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Messaging Apps as Ubiquitous as Booking Engines for Hotel Websites

Lodging Interactive 15 May 2018
Personal technologies over the last 10 years have changed our lives and the world we live in. When you consider how far we have come and how comfortable we have become in being interconnected through mobile devices, it's no wonder that we crave immediate responses to our hotel questions. And mobile technology is the enabler as nearly every human on the planet carries computing power that can fit in one hand what once took large data centers, and millions of dollars, to equal the same power. Do you realize that Apple's iPad was introduced to the world only 8 years ago? That Uber launched in 2009 and Snapchat was launched in 2011?There is no turning back, we are all online and we are all connected. As a result, we have the ability and, many times, we demand immediate gratification. This is where I believe most hoteliers are missing tremendous opportunities to book more business and build loyalty. By leveraging the power of website live chat and guest messaging, hoteliers can really gain market share. We constantly read about hoteliers wanting to drive more direct business to their websites with the intent of lowering their OTA and third party booking costs.Website live chat has been around for many years and, as consumers, we have become comfortable when a live chat window pops up while we're shopping for a pair of shoes online. After all we can decide to engage, or not, and we control the conversation. Live chat agents are not applying hard sales tactics, they are supporting us as we navigate through the online purchasing process.Let's not forget that the hospitality industry is all about being hospitable and providing service to guests when they are in-house but in my experience, hospitality and service needs to start on the hotel's website before a potential guest books a room. This is where live chat engagement can make a huge difference. Live chat leverages the same technologies we have all become so dependent upon and it provides that immediate guest gratification we want while supporting the online sales process.The smart hoteliers understand that the overall hotel guest experience begins at the website level when the guest first experiences the hotel. This is evidenced by the abundance of personalization technologies promising to deliver a "unique experience" for every website visitor. Yet most hotel websites are cold and impersonal. They provide the potential guest with a self-service browsing environment and the only option is to figure it out for themselves. Why? It doesn't have to be this way when the technology is here today and with zero learning curve from the consumer's perspective. Clearly every hotelier I speak to about online customer service agrees that having a live chat channel available on their website makes perfect sense. I have yet to come across any hotelier who disagrees.The clear recurring comment I receive from hoteliers is that budgets and appropriate staffing is the issue preventing their website from becoming more useful to visitors and more effective at driving direct business: Two things they most desperately want by the way. While I agree that on-property staffing specifically for website live chat doesn't make sense for the majority of properties, all properties can benefit from partnering with a company that provides fully managed live chat services for hotels. Our agency provides USA based fully managed live chat services to hotels, 7 days a week year-round. And while other agencies provide similar services, hoteliers should keep in mind that quality really matters with live chat. The worst possible situation that can happen is for a hotel to partner with a live chat service overseas who has live chat agents that don't have a good understanding of "American" English and its nuances.I'm a firm believer that just as hotels post telephone numbers on their websites, so too will live chat widgets become as ubiquitous as booking engines have become. Staffing issues aside, there is no downside when you're trying to help your potential customers do business with you.Messaging services are also becoming increasingly widespread within the hospitality industry. Much of this has to do with the amount of venture capital chasing new technology platforms in an attempt to disrupt the hospitality market. Live chat has not experienced the same level of fervor due to live chat technologies not being the shiny new technology du jour. After all live chat has been in existence for over a decade in other industries.I believe messaging platforms work well at the property. It makes perfect sense to provide streamlined communications for in-house guests. While it is easy for a guest to pick up the phone in their room to request more towels be sent up to their room, it is not always the case where the hotel answers the phone fast enough. We've all be there I'm sure, calling the front desk or operator during check in and check out time only to have the phone ring 15 to 20 times before we hang up in frustration. On site guest messaging certainly helps with this, but only if the hotel staff...yes a human is on the other end ready, willing and able to respond in a timely manner. Perhaps when it all plays out with on-property messaging, the same "staffing" issue will become evident. Only time will tell on this one.While I'm on the topic of having "humans" on the other end of live chat and messaging technology platforms, lets discuss the chatbot and its relevance for the hospitality industry. Going back to the beginning of this article, we're in the hospitality business and in a business where customer service always wins. All the technology in the world won't help your hotel if you are not able to meet or exceed customer service expectations.Having engaged with (uhm, tested) many chatbots I can say that I'm not very impressed with the level of understanding they have or the engagement opportunities they offer. Going beyond asking a chatbot "what time is check in" or "does your hotel have onsite parking", chatbots are useless other than to aggravate customers and potentially hurt business opportunities for a property. I believe chatbots for the hospitality industry is simply not ready for prime time. Why would any hotelier risk his property's reputation and customer service to a chatbot who can't complete the conversation with a human? Smart hoteliers will want to wait until the artificial intelligence technology improves, which experts say is 10 years away. Customer service and building guest loyalty is so important and still requires humans after all.Oh, one more thing. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no turning back for hotels when it comes to providing website visitors with live chat engagement services. Research confirms this.Live chat is the natural way we, as consumers, have been conditioned to interact online. The successful hotelier is the one who understands this and uses live chat as a true differentiator for his or her property. Our own research indicates that less than 5% of hotel websites in North America offer live chat and real time human engagement services. This presents a huge business opportunity for the smart hotelier.

