Messaging: Put to Work for Hotels and Guests By Jeffrey Parker

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April 20, 2021
Guest Messaging
Jeffrey Parker

Remember the telephone game where you start with one phrase to the person to the right of you, and you each have to repeat it along the chain until the last person stands up and announces what they heard?
 
By the time the message filters through only a few people, it has completely changed. 

   This has happened for years in travel. Information on the brand.com site is different from what’s in the mobile app, from what’s on the OTAs, from what shows up in Google and from what’s happening at the hotel. Sources may get partial information from each other, or no information at all. The more places data is available, the worse the problem gets. 
   This is where messaging comes in. No longer an afterthought regulated to valet car pickup and random extra towel requests, messaging is a true hero. It lets you quickly provide guests consistent, up-to-the minute information.
If your hotel doesn’t have a messaging plan in place, or a strategy to get one implemented, you’re behind the curve. A messaging strategy is no longer just a nice thing to have. Messaging is the key to accurate information sharing.

 
   Messaging Options
   Your messaging plan needs to include options beyond using an app. Guests rarely want to download one or keep it on their device for long if they do.
   At the very minimum you should have a short messaging service, or SMS.
   It can send a message to almost any device, even a flip phone. This lets you communicate with almost all your potential guests.

 
   Give Your Guests What They Want
   Your hotel needs a strategy that will be open to communicating with guests in the way they want to interact. This is the best way to make sure they receive the most current data on your hotel.
Each team member interacting with guest messaging should be using a unified platform that lets them quickly respond to all messages from one view.
   Many hotels are consolidating messaging so they can respond at a moment’s notice to messages from hotels far and wide (or right down the block). This frees up your front desk staff, who are already serving as PBX operators and dealing with guests in person. Some smaller hotel groups choose to rotate coverage. Lobbies are closed after 10 p.m. and a night-shift team member at another hotel responds for them.


 
 
   What Can AI Do for You?
   Having a messaging platform isn’t enough. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes into play.
   When used properly it can enhance efficiency — almost like having an extra team member or two to respond to guests’ most common requests.

   There are two variants (that you’re most likely to encounter: keyword based and natural language. Each has benefits, each can improve customer service.
   Keyword-based solutions identify words in guest messages and return pre-loaded responses. For example, if a guest asks:
   “What is the Wireless Password” or “How do I connect to Wi-Fi” or “what is the hotel’s Network” the keyword system will have a response targeted to Wi-Fi, Wireless and Network, the response returned will be “Network Name: HotelInternet, you will need your last name and room number to connect.”
   Figuring out what your guests want to know is the trick to creating a great keyword-based solution. Commonly asked questions involve:
•   Pool or fitness area hours (and COVID rules)
•   Restaurant hours
•   Airport shuttle pickup
•   Check-in times
   Keyword-based AI can answer these and many more frequently asked questions without staff intervention and with the immediacy your guests are looking for.  But keyword systems are also easily tripped up. For example, a guest asking for Wi-Fi help will get the same response as one asking for a password:

   This is where an advanced agent AI system shines. The hotel still builds out responses to many common issues but adds additional dimensions that can provide a more specific answer.
The same conversation in advanced agent AI might look like this:
   The result solves the guest’s issue and can be applied to many more scenarios. If your messaging system has a PMS interface or even a basic CSV one, then it can automatically send messages to guests to provide information and start processes. Imagine this automated conversation that engages guests the day they arrive:
   These are just a few examples of how messaging can work for you. Imagine mass messaging for a group to let them know a wedding reception has been moved inside for inclement weather. If you use messaging for in-stay customer surveys, service like this will provide an immediate boost for your CSS scores.
   The growth and adaptability of messaging platforms in the last 10 months has been amazing. Put it to work for you, whether it’s stretching your housekeeping team’s capacity, upselling rooms or letting guests make dinner reservations in a flash.
   Messaging literally puts the power in your (and your guests’) hands.

©2021 Hospitality Upgrade
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