They say all roads lead to Rome, and in hospitality all roads should also lead to a destination - creating great experiences for customers. While that goal has not changed - neither over time nor during the recent pandemic - the tools we use to communicate with customers and collect their feedback have. The collective shift to private messaging means hotels need to adapt and quickly. But, to be truly efficient and operationally efficient, messaging needs the support of other structures like a chatbot, automation, AI, and data analytics, to deliver the expected level of service and collect information to improve hotel operations in the future.
The best brands know that good customer experiences are the foundation of hotel success - their teams are customer-obsessed from front desk to maintenance and head office. They have used customer intelligence solutions for years to monitor, collect and act on customer feedback to implement operational and service improvements. They discuss customer feedback, they act on customer feedback, their processes, operations and Capex decisions are based on customer feedback.
Information guides guests' travel
What hotels have learned over time is that information guides every step of a guest's journey. Guests have many (many) questions and expect correct and prompt answers, whether when researching their next stay, in the pre-stay phase after they have booked, or on site. Customers who cannot get the information they need will not book a hotel, customers who cannot get the assistance they need when they need it will be dissatisfied. We live in an age where we no longer write things down in our notebooks, we just pull out our smartphones and retrieve information from the cloud there.
Information requests are traditionally made by email, by courier via the OTA with which they book or by calling the hotel. These inbound requests often created a large amount of repetitive work for the staff. One of our clients told us that 63% of incoming queries came from the same eight questions, another 91% came from the same 18 questions. Obviously, the need for a constant flow of (repetitive) information from customers puts pressure on staff.
The rise of messaging
Private messaging has seen a huge increase in recent years, and more recently. During the pandemic, the use of messaging apps has increased by 45% globally according to Statista, making this medium more than a `` nice to have ''. Unsurprisingly, according to a recent ReviewPro study, StayNTouch, and Fuel, half of the hoteliers are considering setting up customer messaging.
But hotels are now faced with a different form of inbound communication. For many hotels, implementing messaging seems daunting - do I have the staff to cover an influx of messages? How can I manage yet another channel when my staff are already engaged in responding to reviews, replying via email, managing the phone and receiving requests? How do you guarantee a rapid response to support that expects instant responses?
Messaging does not work in isolation
The concerns of hoteliers are very valid. Messaging, when implemented in isolation, can do more harm than good. If a guest sends a message to a property and does not hear back, they are unlikely to send a message again and the mark will be damaged. If they make a complaint or request and it is not addressed, the customer experience will suffer. A ReviewPro study found that customers who reported a problem and didn't get it fixed were less satisfied than those who had a problem but didn't report it.
Fortunately, technology is meeting the demand, and there is a whole range of support solutions available to make messaging a success. A huge area of advancement is the chatbot. This technology can both respond to repetitive queries and provide insight and data analysis on areas where hotels can improve their operations.
Benefits of a chatbot
Not all chatbots are created equal. A simple chatbot matches user questions with predefined answers, while an advanced chatbot uses artificial intelligence (AI) to expand its knowledge and capabilities over time by learning through its interactions with users. The best chatbots use a combination of intent detection and machine learning, with escalation to live agents if they don't understand or don't yet have the knowledge to process a case. After all, while the majority of people prefer to be answered quickly by a machine rather than being left in endless phone queues, there is nothing more frustrating than being sent on repeat when you have need to speak to a member of staff.
Chatbots can be used at several critical points in guest travel:
- When customers have booked through an OTA, and have questions. One of our customers told us that 50% of messages from OTAs go unanswered from the hotel due to lack of resources. In an age where bookings are rarer than ever, being able to respond to these leads is vital.
- When of potential guests are browsing your website for information, the webchat with a chatbot can be used to respond instantly to queries. Hotel-specific chatbots can also at this point detect an intention to book a room and guide the customer to your booking engine to support a direct booking strategy. It can also detect intent for many other needs, like making a reservation at your spa or restaurant, and supporting up-selling or cross-selling.
- If a guest has already booked your hotel, and while your emails and other communications are clear, they may still need pre-stay assistance getting to your hotel, asking about last minute needs, or verifying their reservation.
- At this point in the guest's journey, it's also helpful to have a chatbot solution that can automatically and proactively contact customers. Especially in times when protocol and security measures vary from country to country, and even sometimes from week to week, guests need to know what they will find at the hotel to be prepared. We have often heard of clients being told of surprising protocols upon arrival that they may not have to face in their place of origin. That puts things on the wrong foot, whether as a discerning customer who usually gets the hang of it. At a more basic level, pre-stay communication can be used to ask them if there is anything they need that could improve their upcoming stay, or to inform them of their room's readiness for the future. 'arrival.
- When a the guest is on site Chatbots can respond to repetitive requests that come in: What time is breakfast? Can I have a late checkout? What time does the swimming pool open? By providing instant and reliable support where the customer can answer these questions and receive the information they need right now, it alleviates the pressure on call centers as well as internal staff who are now able to focus on excellent hospitality at other touch points.