Lodging Interactive Publishes: Hospitality Social Media News

Lodging Interactive 20 March 2018
Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the inaugural issue of Hospitality Social Media News a bi-weekly publication reporting the latest social media news and recommendations for hotels and resorts.Hoteliers can click here to subscribe for free."Our goal in publishing Hospitality Social Media News is to educate and to provide value within the hospitality marketplace. In any given week social media platforms announce new features and algorithm changes which could affect hotel marketing plans. Unless you 'live and breathe' social media like we do, you simply can't keep up," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive's Founder & President. "We know the hospitality industry will benefit from Hospitality Social Media News and we're pleased to provide this free resource to hoteliers."Each issue of Hospitality Social Media News provides the latest news from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, and what it all means for hotels specifically. Hoteliers can click here to subscribe for free to start receiving the bi-weekly email newsletter. The first issue of Hospitality Social Media News will be published on March 21, 2018.

Why Human Hotel Live Chat is Better Than Chabots

Lodging Interactive 25 January 2018
You'd choose the person, every time. Everyone would.Live chat is no different. Live chat with real, actual people will be superior than conversations with chatbots on the other side every single time. It may cost a little bit more to pay someone to handle the live chat, but it's a cost that will provide a return on investment multiple times over.Here's how...Chatbots Are Stuck to Pre-programmed ResponsesChatbots aren't "smart," even if you program them really, really well. They are limited to only answer questions they've been programmed to identify, and they can only provide a set number of answers to those limited questions.Sure, when a customer asks about amenities offered by your hotel, they can spout off information about the pool and complimentary breakfast. Your chatbot will fall short, however, when potential customers ask if there's a limit on towels at the pool or if their breakfast can be gluten-free, dairy-free, and pork-free.Alt image text: human live chat vs chatbotsThese small, detailed questions won't matter to 99% of customers, but the answer could decide whether or not that potential customer books with you. And while only one person will ask each of these questions, an enormous chunk of customers reaching out will have a different question that matters to them. It's impossible to program for that.People Understand NuanceChatbots only spit out binary responses. Yes and no, we have that or we don't, I do or don't understand the request, was or wasn't this answer helpful? Human beings understand nuance in a way that chatbots never will. Instead of "yes and no," we can provide "maybe, let's take a look."When it comes to hotel bookings--which may include conference, event, or wedding bookings--there could easily be many grey areas. For example can you extend the number of discounted rooms for our event?A chatbot will only routinely cycle through policies you've taught it; it is incapable of nuance or negotiation, which could be crucial to landing large bookings.People Actually Care Whoever said business isn't personal was flat out wrong. Business is immensely personal, and if customers feel like you don't care about them, they'll go straight to your competition. Chatbots, by nature, cannot care. At best they'll appear polite, but they won't have the capability to go above and beyond like a dedicated customer service specialist; they'll just replay the same menu of options on a loop.Alt text: why hotels shouldn't use chatbots A real person will care that your customer is stressed, or upset, or confused. Since you could lose these customers quickly without turning around their experience, it is essential to have a dedicated representative ready to tackle their problem with them.Long story short: you want to invest in human live chat instead of relying on chatbots. You can't afford not to.Lodging Interactive, through its CoMMingle Live Chat service, offers hotels a fully managed and affordable live chat service available 7 days a week. For more information on Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle Live Chat for Hotels or call 877-291-4411 Ext 701.

