, consistently winning awards is pretty nice too," he said. "I would like to thank our talented team of web experts for their ongoing hard work and dedication to keeping the websites of our hotel customers fresh and engaging."

 

Lodging Interactive Teams with InnLink to Offer Booking Engine, GDS/OTA Connectivity

Hotels using Lodging Interactive for online marketing services, including website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management, can now benefit from the industry-leading InnLink Central Reservation System powered by Travlynx. Through this integration partnership, Lodging Interactive has added a booking engine and connectivity to the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and Online Travel Agents (OTA) to its long list of award-winning, interactive and social media marketing services.

InnLink, powered by TravLynx CRS technology, has been delivering comprehensive reservations and revenue management solutions with award-winning customer service in the hospitality and travel industries for more than 20 years. The company powers more than 6,000 independent hotels, chain properties, resorts and destinations worldwide. Lodging Interactive is comprised of a team of more than 50 highly skilled web experts. Since 2001, the company has provided more than 650 hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in more than 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online marketing services.

"Lodging Interactive continues to go above and beyond its full-service web design and management services by partnering with the industry's best-of-breed solutions providers with whom we have uncanny synergies," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "InnLink was created for hoteliers, by hoteliers, as a way to deliver easy-to-use, intuitive management tools to hotels that have limited resources or that desire competitive support in their local market. Likewise, Lodging Interactive was formed to assist hotel operators who are struggling with finding the internal resources needed to implement online marketing strategies, manage social networks and establish effective social media marketing campaigns.

"Together, Lodging Interactive and TravLynx are leveraging their years of expertise to deliver the best possible results for our customers, including maximizing incremental net revenues and increasing visibility for mid-tier, limited-service hotel chains and independent properties," Vallauri said. "Our customers benefit by receiving an abundance of proven services, from seamless connectivity via InnLink to the GDSs and placement with the OTAs, to easy-to-use and understand analytics and a full-service call center based exclusively in the United States."

Kristin Intress, CEO of InnLink, said customers too will see immediate benefits from enlisting Lodging Interactive's expertise.

"Through this partnership, our customers have direct access to expert hotel marketing services that deliver results and win awards," Intress said. "Not only will Lodging Interactive's website design and management services be extended to TravLynx users, but customers will also benefit from expanded services, including website audits, website hosting and server management, a robust content management system, an optional Guest Review System, lead capture and reporting, social media analytics, social network engagement, mobile website development and more.

"Like Lodging Interactive, we only partner with the best," she said. "We are thrilled to be adding more services to drive net reservation revenue for our clients via Lodging Interactive; true leaders in their field and a good match for InnLink."

InnLink provides Lodging Interactive customers with access to:

• Seamless connectivity to the Global Distribution Systems (GDSs)
• Improved placement with the Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
• Direct Connect, Net Rate and Merchant model programs
• Fully customizable booking engine with easy to use/understand analytics
• Complete integration of packages and up sells to increase ADR and RevPAR
• Mobile booking engine through smartphones and social media (Facebook)
• Personalized, full-service call center based exclusively in the U.S.
• Group and Tour Reservation Desk with no additional fees
• Independent and after hours/overflow answering
• 24/7/365 reservation services

Via Lodging Interactive, InnLink customers, and those using any of the InnLink solutions, can receive:

• Website Design and Management
• Social Media Marketing
• Reputation Management
• Guest Review System
• Email newsletter marketing
• Video production
• Hotel gift certificates marketing
• Full advertising agency services
• Measurement and accountability services

Hoteliers Take Control Of Guest Reviews For Less Than $65 Per Month

In a recent Wall Street Journal Article titled "Big Flaws in Hotel Rankings," it was said that "influencing reviews and ratings is a time-honored tradition in the hotel and restaurant industries." After about five years of printing reader letters about hotels in the 1960s, travel-guidebook legend Arthur Frommer said he realized that hotels were writing letters about themselves. "Hotels are so dependent on reviews that of course they will generate their own," Frommer said. "They would be crazy not to." As for online reviews, which have replaced guidebooks for many travelers, Mr. Frommer has disdain. "It's a vast buzzing, blooming confusion."

Lodging Interactive, an interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, has designed a way to remove this "blooming confusion" from the "buzzing," online marketing/social media equation. The company's Guest Review System sits on a hotel's proprietary website and enables travelers to post comments and score their hotel experiences based on service attributes. Hotel managers receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up, eliminating delays in addressing concerns and turning potential problems into new opportunities.

"The impact that guest review sites are having today on consumers buying decisions is off the charts — just look at the rapid growth of TripAdvisor and its competitors Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotels.com," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "The rise in review-site popularity — and their associated challenges — has spurred some of the large brands, such as Starwood and Marriott, to migrate the review process to their proprietary websites. This is good for the industry overall. With the brands leading the way, soon hotels of all sizes and across all segments will follow suit, leveling the playing field for hotels worldwide and making the industry more competitive and more in control of their reputations. Hotels that want to jump on the bandwagon but don't know how or where to start, can easily and affordably turn to Lodging Interactive."

All that is required for a hotel to get up-and-running is a snippet of code attached to their Website. Once initiated, hotels can immediately begin collecting real-time reviews on their own websites and respond to customer concerns in real time. This empowers hoteliers to interact personally with valued customers. When guests take the time to post their experiences, their time, effort and patronage should be recognized and rewarded with an immediate reply. The Guest Review System alerts management in real time when reviews are posted. This ensures that there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property.

"Third-party review sites do have merit when they make interaction between the reviewer and hotel possible — but that's not often the case," Vallauri said. "As hotels strive to deliver the ultimate customer service today, adding a proprietary Guest Review System raises the bar for service delivery and gives operators the ability to really sell their hotels. With direct bookings on a continual climb industrywide, adding this service to the hotel's website is the next evolution in website optimization and improved customer relations."

As an added benefit of the Guest Review System, travelers are encouraged to share their reviews on Facebook with their network of friends. Hotels are notified in real-time of new guest reviews and have the ability to validate guest stay information before reviews are posted on their website.

FREE GRS Trial
Lodging Interactive is offering a free trial of its Guest Review System. There is no contract to sign and hotels can cancel anytime. When the trial concludes, hotels can maintain the service for about $60 per month with no long-term agreements and the ability to cancel at any time.