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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.