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How to Do More With Less By Leveraging Omnichannel Communication For Hotels

by
Evelin Lima
4 days ago

One thing modernity has changed for good is how much customers have become impatient, expect a personalized experience, and have less tolerance for errors. The immediacy of social media and mobile access to real-time information have altered guests’ behavior into expecting to be answered on-demand no matter the stage of the buying journey they are in—what Google calls “micro-moments”. The alarming number of customer service channels is entirely new to hoteliers, while their response time window has shrunk more and more. Not to mention how previous interactions become a predicament as agents have to juggle different channels, trying to grasp some context to ensure guests feel heard and understood. This need to shorten the booking journey and have a broader view of simultaneous customer demands has brought omnichannel solutions to the table. That said, to better understand how omnichannel service software can change the game for hotels, we first need to think about the multichannel strategy.   What is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel? Email and phone calls are not the only means of communication customers use anymore. Travelers want practicality and to reach hotels no matter the channel they are using at the moment. To be where travelers are, it’s in hotels’ best interests to diversify how people can find them—this is a multichannel strategy. But once hotels multiply their communication channels, how can they handle simultaneous incoming requests from Instagram, website chat, Facebook, Google Messages, and WhatsApp, for example? An omnichannel dashboard is the answer. Multichannel strategies have agents jumping between channels, trying to prioritize a constant flow of requests and questions. An omnichannel solution centralizes all channels into a unified inbox, while also keeping data shared between channels.   Why is omnichannel communication so relevant for hotels? When you broaden your reach with new communication channels, chances are you’ll be available when travelers are excited about the possibilities of a stay, ensuring more bookings coming your way. It is no coincidence that companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement retain on average 89% of their customers. On the profiting side, marketers using three or more channels in a campaign earned a 494% higher order rate than those using a single-channel campaign. Google research shows that of all leisure travelers on smartphones, 69% search for travel ideas during spare moments, and nearly half of those travelers go on to book their choices through an entirely separate channel. Those are countless potential guests which hotels can reach by being present on different channels.   Innovation to save the day in the thick of hospitality staff shortage  An omnichannel solution has a more important than ever role to play for hotels. The present record shortage of hospitality staff the world over has hoteliers struggling to do all they can to prioritize tasks and ensure travelers don't feel the effect of yet another crisis. That is why this technology comes as a win-win. It creates unified workflows which catalyze a seamless experience for customers. It helps hotels drive the revenue they so desperately need right now. Additionally, an omnichannel strategy ensures managers assign the right agent to handle a certain segment or campaign. This way, you can distribute incoming queries and ensure that more experienced agents handle the most profitable opportunities.   Why is omnichannel communication so relevant for travelers? American customer service expert, Shep Hyken, advocates for a seamless experience and explains how having two or ten channels makes any business a multichannel provider. Rather, it is only when channels are interconnected that the omnichannel experience takes place. A report on the multichannel demands of customers showed that 63% of customers prefer a choice of channels to contact customer service, and that 50% of customers expect representatives to have access to previous interactions with the company. An omnichannel service platform ensures all communication channels are unified into a single window. Agents can not only see all the different channels in a macro view, but they can also track the chat history for every guest, ensuring a seamless experience. In practical terms, instead of accessing several tabs where one shows all incoming DMs on Instagram, another shows emails, and yet another all WhatsApp API messages, etc., agents have a broader view of each customer journey: Here is Mr. Smith, and he made first contact through Facebook messages two weeks ago, then he asked a question using the web chat, and now he is ready to book using email.   The Takeaway  Even if a traveler’s first touchpoint happened weeks in advance, a different attendant can take over without making them repeat themselves. Omnichannel communication service is a rock-solid way to five-star customer service. When agents are there to answer, travelers don't feel frustrated. In an industry where quality and timing are of the essence and workers are few, adopting an omnichannel solution has put many hotels ahead of their competitors. This approach creates a sense of continuity for guests and works as an extra pair of hands for agents, organizing the workflow distribution for hotels. As for hoteliers, this truly gets them more bookings out of less work by providing their teams with an optimized workflow that can clear out their plates to work on the prospects ready to make hotels run at full capacity.

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9 Booking Engine Features that Generate Revenue

by
Svetlana Marchik
2 weeks ago

At each stage of the guest journey, hotels should maximize their potential to draw users’ attention, make them opt for them, and, finally, make a booking. A booking engine can cover all three if it meets a number of criteria. In this post, we go into detail on three types of Booking Engine elements: the ones that inspire confidence, convert, and encourage spending more on a stay.

