Connecting Technology for a Better Human Connection: How Hotels Can Simplify Guest Messaging

Just as communication between friends and family has evolved due to the rise of mobile technology and social media, so has communication between businesses and their customers. Consumers expect to be able to connect with businesses as easily and conveniently as they connect with family and friends, and that’s why more and more hotels are implementing mobile messaging options for communicating with guests.

From SMS to popular messaging apps (like WhatsApp and Messenger) to guest messaging platforms designed specifically for the hospitality industry (like Whistle), lodging operators have various options through which to offer guests the convenience and personalized service of mobile messaging.

As a guest engagement channel, mobile messaging comes with many advantages. It’s an instant, personable and conversational way of communicating with guests, and portrays a more human side of business compared to traditional methods of communication like email. It’s a well-received form of communication too, with an open rate of at least 98 percent.

Mobile messaging also provides lodging operators with a record of chat history—in other words, valuable data that can be analyzed at both an individual level (guest profile data) and on an aggregate scale.

But perhaps the most important reason for implementing guest messaging is that it’s simply the way people want to communicate. Research shows that 90 percent of consumers want to use messaging to communicate with businesses. Hoteliers have found that guest messaging increases service recovery opportunities and results in higher guest satisfaction. Messaging provides guests with a convenient, less confrontational method of reporting problems and making requests in the moment, curbing negative reviews. It’s proven to boost ancillary revenue too.

The adoption of guest messaging should no longer be a matter of if, but when. But, as with the implementation of any new process, thoughtful consideration must be given to the challenges of adopting guest messaging within your own operations to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness.

Adopting Guest Messaging the Right Way

While implementing messaging technology itself is relatively simple, ensuring that it fits in with your day-to-day operations is a bit more complex. Dealing with guest requests and complaints through any channel involves various hotel departments and requires systems and processes to be defined, implemented, monitored and analyzed—and mobile messaging is no exception. Therefore, the success of guest messaging depends on how well it is integrated with your other hotel systems.

When you think about the practical implications of managing mobile messaging at your property, questions probably pop into your mind, like, “How can we quickly identify who is making the request?” and “How will staff find the time to manage yet another channel?

A typical guest enquiry almost always involves departments beyond the front desk. When front desk staff receive a request or complaint, they need to identify the guest and then communicate the request to the relevant department, be it F&B for room service, maintenance for a leaky faucet, or housekeeping for extra towels. And then they need to follow up to ensure the request has been fulfilled.

Without a properly integrated messaging system, it’s easy to see how the burden on front desk staff during peak season could be unmanageable. But when your guest messaging solution is integrated with your property management system (PMS), fulfilling guest requests and resolving complaints becomes much more efficient, and communications more personalized.

Combining the power of guest data with the convenience of mobile messaging creates a robust and efficient guest engagement tool that is hard to beat. Through direct integration, your PMS communicates guest reservation data to your guest messaging platform in real time, allowing your messaging platform to send personalized pre-arrival, mid-stay and departing messages automatically. Fulfillment of guest enquiries becomes more efficient and personalized too, with profile data automatically pulled alongside the message thread.

“Faster response time and increased satisfaction!”

Whistle has allowed our Guest Experience team the opportunity to reach out to and assist our guests in a faster, more organized manner. By having the guest profile pulled next to their text message thread, our Guest Experience team does not need to spend time searching for reservation information about the guest while speaking to them. This has allowed for faster response time and increased satisfaction!

The benefit of having Whistle and WebRezPro PMS integrated is the seamless interaction between the two systems. Whistle is able to pull guest information and have it side by side with the guest’s messages. Additionally, our team is able to schedule out custom, property-specific, automated messages increasing our efficiency while also providing our guests with the proper information at the best time!

– Kerri Coughlin, Guest Service Director, Locale

When guest messaging is viewed as part of an integrated system rather than yet another service channel to manage, it offers real potential to elevate the guest experience and improve operational efficiency and staff productivity.

WebRezPro PMS currently offers integration to a growing list of mobile messaging partners, including Whistle and Twilio. Contact us to find out more about integrating WebRezPro to your preferred guest messaging platform.

Mobile Messaging: The New Way to Communicate with Guests

The pathways of communication between businesses and consumers have changed a lot in recent years. It wasn’t really that long ago when our only options for contacting a business were by phone, post or by physically popping in. Nowadays, in addition to these traditional methods of communication, most businesses also engage with customers via email and social media. In fact, digital has fast become the preferred method of communication between consumers and businesses.

Because communication is key to building customer relationships, it’s important for all businesses to be accessible through the platforms their customers use and prefer. This is especially true for the hospitality industry, which is now beginning to connect with guests via mobile messaging.