Lodging Interactive Handles 200,000 Guest Review Responses

Lodging Interactive 1 March 2017
PARSIPPANY, NJ - February 28, 2017 Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced that it has responded to over 200,000 guest reviews for its hotel clients. Since the launch of its CoMMingle service the agency has worked with numerous iconic 4 and 5 star independent properties as well as branded properties representing global brands such as Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, IHG, Wyndham, to name a few."The continued growth of our CoMMIngle reputation management service can be attributed to the "white glove" service we provide to every guest review we write for our hotel clients," said Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive's Founder and President. "As a fully managed service we understand the hotel's reputation is at stake with every guest review we write and the importance of responding in the hotel's voice and persona."Unlike other services that outsource the writing of guest reviews to third world countries, Lodging Interactive continues to invest heavily in its CoMMingle operations team based in the USA. All guest reviews are responded to with custom responses and adhere to the high standards set by the many hotel brands the agency services. The CoMMingle service monitors and manages all guest reviews posted on review and OTA sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Yelp, Google, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Orbitz.com, Facebook, and Google. Additionally, CoMMingle also monitors and responds to major hotel brand website guest reviews. The CoMMingle service is offered 7 days a week and provides daily posting of hotel management responses."According to research provided by TripAdvisor, 68% of consumers will book a room at a property that responds to reviews versus one that doesn't," added Mr. Vallauri. "And as the volume of guest reviews continues to increase on a year over year basis, property human resources will continue to be insufficient and will be unable to handle the volume and workload involved in responding to all guest reviews. This is precisely why we have made significant investments in our infrastructure to ensure we can accommodate the growing volume of guest reviews."CoMMingle reputation management offers guest review monitoring and management response services in 12 languages. "As a global service, CoMMingle recognized the need for a multilingual approach to a world audience of our clients. Offering response service for reviews of various languages, addressing past guests as well as focusing on the potential future guests of the same language demographic," said Rosella Virdo, CoMMingle Managing Director.CoMMingle reputation management services are offered to hotels, resorts and restaurants. For more information and to receive a price quote please visit www.LodgingInteractive.com or call 877-291-4411 ext 701.

Lodging Interactive Drives Direct Bookings with Fully Managed Live Chat Service for Hotels & Resorts

Lodging Interactive 7 September 2016
Lodging Interactive, the leading digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the rollout of CoMMingle Live ChatSM the hospitality industry's first real time, fully managed live chat service for hotels and resorts. The industry launch follows a six-month BETA test and the hiring of a dedicated team of in-house, US based CoMMingle Live Chat agents."CoMMingle Live Chat enables properties to offer website customer service and to assist consumers with real-time online direct sales support at the time of booking intent," stated Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive's President and CEO. "CoMMingle Live Chat combines the latest in live chat technologies with our US based live chat agents to assist potential guests in making reservations on the hotel's website."While Live Chat technology is not new, it is increasingly becoming the preferred hotel website communications vehicle for consumers seeking additional information missing from hotel websites. With the ubiquity of responsive hotel websites and fast mobile broadband Live Chat services provide hotels with the ability to provide customer service and assisted sales support via their websites, where there currently is none."CoMMingle Live Chat enables us to provide the highest level of customer service even before our guests arrive," said Ed Reagoso, General Manager of the Wilshire Grand Hotel. "I've been amazed at the level of customer engagement CoMMingle Live Chat has been able to achieve which helps us build long term loyalty and book more business.""CoMMingle Live Chat enables conversational commerce" added Mr. Vallauri. "It's not about the technology so much, but rather the 'human-to-human' connection and engagement. Consumers booking online hotel rooms don't want to deal with bot technology or artificial intelligence, they want hospitality...a human connection and this is what CoMMingle Live Chat delivers."The CoMMingle Live Chat service is available for hotels seven days a week and is priced on a low monthly subscription fee. Unlike a call center environment CoMMingle Live Chat agents are dedicated to small number of hotels which allows each agent to fully know the properties they're managing. The result is an efficient and seamless experience for the consumer every time.CoMMingle Live Chat service benefits for hotels:Real-time customer engagement throughout the booking processProvides conversational commerce while assisting in the booking processIncrease in direct bookings and event RFP submissionsReduces negative reviews/comments posted to TripAdvisor & OTA sitesCrisis alert escalation to property as neededOffers true market differentiation within competitive setUnlimited live agent fully managed chats for low monthly fee100% mobile enabled100% US based live chat agents, employed by Lodging InteractiveGetting started with CoMMingle Live Chat is easy and implementation only requires a small snippet of code be added to the hotel website. For more information please visit: https://LiveChatForHotels.com

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