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Guest Experience Tech Goes Well Beyond Messaging

by
Francis X Garcia
2 months ago

AI Conversational Guest Messaging is quickly becoming a “must have” not only for premiere hoteliers, but for all sectors. Implementing Smart Guest Messaging has been documented to increase daily engagement of in-stay guests over 500%, from the historical 5%-10% via e-mail and web to above 50% via SMS, WhatsApp, etc. This leap in hotel guest communications at some hotels will foster in new guest expectations for most, if not all hotels. This conclusion is supported by the findings of HotelTech’s behavioral research published earlier this year. Within the audiences most important to hoteliers, 1) Text messages have a whopping 82% open rate   2) Over 80% of text messages are read within 5 minutes 3) 78% of texters say messaging is the fastest way to reach them. So, after experiencing the conveniences of smart guest messaging in one hotel, they are not likely to accept inconveniences in other hotels such as waiting in long lines, calling the front desk for everything, being put on hold, silencing their concerns, calling to make reservations, ordering room service, or even using a “communal” telephone in a post pandemic world.

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8 Essential KPIs for Measuring Hotel Chatbot Effectiveness

by
Richard Conn
2 months ago

Chatbots are integral to any great ecommerce strategy. In the hotel business, bookings and customer support requests often take place over asynchronous communication channels like email. This can be slow and frustrating for both customers and your business.  But chatbots are taking the hospitality world by storm and revamping the overall guest experience. Integrating chatbots into your business strategy can be hugely beneficial for any type of hotel. Whether you run a boutique hotel in the countryside or a luxury hotel in the city, chatbots can help you provide customers with the answers they need without waiting in hold queues or getting lost in endless email chains. There are plenty of business processes examples that can be automated with the use of an AI chatbot. It’s not enough to simply install a bot on your hotel website or social media page and just let it do its thing. Like any other part of your business strategy, your chatbot needs to be measured, analyzed, and optimized. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help you do just that.

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The Top Channels to Connect with Your Hotel Guests For An Engaging Stay