Mobile Messaging Makes Sense for the Hotel Industry

Just about everyone texts, from teens to grandmas. Why does everyone do it? Because it’s the quickest and most convenient way to get your message across to someone who isn’t right in front of you. Eighty-five percent of international travelers travel with a mobile device, so it makes sense for lodging operators to use mobile messaging to connect with guests.

Because texting is so simple and quick and well within our comfort zone, many guests prefer to engage with hotels this way rather than calling or visiting the front desk, which requires more effort.

The convenience that mobile messaging offers guests motivates them to be proactive in requesting information and services to enhance their stay, improving the guest experience and boosting ancillary sales too.

Mobile messaging also offers guests with complaints a convenient and less confrontational avenue through which to voice their concern in the moment — rather than very publicly online after their stay.

If managed right, mobile messaging has the potential to increase customer satisfaction and reduce negative guest experiences by helping hotels build trust with guests, learn more about them, and develop stronger customer relationships.

How Hotels are Using Mobile Messaging to Engage Guests

Currently, most hotels are focused on using mobile messaging primarily as a service channel rather than a promotional one, and are achieving excellent results. Text messages can be used to confirm reservations, let guests know when their room is ready, welcome guests to the property, offer additional services, receive guest requests and to thank guests after check-out. Using mobile messaging to communicate with guests in this manner is an efficient and effective way to personalize the guest experience.

Aloft Hotels’s cute spin on texting for room service gained a lot of attention when it was launched last year. The Aloft TiGi (Text it. Get it.) Emoji Room Service Menu allows guests to order room service kits (like the The Hangover consisting of two bananas, Advil® and two bottles of vitaminwater®) by simply texting the corresponding emojis on the menu to the hotel’s dedicated TiGi number.

In addition to SMS, properties are taking advantage of popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, using dedicated accounts. Starwood Hotels uses WhatsApp, BBM and iMessage to allow guests to contact concierge services before, during and after their stay, while Hyatt Hotels uses Facebook Messenger to talk to customers.

After setting up a dedicated phone number, properties using SMS or a messaging app such as WhatsApp can get started by promoting the service alongside contact information on their website, in guest email communications, at the front desk, and on in-room welcome notes.

Some major hotel brands offer a messaging platform as part of their mobile hotel app. As well as mobile booking, rewards account access, mobile check-in and mobile room keys, the Marriott Mobile App offers Mobile Requests, which allows guests to send text-style messages to the front desk.

Mobile Messaging Tips for Independent Hotels

Mobile technology is a way of life now; it’s only natural for the hotel industry to embrace it. For independent lodging operators who are considering adding mobile messaging to their customer service channels, we have compiled some tips to consider before getting started.

Encourage guests to opt in.

As mentioned above, properties should promote the fact that they are accessible to customers via mobile messaging — on their website, in emails and on property. Encourage guests to make the first contact through this channel; if they reach out, you can be confident they will appreciate further messages that will enhance their stay.

Guests’ mobile phone numbers should be recorded in guest profiles, allowing for proactive contact for future stays.

Make a mobile messaging management plan.

Mobile messaging has high potential for guest engagement, so it is vital for the channel to be managed effectively.

One of the first things to consider is that mobile messaging is all about convenience and speed of response, so a member of staff should be assigned to monitoring and managing incoming messages and conversations at all times during advertised business hours. Aim for fast response times under 10 minutes.

Mobile messaging is designed to be a more efficient mode of communication, but this isn’t necessarily so when messages get complex and the back and forth goes on and on. Therefore, it’s important to know when to switch to phone or email for more complicated issues.

If the responsibility of monitoring and managing messages is to be shared among staff members, consider training to ensure timely responses and service consistency.

Use a personal yet professional tone.

Texting is much more private and personal than tweeting or posting on social media. Communicating with customers in this way is a privilege, so make sure hotel messages are friendly, personalized and professional. Avoid sending text messages that sound canned — this can be achieved as simply as using personal sign-offs and emojis.

Collect data.

Because mobile messaging offers such a high level of accessibility, it has great potential for helping properties get to know their guests. Valuable customer data can be gathered from messages, especially those that shed light on a guest’s needs and preferences. Relevant information like allergies, transportation requests, amenity enquiries, etc. can be recorded in guest profiles in the property management system (PMS) or CRM for proactive personalization of future stays.

 

While mobile messaging shouldn’t replace a property’s other customer service channels like email and voice, offering guests this additional avenue of communication makes a lot of sense today. If managed well, mobile messaging can be a very successful channel for personalizing and enhancing the guest experience — it’s no wonder more and more lodging operators are embracing this option.