Customer service doesn’t take a vacation, and neither does the hospitality industry. Staff are always on call 24/7 to meet the needs of visitors and travelers, wayfarers and wanderers.
But the needs and wants of customers are changing. Over 85% of travelers bring their smartphone with them when they travel, and 63% of U.S. travelers text on their smartphones.
It makes sense: texting is an fast, easy way to deliver personalized service at an affordable rate.
But texting hotels can’t change the hospitality industry, right? Or can it? Just imagine…
- Once your flight lands, you get a text from your hotel from your rental car service asking what make and model you’d like. After confirming, your car is ready and waiting when you get down there.
- As you get in your car, you also get a text from your hotel asking if you’d like to order anything from room service. You text back your order.
- As you park at your hotel, you get a geo-targeted notification welcoming you and notifying you of attractions/upcoming events in your area.
- As you’re eating your meal, you get a text with from the concierge letting you know you can text them for anything you might need.
Sounds pretty great, right? And also pretty out of reach?
Not really. It’s actually closer than you might think.
Texting Your Hotel
Today’s customers are more empowered than ever, with access to information about anything they could possibly want in the palm of their hand. They don’t need to use their hotel phone to fulfill requests—all they need to do is send a text.
And it seems like hotels are starting to respond to that request. A TripAdvisor survey found that 46% of U.S. hoteliers have plans to expand their mobile offerings, and quite a few hotels are already seeing the value in texting their visitors.
For example, Marriott rolled out a two-way text chat service to visitors earlier this year, fulfilling requests from the simple (running routes around the hotel) to the sweet (a cinnamon roll with a birthday candle to celebrate a 6-year-old’s birthday).
But that’s just one hotel chain. Several other hotels have added texting or plan to add texting to their service offerings:
- Starwood Hotels lets its visitors text guest services for anything they might need.
- Hilton is piloting a mobile check-in service where visitors get to pick their own room.
- Alpine Meadows Ski Resort in California uses texting to send real-time snow alerts, promotions, lift ticket coupon, on-mountain news, and more.
- The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Vail, Colorado used texting to get feedback on their room renovations.
- Marriott and Hilton both let visitors text the valet to let them know their car is ready for pickup.
And there’s a lot value in being able to provide text message services for visitors or travelers, as Professor Chekitan Dev, a hotel expert at Cornell University and author of Hospitality Branding, told ABC News:
Texting for hotel service is a brilliant idea whose time has come. Today’s customer has a very simple mantra for businesses they deal with: I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it, and I want it now. In our age of instant gratification, reducing the response time from wish to fulfillment is key.
He also outlined the benefits of text messaging over a mobile app to USA Today:
Not having to download an app saves a step and time, and anything that saves time will win in the marketplace. Plus, this saves voice message errors, wait time and allows for a text trail. This service is sure to resonate, especially for the Millennial for whom e-mail is passé and text is everything.
Not bad, right? But believe it or not, hoteliers can make texting hotels even better with three key technology upgrades.
Taking Texting Your Hotel to the Next Level
Being able to text a hotel is a pretty awesome concept, and technological upgrades can make it even better. Here are the two ways hotels can improve upon their mobile customer experience.
Integration. Hotels already use Property Management Systems like innRoad, WebRezPro and Frontdesk Anywhere to manage bookings, reservations and more. By integrating their PMS with the channel customers already prefer to use, hotels can expand their reach and improve functionality for a better customer experience.
For example, let’s say Matt booked a room via text message on a business trip, and while he stayed there, ordered a salad and a hamburger from room service over text as well. When he comes back in two months, the hotel asks Matt over text if he’d like to stay in the same room and offer him a discount on the hamburger he’s most likely to order. By integrating their PMS with a text messaging service provider, hotels can foster loyalty with an intelligent mobile experience that travels with guests and anticipates their needs.
Automation. Concierges won’t always be there to answer guests’ questions, and not all questions will need to be answered by a concierge. Hotels using a text messaging provider can set up canned responses for concierges to use to answer simple questions quickly. Alternatively, they can use automation to answer common questions, or automate asking a series of questions so that the concierge has more information when they get on the line.
For example, let’s say Jodi texts in and wants to know what time the hotel gym is open. That’s not a question that the hotel would necessarily need a concierge to answer. So, Jodi could either text with an automated flow that directs her to the answer she needs quickly and easily, or she can channel pivot to speak to a live agent if she has additional questions.
Geo-targeting. Hotel guests have one thing in common–they all come back to a central location. Hotels that use geo-targeting can deliver personalized messages to their guests based on whether they’re coming, going, or staying in for the evening.
For example, let’s say Kevin is visiting the Five Seasons for the first time and entered his phone number in a web form when signing up for the hotel. When he arrives gets within 100 yards of the hotel, he gets a message welcoming him with 20% off of the hotel restaurant. When he’s ready to hit the town the next day, he gets a message as he walks past the exit with a list of events going on in the area. When he’s finally ready to check out and is about to get in a taxi back to the airport, he gets a message with a link to a mobile coupon for $100 off his room when he visits again.
All of these technological upgrades can also support the following use cases:
- Flight reservations
- Car rental
- Hotel booking
- Mobile check-in
- Restaurant reservations
- “Room Ready”/”Table Ready” Notifications
- Flight notifications
- Locating luggage
- Hotel concierge
- Room service
- Valet parking
- Directory service
- Tourist attractions
- Event updates
- Ticket sales
- Promotions and coupons
With texting, hotels can make sure their customer service isn’t taking a vacation. Using the right technology, they can boost engagement and grow revenue by contacting customers on a channel they prefer, and also foster loyalty with an intelligent mobile experience that travels with them and anticipates their needs.
So, ready to make a reservation?
To learn more about texting for customer service, download our 2014 Harris Poll report detailing why 64% of customers want to text your business.
Photo credit. Edited.