by
Sandra Holland
2 months ago

Today there’s no shortage of new and engaging ways to connect with your guests. From modern channels like Twitter and Facebook Messenger to more traditional channels like email or SMS, understanding what channels you should leverage is key to developing an exceptional experience. In this blog, to help you select the right channels and uncover what’s trending in hospitality, we’re sharing the top channels hotels should be considering. Let’s explore.   Considerations Before Adopting Channels Before jumping into what channels are thriving in the hotel industry it’s critical to understand what will work for you specifically. In order to uncover this, consider; Channels your guests are already using  Channels that resonate with your overall objective Channels that align with specific tasks or service opportunities  Having these points top of mind will help you select channels with a more strategic mindset. In turn, providing the tools to drive loyalty and maximize return.   4 Channels To Consider For Your Hotel It goes without saying that over the years, guest preferences have changed greatly. As new channels emerge and capabilities expand, it’s important to always be in the know. Below we highlight some of the top-performing channels to date with a promising future in hospitality. Email For decades email has been a top communication tool with guests. And while historically, email has been used to send booking confirmations and check-in/out details, today, email is used for much more. With the “always-on” mindset, email is a great way to connect with guests during their stay. Inviting them to excursions, informing them of upcoming specials, and communicating with them about any requests. Further, email is a great way to collect feedback, encourage reviews and most importantly opt into your marketing flow. Once they’re in, it’s easy to upsell, cross-sell, and provide timely updates on hotel happenings. WhatsApp Over the years, WhatsApp has grown tremendously, offering unique features that cater directly to businesses. As a benchmark, today 2 billion minutes of WhatsApp calls are made every day, and the number of WhatsApp users in the United States alone is projected to reach 85.8 million in 2023. For hotels, this growth is even more apparent, as it’s grown in popularity due to its real-time capabilities. Connecting with reception is simplified and since most travellers use the app, it's a great way to encourage conversation. Further, using WhatsApp and its business features, hotels can set up their own business  profile, templated messages and offer features like read receipts, video calling, group chats, status updates and more. It’s a great way to engage guests from the moment they walk onto your property to well after they’ve left.   Phone A traditional channel that’s still used quite commonly, a phone call is an effective way to encourage direct communication. Connecting guests to different departments like reception or housekeeping, it allows guests to address their issues in real-time. That said, with phone calls, there are a few downfalls including; reception being inundated with requests, no digital receipts and as more and more digital channels emerge, less appeal. In this instance, it’s important to monitor your customer's preferences, along with industry trends.   Tablets In and Out of Room Whether you have a tablet in-room or have a tablet beside reception, using a digital screen is a great way to offer room service options, communicate with various departments, promote any upcoming specials/events and ask for feedback. The great thing about tablets is that they’re intuitive, offer flexibility, and simplify the experience for those who don’t want to download an app or are hesitant about calling in. In addition, tablets can collect a range of information about your guest and their preferences. Over time this can be useful in understanding upcoming trends with future guests, or to personalize a stay.   Communicating on Multiple Channels While offering one channel in line with customer preferences is a great place to start, the key to a thriving guest experience is offering multiple channels that work together for a cohesive experience. This means adopting an omni-channel mindset. One that considers customer preferences and ensures that if a guest decides to hop from one channel to another, the brand experience doesn’t change. This is crucial as today, many businesses adopting multiple channels aren’t keeping experience top of mind. In fact, 61% of surveyed customers claim they haven’t been able to easily switch from one channel to another when interacting with a brand. For hotels, streamlining the process could be as simple as dedicating specific employees to address conversations, allocating hours of the day to check the various channels you offer, or more efficiently, adopting a customer experience solution that consolidates all messages.   Considering a Solution To Streamline Communication As mentioned above, the idea of adopting an omni-channel program can seem overwhelming, especially for a hotel. However, with the help of a sophisticated customer experience solution, managing communication between customers can be simplified through a consolidated inbox. Taking all the channels you offer a CX solution will bring them into one inbox and showcase sentiment in real-time. This deters employees from having multiple windows open and potentially missing an incoming message. In that same breath, having a key CX solution can also help in terms of hotel request management. With the ability to tag and route messages to their appropriate department, the request is always seen by the right employee for a prompt and accurate response. In addition, employees can message each other internally for any out-of-scope questions and mark the inquiry as resolved to ensure there is no overlap. Lastly, a customer experience solution can help you better understand your customers and their preferences. With analytics on channel type, location, time to respond, employee performance, trending topics, and more, you can offer channels that align with your objectives and correct service to ensure a seamless experience every time.

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Adapting to Changing Traveler Behaviors and Expectations in 2022