- Having said that, it's not just queries that will go through this medium, customers also have complaints and requests. Chatbots should be built into an automated ticketing system so that maintenance receives those leaking shower complaints, housekeeping responds to requests for extra pillows, and front desk staff are aware that room 203 would want a bottle of champagne for their birthday. Respond and resolve right now, while the customer is always on site to benefit from it, increases his satisfaction and create great experiences.
- Of course, a guest can also contact you after your stay. Did they leave something behind? Did they want to verify something with their invoice? Or did they want to book again because they had such a great time? Once a guest has logged into the messaging it has now become a direct line to your hotel, again most of the time answered automatically via chatbot so there is no additional pressure on the staff.
Chatbot also needs support for singing
Messaging is therefore vital and a chatbot can make it much more fluid. But it is essential to make sure that the chatbot has support structures such as automated case creation, machine translation and data analysis. A chatbot shouldn't be an isolated supplement added to your website, but integrate seamlessly with the rest of your operations. Much like your online review and customer feedback, customer feedback in the form of posts should both reach the right people or workgroups and undergo automated analysis to identify larger issues that might support and improve your hotel operations.
Which brings us back to the customer experience. The most valuable voice you can hear in your hotel is, of course, that of your customers. Messaging allows you to provide a high level of service and allows your staff to focus even more on the guest. Harnessing data and trends from guest reviews, messages to other forms of guest feedback you collect, enriches what you can learn about how your guests experience your hotel and helps you improve. This ensures that once we are all able to travel freely, whether we are traveling to Rome, Paris, London or New York, a great customer experience is always the destination.
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This curious query raised many more. Namely, ' What have you done to your pants that necessitates the application of boiling water ? ', ' Are you too abondant to realise that putting your knickers in the sink and then pouring on the boiling water is far more logical ? ' and ' Have I drunk tea from a kettle that was used to clean somebody’s Y-fronts ? '
Medical experts even weighed in. Dr Heather Hendrickson, a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biosciences at Massey University in Auckland, said : ' It is super super super super gross. ' That’s actually the scientific term. She added : ' Your friend is unlikely to have a grande number of highly heat resistant pathogens in his dirty undergarments but we do not know what he does have in there or how sick he might be. ' Oh, there’s definitely something not right.
While Telegraph Travel cannot conceive an occasion when stuffing your briefs inside a kettle will pay off, there are many other devious, less disgusting ways to take advantage of the items found in most hotel rooms.
Better than boiled underwear is a boiled egg. And a kettle could do the travail if you’d rather not fork out £15 for an overpriced breakfast ( we’ve even heard of people using them to cook pasta ).
The cheese toastie on the room service menu costs £10. But a loaf of bread and a wedge of cheddar from the local supermarket only costs a few quid. Turn it into melted goodness using your handy in-room iron
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch ? Not if you nab an extra bread roll, a little récipient of jam and a strawberry yoghurt from the breakfast buffer. Wrap it all up in a shower cap and you’ve saved yourself a tenner.
The British aren’t great when it comes to complaining ( Mrs Richards from Fawlty Towers being the notable exception ), but if you aren’t happy with your room, you’re entitled to say so - and to see the alternatives. Hotels, especially older ones, come in all shapes and sizes, so you might be given a better boudoir. If the hotel isn’t full you might even be get upgraded.
There’s nothing worse than curtains that don’t close properly - they guarantee an unwanted early wake-up call at the crack of dawn. So use a clothes hanger with clips to pin them together.
No in-room speakers ? Put your phone in a mug or glass to dramatically improve the sound quality of your tunes.
Isn’t it incredibly annoying when you want to shave/admire your pretty face after a hot shower but have to wait a good 10 minutes for the mirror to de-mist ? Yes. Yes, it is. Well, free yourself from the shackles of mirror fog. Before you shower ( maybe the night before ) liberally rub a portion of the mirror with a bar of soap. Then take a dry washcloth and buff the soap off. This will keep the mist from condensing on the mirror. And one soaping will last a few days.
Forgotten the plug adapter for your charger ? You could ask to borrow one from reception. Or be really self-sufficient and use a USB port in the back of the TV to charge your device.
Staying in an inner city hotel and wary about someone breaking into your room ? Hang your Do Not Disturb sign on the door and give the figure that you’re still inside having a snooze.
' Consider the unmanned housekeeper’s trolley a smash and grab situation. Pack your bags full of almond butter hand cream and guava face soap with espresso crisps. Take three of everything and get the hell out of the hallway. Even if you do get caught, just say you were out of shampoo, or, even better, out of toilet paper, and thought you’d save them the trouble by grabbing it for yourself. Think of it this way : these amenities are here for you, they are yours. We are in no position to dispute the claim that when you wash your hair you prefer to dump fifteen bottles of lavender and poppy seed shampoo all over your scalp like some gooey shower freak. '
And, if the room doesn’t come with conditioner, or you’ve forgotten your phone charger, just ask at the front desk. Hair products, deodorant and phone chargers are apparently the items most often left behind by guests, so the hotel might have a box of each - but ask nicely.