You have probably already heard or read about the benefits of letting guests real-time chat with your hotel and the ways in which it may enhance the guest experience and build loyalty. According to Skift, there is a growing number of users adopting messaging platforms such as WhatsApp or WeChat and it is expected to grow to a total of 3.6 billion users by the end of 2018. Hotels have started to catch up in different ways: Some are establishing their own proprietary apps while others are opting to use channels like Facebook Messenger, or other third-party tools and the trend will continue to grow. The reasons for this are quite obvious: Today, mobile takes up more than 50 percent of consumers’ time (Skift). Hotels that ignore this fact might end up losing.
Setting a part what the industry trends are telling us, the best way to grasp the benefits of messaging might just be putting yourself in your guests’ shoes. How many times do you think your average guest checks the phone while staying at your hotel? Phones are the window to staying updated with news and social media, taking pictures, finding restaurants or getting around your city without having to carry the free tourist map that nearly everyone ends up losing along the way. To be honest, I would have a hard time believing it if you told me you did not check your latest SMSs or Facebook messages while traveling. If you can communicate to guests through their preferred channels and enhance their experience while you benefit from it, why wouldn’t you?
Did I say “enhance the guest experience”? Yes, messaging is not a substitute for personal communication. If done right, the ways in which real-time chatting can help you enable intimate and honest relationships with guests are endless. Being where your guests are, means and shows that you truly care about them. Think about the last conversation you had through SMS or Facebook: we tend to use messaging channels to express our deepest opinions and signal our urgent needs. If you are able to get that information from your guest and use it to perform caring and personal actions, the special moments you will be able to create are not only magical but also memorable. Good face-to-face dialogue is definitely a competitive advantage for hotels when done right, however giving guests the possibility to let you know where their pains are gives you more chances to enhance that personal communication and go the extra mile.
Are hotels using messaging the right way and getting the full benefit of it? Countless solutions have been launched as hotels are starting to see the advantages that this new way of communicating presents. But what are the best practices? Putting yourself in the shoes of your guests is probably a good approach to use here too. The app fatigue, the fact that customers are becoming less and less willing to download apps of any sort is the first issue. While a hotel stay may be a magical experience, many guests will be reluctant to download yet another app to be used only during the stay. Hotels may thus end up winning by choosing channels that guests find most accessible, such as Facebook, which is the most-widely used social media platform and its user base is most broadly representative of the population as a whole. The second issue to address is the way in which hotels are using the information guests provide through messaging channels. The information you gather about your guests is valuable and precious: it does not only help you understand your guests better, but can also help you refine and personalise your marketing messages and pre-stay emails.
As a conclusion, if you are using messaging tools, you are already on the right track. However, if you think you are not getting full advantage from it, a simple act of reevaluation might serve useful. You might want to reconsider the messaging channels you are using and make sure they are the ones that your guests are using too. Secondly, you might want to ensure you are using the data you gather, not only for on-site actions, but also for your hotel’s long-term benefit. After all, being digitally accessible to your guests as a means to get to know them better is a rather unexplored but exciting gateway to happier guests and more revenue.