by
Andrew Gogus
2 months ago

Understanding travel trends and behaviors has been somewhat more difficult to recognize in the midst of the pandemic. However, some undeniable facts remain for the changing traveler behaviors and expectations. It's important to learn and adapt in order for your business to reach its highest potential and maximize revenues. To begin, the traveler demographic is notably shifting and we will be seeing a great increase in the amount of Gen Z travelers. Generation Z, or Gen Z, includes anyone born between 1995 - 2012. This is the first generation that is digitally native. Meaning that the generation grew up with technology from a very early age. As some hoteliers might see this group as low-spending, that is in fact not true. Not only do the younger ones influence the destinations chosen by their parents, but older Gen-Zers are said to spend even more than regular tourists. Eager to travel and experience the world, young travelers are likely to return and give more value to the destination over their lifetime. According to UNWTO “Young people see travel as an essential part of their everyday lives, rather than just a brief escape from reality.” In order to capture the attention of the first digitally native generation, it's crucial to be as visible as you can online, provide a smooth booking process, and be able to offer customized promotions to guests.   Grow Online Visibility Across New Booking Channels It is almost inevitable that your property needs to have a strong online presence. This means not only having a website for your property that allows travelers to book but also being visible and listed on multiple different online travel agencies (OTAs). Being present on multiple different platforms greatly increases the segment of travelers you are able to reach. Different countries and regions have different booking habits when it comes to choosing an OTA, so it is important that your property is listed on those websites. According to Expedia, “Gen Zers turn 31% more to OTAs than they were prior to the COVID-19 crisis.” Surely, trying to manage your property on different platforms and keeping everything up to date, will be very difficult and time-consuming. This is where a channel manager will be the most beneficial to you and your property. A channel manager is a tool that enables hoteliers to connect to multiple different OTA’s and allows them to manage bookings and update inventory from one platform. Choosing the right channel manager will help you not only bring in more guests and maximize profits but also save time allowing you to focus on offering a seamless guest experience.   Facilitate Quick Booking via Your Direct Channel There is a fundamental difference between older and newer generations. It's important to understand and leverage these differences to your advantage. According to global studies, while millennials have an attention span of 12 seconds, Gen Zers have decreased this to 8 seconds. This means you have an average of 8 seconds to make the best first impression and encourage the travelers into the booking flow. Doing so requires you to have a seamless booking experience. Enabling your guests to easily choose a room type, date, and payment method is essential. These can all be attained by using a booking engine. Booking engines are important tools that are easily placed into your website, and enable guests to directly book from your website without going to any 3rd party websites. This helps you provide the quickest and best experience for your guests. Choosing the right booking engine for your property will not only capture traffic but will also cause less frustration for both you and your guests. Easing the workload for your staff is also a huge benefit.  Having rates and availability synced and updated with each reservation, gives your team the time and energy to focus on different tasks, in return providing a better experience for your guests.    Offer Exclusive Services and Promotions Even though the attention span may be shorter, Gen Zers actually recall advertising content better than millennials and Gen X. This plays a key role in retaining guests and them coming back for multiple visits. Younger consumers record a high rate of brand preference, meaning they relate closely to the brands they are choosing. They are attracted by a brand’s reputation on the environment, its customer care, and product exclusivity. Sustainability and eco-friendliness are major trends and should somehow be implemented to your property. Changes made can range anywhere from using recyclable materials, reducing waste, eliminating plastic utensils, to almost anything that shows that your business cares. Customer care and product exclusivity are other things you should consider offering. Being in the hospitality industry, it should already be pretty evident that customer care should be one of the highest priorities. Product exclusivity, on the other hand, may seem more difficult, but it actually isn't. Offering your guests special deals and coupons that can be used during the booking process, will provide a great deal of interest. These are where it's important to have a promotion engine integrated with your booking process because together they will provide a quick, easy, and rewarding experience. Promotions help you generate appeal and attraction - both of which will drive up bookings. Leveraging promotions to your advantage is important to capture all types of bookings.    Leverage a Hotel CRM to Drive Loyalty Understanding the travelers’ new behaviors and expectations helps you make the right decisions. We see that the younger travelers prefer brands that align with their values and that they can have a bond with. GRM (Guest Relationship Management) tools help build a relationship with your customers that, in turn, creates loyalty and customer retention.  According to RjMetrics, repeat customers are likely to spend 300x more. Building this relationship may sometimes seem difficult, especially during these times. Guest relationship management tools help you get in contact with guests in their native language before their stay, help guests to make any travel arrangements they may need, and address any customer complaints quickly and effectively. You will also be able to interact with guests even after they have stayed at your property, which is just as important as before they arrive. Leaving a good impression even post-stay is a great way to leave the best mark. Considering the irreversible impact of the pandemic on the traveler behavior, the influential Gen Z and the ever-changing nature of the travel industry, it becomes inevitable for you to change the way you do business. Understanding these trends and adapting to them will help you make the right decisions and show you where you should focus more of your energy on. Whether it be providing your guests with a more seamless booking experience with the booking engine, simplifying your operations with the channel manager or improving your guest relationships with promotional coupons and following up with post and pre-stay emails. These tools will allow you to keep up with the new trends and attract travelers who have an entirely different mindset.  

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What Is Bleisure Travel and Why Is It Important?

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 months ago

Perhaps you’ve read about the rise of bleisure travel in the news, or maybe you’re researching strategies to increase bleisure share at your hotel. It’s no secret that bleisure travel is a growing segment in hotels across the globe. But what’s the future of business travel that extends into leisure stays? What do bleisure travelers really want? And how can your hotel best attract them? In this article, we’ll explore bleisure travel trends and dig into why this segment is so attractive for hotels. Amidst the carnage coronavirus had some positive impact on the world like encouraging us all to seek a better work life balance and overall improvement in general well-being. This desire for balance has lead to more domestic trips, staycations and the extension of business trips to have a couple leisure days instead of darting straight back home. We’ll also share best practices for capturing bleisure demand so your hotel can tap into this exciting sector of the market. Ready to learn all about bleisure travel? 

