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Point/Counterpoint: Texting Your Guests

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June 20, 2016
Point/Counterpoint
Michael Schubach
JasenLew

The Point/Counterpoint is an old feature that we decided to bring out of retirement. In this issue, we take the topic of texting and share two alternative points of view.

From my viewpoint:
Michael Schubach, Consultant

There is industry buzz about the next new thing. Only this time, the new thing is an old thing – texting. Neither the technology nor the usage is new. Worse, it’s not that guest friendly. I have very little faith in the current generation’s capability to get from capital letter to period without embedding some sort of English-language disaster somewhere in between. Text messaging is neither for the articulate nor the fluent. 

Frankly, I worry that a tool that is not very hospitable is being considered the weapon of choice for guest communications. Texting lacks the personal guest recognition that we associate with high-touch service. With the cutting-edge technologies that are making their way to mobile communications devices, leaning on the tried and true just seems too trite and tired.
 
Today’s buzz is all about loyalty apps, the conjunction of guest recognition with hotel communication to zero in, acknowledge and reward. The opportunity is clearly open to heighten the guest experience with targeted, professional messages – something well beyond the routine slap of a text message. That each chain or brand has its own loyalty app is an inconvenience if you participate in multiple programs, but I appreciate the added value that a dedicated app provides. I am more likely to reap program benefits and extras when I stick with the hotel’s method of choice. 

Deep down, the real reason that I don’t like texting is that I don’t trust a vendor with my cell number. My mobile device is my last bastion of privacy, and even as I commit that thought to paper, I am receiving nuisance calls from telemarketers, always at the worst moments possible. Still I fantasize that those who have and use my cell number are doing so with my consent, and that they are people that I want or need to hear from. Oh, I can hear the argument now – “this will only be so we can communicate with you at your convenience,” but vendors and I have very different concepts of convenience. Vendors take their vow of constant communication more seriously than newlyweds, and I can’t describe how really annoying that can be. The email torrent (flood, actually) is bad enough, but hotels especially seem to have a hard time understanding that a one-night stand does not a lifetime relationship make. Communicating is one thing… making me pay for it with my sanity is another.

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From my viewpoint:
Jasen Lew, Glowing.io

Improving on proven technology by leveraging it in new ways is innovation. We know text messaging works (it's reliable), we know there is an established market (it's engaging) and we know that eliminating any learning curve translates to instant adoption (it's easy).

A 2015 Cornell study found that overall, guests prefer texting and messaging as either their primary or secondary form of communication during their stay, ahead of the phone, hotel apps or the other common methods of communication. You don’t have to be a certain age – it’s the way most of us communicate with our family, friends and close business associates today. Besides, who really needs or wants yet another app for each hotel or chain we visit? 

Messaging allows for:
•  Great service. Luxury no longer simply means expensive. The term has grown to imply a sense of choice – the ability for guests to define their own experiences, which includes how and when they chose to interact with the hotel.
•  In-the-moment communication. Messaging is a great way for guests to share needs whenever and wherever they are, especially when they are not near a hotel phone or staff member.
•  Engagement. A property can respond quickly and effectively to whatever messaging platform the guest is already using on the guest’s own device. Not only are hotels able to appeal to their digital travelers (i.e., almost everyone), they are also able to engage with “silent” guests who check in, stay and check out with little or no communication with staff.
•  Eliminating language barriers. Certain messaging solutions offer bidirectional language translation that allows guests to communicate in their own native language.
•  Safety and security.  Hotels can contact guests and staff immediately if safety and security issues arise – including the instruction to “shelter in place” in extreme circumstances. These are vital improvements over today’s general emergency contact measures.
•  Ancillary revenue. For the many guests who welcome messaging, it provides an easy and cost-effective way to drive special offers that can be time and/or context sensitive. If the spa has availability today, why not offer a 40 percent discount to the first guest who responds?

Messaging is an easy way to allow engaged communication between hotel and guest without making anyone learn anything new. World-class guest engagement and personalization come when the property communicates as each guest prefers, across their chosen messaging platform and in their own native language.

 
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