Using Technology to Improve Guest Communication
By Alar Ülem, CEO of Guestjoy
When thinking about guest communication, most people assume we are talking about guests talking face-to-face with a receptionist. Something that happens in the lobby or in hallways. But studies show that 52% of people use mobile devices to find information while travelling and 68% prefer online over face-to-face meetings. The reasons for avoiding human contact can be diverse:
- Language issues
- Impediments such as travelling with kids or suffering sickness
- Time and effort associated
Digital communication tends to be at times overlooked among hoteliers, despite holding great potential for increasing guest satisfaction and revenue.Here we will explore two main methods to reach your guests, email and chat.
Email defines your hotel's first impression
Majority of guests book their rooms through OTA-s. This means they will never see your website. Email is their first impression of you and they see it before arrival. In a way it sets the stage. But based on our experience hoteliers, they tend to send out one of these three types of emails:
- Long and thorough emails which contain all the nuances of their property.
- Beautifully crafted emails which are straight from an artbook, but only open in one specific email client
- Short textual email with no use of font nor images
But in reality, emails have evolved and you could and should do much more very easily. Based on our experience at Guestjoy, here are some of the tips for you to consider for improving your guest engagement:
- Use rich-email when possible
- Don't use bland emails straight from the nineties. Email is your new business card. Add color and brand to it, but be sure to test it
- Keep it short
- We've seen many hoteliers who want to put all the information on welcome emails. But you have to understand, people read more than 60% of emails from mobile phones. If it's long, they will skip it. Try to use external pages like mobile concierge for visitor information.
- Use it for up-selling
- Email can be a create medium to increase revenue from ancillary services or room upgrades. But it only works, if offers are relevant
And finally email should not be the end of the road. Use it for a specific call-to-action like redirecting guests to a mobile concierge or a chatbot.
Meet chatbot, your 24h receptionist
Chatbot is a automated messenger where guests can ask questions and order services like they are chatting with their friends. In hotel environment, chatbot enables guests to check-in, send special requests or order room service. Many large chains are testing it (Starwood, Hyatt http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4076795.html). You can see chatbots popping up here and there and it is very easy to understand why. We use Facebook messenger, Snapchat and Slack on a daily basis. We know the interface and it feels much more human than a website could ever. Chatbot offer many important benefits for the guest:
- Familiar interface
- No need to learn the interface of a new website. Guests can talk to a machine like they talk to their friends
- Instant replies
- Most questions guests have, are repetitive. This means systems can provide all the answers immediately.
- Two-way communication
- Chat enable hotels to ask feedback before guests leave the hotel, or remind them for instance that happy hour has started. This is something unheard of in the past as then you had to rely on printed materials.
But before you rush into firing your staff, be sure to analyze what are the stages of your guests' digital journey. How emails are sent out, what is contained within them, what happens after a guest has received the email. We at Guestjoy, have seen a very good response from early customers. Guests seem to like the concept of an automated assistant.
Chat usage is growing fast. If hoteliers want to stay modern and keep up with guest needs, they need to start implementing new technologies. The smartest way to approach change is to combine chat with pre-arrival emails and a mobile concierge. A Hotelier's goal is to steer guests experience, not to react if something goes bad. Start engaging your guests even before arrival. Will the future be staff-free lobbies? Probably not. There will always be need for human touch.
Alar co-founded Guestjoy in August 2014. Alar has an extensive background in B2B product development and service design. He has worked in largest regional Telecom companies where he was responsible of B2B business development and also largest regional IT solution provider (acquired) where he was responsible of service management.More from Alar Ülem