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Hotel Payments Processing: Understanding the Fees and Stakeholders

by
Jan Hejny
4 months ago

Most hoteliers don't know how much they're paying for transactions. Do you? Sure, many can tell you their Booking.com commission rate, yet, if you start digging and asking (the right) questions, you'd be surprised to realize that payments fees are out of sight and out of mind. Chances are that if you knew what you were paying you wouldn't be particularly thrilled with the credit card transactions fees you pay. Typically, hotel payment processing fees on transactions range from about 0.7% to 3.5%, and that eats into profits. However, if this is not bad enough, many other "invisible" costs are involved with payments. And some of them are so well-hidden that it can take years for even the most savvy hoteliers to get a full grasp of the ecosystem tolls. Many hoteliers are overpaying their providers without even realizing it. But don't be fooled: when selecting a processor, only considering transaction fees is, at least, misleading, so if someone is undercharging you there, it's very likely they're adding a markup somewhere else. There are so many players interested when it comes to payments, so it's relatively easy to bury another fee or two here and there without the hotel even discovering it.   Payment: A Long Journey Whenever a transaction is made (online, in person, via phone/email, etc.), there are at least seven parties involved: The consumer: in hospitality, that's the guest. Usually, he's the cardholder or the person paying for the stay; The merchant: the business which is selling the services (or the products for the retail industry). In our case, that's the hotel; The gateway: the technology needed to connect the hotel to the payment processor. The payment processor: it enables the communication between the hotel, the credit card network, and the guest's bank; The credit card network: it's the guest's credit card brand (Visa, Amex, Mastercard, etc.); The issuing bank: the guest's bank making the payment; The acquiring bank: the hotel's bank receiving the payment. This means that, during each step of the payment, extra charges can be applied, sometimes indiscriminately. Here are some of the primary examples of additional costs: Buy rates: processors' costs associated with opening and maintaining the merchant's account. They are, basically, the acquiring bank's fees, made of the interchange + the acquiring bank's markup; Card issues charges: charges made by the card-issuing bank based on the type of the card and its location. For instance, EU-issued personal debit cards are capped to 0.2%, while credit cards to 0.3%. Business cards, on the other hand, are not capped. Booking.com's issuing bank, for example, charges an additional 2% for its virtual card. (Yup, if you do the math, receiving payment through BKG's card will cost you up to 1.8% more than a debit card...); Card scheme fees: fees charged typically by the card brands. Although not very high, they can vary and be very complex; Card tokenization charges: To charge a credit/debit card, a PMS should receive (usually from a partner, such as a channel manager or a booking engine) the number first, and then, tokenize it. Tokenization assures secure storage of credit card numbers and PCI compliance, so it's a crucial service. Here, however, is where systems tend to apply very different rates, and when hotels usually don't look. The payment gateway we use charges 0.05€ per tokenized card, but we've seen PMSs charging four/five times that amount. Moreover, some systems even apply "double tokenizations," meaning that they charge twice if a guest, for example, modifies his reservation on an OTA. Yes, a guest postponing the check-out date can cost you double what you already paid... Sure, a small property could not even notice it, but what if you're running a 100+ key hotel? Payment gateway fees: these are typically charged for initializing a transaction (it can be a payment, a refund, a preauthorization, collect/cancel of preauthorization, etc.). The cost can vary from gateway to gateway, and some systems may also add a markup. Wire Fee: some acquirers charge a fee every single time they send a settlement. If you, like ourselves, receive one a day, that can become quite expensive very quickly. Moreover, your bank may charge you an additional wire fee, making things even worse.   How to Save Money on Payments So, how can you avoid falling into this trap and overpaying for your transactions? Unless you have a complete understanding of how payments work at a higher level, it's challenging get the entire picture.  Start by asking the right questions to your provider. Don't settle with the "we offer the lowest transaction fees in the industry." That's just the marketing department talking, and it won't save you from all the "invisible" costs. Instead, download the latest invoice and start checking all the entries. You may not understand all of them, but at least you now know where to look.

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How to Make Your Hotel Website ADA Compliant

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

Your physical hotel lodging facilities are ADA compliant with accessible guest rooms, but has your website kept up with ADA regulations like Title III (the Americans with Disabilities Act)?  There's nothing worse than a scare from an inspector or worst yet a letter from the Department of Justice itself.  If you’re looking for easy ways to improve your website conversion, get incremental revenue, and boost your guest review scores, then you should take a close look at your website to make sure it’s accessible. But we’re not just talking about making sure your website is online - you’ll want to check that the shopping and booking experience is positive for guests of all abilities and impairments.  In this article, we’ll explain what ADA compliance and accessibility means for your website reservation system and suggest actionable steps you can take to make your website more accessible. With these measures in place, you can position your hotel as a welcoming and accommodating place for all potential guests.