There’s a lot of debate about the best way to handle the huge influx of guest messages happening through private message and live chat platforms.
Should we be using more automation? More resources in house? More outsourcing?
There are a number of different services and solutions out there – not all of which are created equal – but there’s one thing that everyone agrees on: Answering customer messages quickly and thoroughly is essential. And by fast, we mean lightning fast.
Chief of Marketing of Booking.com Pepijn Rijvers put it perfectly when he recently stated that a slow response or no response to a private message “basically means ‘I don’t count’” from a guest’s perspective.
He’s absolutely right. It’s trivial and it’s maybe a little impulsive, but we live in a world where instant gratification is expected. Getting a response in ten seconds or less is no longer a sign of exceptional customer care; it’s a requirement of decent customer service, period. This puts more strain on businesses, especially those heavy in one-on-one customer interaction like hotels or resorts.
So what can we do about it?
Live Chat Expectations: The Solutions
When it comes to managing the demands of live chat messaging, there are a few common approaches.
Some prefer to hire multi-person, in-house teams to handle the messages. These teams become expensive to staff, train, and maintain. You either have to worry about increased pay rates for holidays and graveyard shifts, or not offer that availability to guests who may need urgent attention during those times.
Others, like Booking.com, opt to utilize chatbots and automate more of the process. While chatbots can help to cut down on costs and improve automation, they also lack a personal touch and are incapable of resolving guest concerns or questions in a personalized way that can provide exceptional service. For some industries that may be ok, but not for those with the high level of personalized assistance that guests need while interacting with hotels, resorts, or other businesses in the hospitality industry.
I agree with Rijvers earlier assessment about the importance of not only live chat but exceptionally fast live chat. I also agree with the statements that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are becoming even more important platforms for customer service. That being said, I disagree with the fact that it’s too difficult or impossible to provide fast and thorough responses without the use of chatbots, especially for hotels at a larger scale.
Here’s what he had to say:
“If you’re a hotel with 100 rooms you’re not going to manually respond to every message 24/7 even though you may have 150 check-ins a day that are all asking questions. You already have two staff on board that are going to do this. So you need to both enhance the customer experience and deliver services, faster and cheaper. This can be done though automation and it is better to start investing now.”
Automation is great. It’s convenient, and sure, it’s relatively cheap. But it’s not always the most effective, especially when you have large numbers of unique and personalized requests from guests that truly do require one-on-one personalization.
Why Human-to-Human Interaction Will Always Be Best
Guests would much rather know that a real person who cares about them and understands their problem in a way a robot never could is going to get that answer to their question or resolve their problem. If they don’t feel like you can offer that, they might turn to your competition who can.
Human-to-human interaction is always the right choice when it comes to investing in your guests, because they won’t care about you if you don’t care about them. An actual, trained customer service representative will be able to assess situations and address customer concerns with a personalized solution based on the guest and their specific needs.
One guest who asks for a room with a kitchen, for example, might just want a mini-fridge and a microwave; others might expect a stove, counter space, and pots and pans. The former might not be willing to pay for a full-on kitchen, while the latter may have medically-required dietary restraints that necessitates the stove and preparation ability, so they can make their own food.
Similarly, not all guest complaints are equal, so solutions can’t just be automated. Someone who had a light flickering isn’t going to need the same level of compensation as a guest whose AC went out in the Bahamas in July and gave Grandma heatstroke. Robots might offer the same solution for each of these guests, which is a disservice to both of them and to your business.
It’s also worth noting that guests can tell when they’re talking to a chatbot and they may not be happy about it. Chatbots have that painful association of long navigation menus you get while calling your insurance company; you get ten options in, and you’re still asked to hold for an operator because the system couldn’t figure out what you wanted. This doesn’t exactly bode well for guests who are demanding instant gratification and outstanding customer support.
So Is an In-House Team My Only Option
While some hotels and resorts opt to hire staff, whose sole purpose is to answer guest live chat messages, this isn’t the most practical option. We recommend outsourcing.
CoMMingle offers a live chat service designed specifically to help hotels and resorts handle the flood of live messages coming from multiple platforms online. All of our U.S. agents are trained in customer service excellence, and we’ll be able to answer all of your incoming messages in real-time. We’ll keep costs down and profits up, giving you the solution you need so you can keep running your business and keep guests happy.
Chatbots, after all, can be a big investment. We’d rather you invest in your guests instead, prioritizing people over automation and giving every guest the best experience possible with personalized attention and care.
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 have recognized 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.