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Communication, a friendly direct sale

They say that the new competitor on the hotel market scene, private apartments, differentiate in more than just the product and price: they also differentiate in customer service. And why do they differentiate in customer service? Because they’ve dusted off the meaning of the word “host.”

Maybe it’s the quirks of the business (the owner is very close to the business’ operation), maybe it’s the new kinds of intermediaries with a more innovative philosophy, but the new players are standing out for something entirely traditional: talking to the customer directly.  They act like real hosts: they speak to the customer personally to hand off the keys, they show them the apartment themselves, they give them an unending list of useful information about where to have dinner, where to get a drink, transportation schedules, events in the city, and that’s not even mentioning the fact that they give them a direct number they can call if they have any questions. If you look at it that way, it is easy to acknowledge that  they really are differentiating in their customer service.

It’s true that the amount of customers that a hotel might have as opposed to an apartment puts the hotel in a worse position in terms of being able to personalize customer service during the guests’ stay. The more rooms there are, the bigger the difference.

Even so, hotels, ever more aware of the situation, are starting to automate and program tailored “in-stay” communications, overcoming the handicap (and what a great one!) of volume and continuous flow. They’ve also changed the way they communicate, making e-communication normal: email, instant messaging, on public or private applications, where it’s the users who decide when and how they want to communicate with the hotel.

In this video, we have interviewed hotelliers about the methods and content of their communications during their guests’ stay and we’ve compared it to what the customer thinks:

Two aspects are trending in online service during a guest’s stay. Communications should tell the right thing at the right time and should be wo-way.

Travelers have foreseeable needs when they arrive at their destination, and hotels are one of the few businesses that can communicate with them to be able to cover these needs; an advantage that often goes unexploited.

The paradigm shift in the hotel business as a hosting business (or, depending on how you look at it, the return to this paradigm) is becoming a differential satisfaction and recommendation factor.

We believe the key is to integrate with the destination in a way that’s obvious for the guest, making them active participants of whatever is going on in the city (daily event programming, concerts, theater, musicals, parties), providing them with information about hot spots chosen by the hotel itself or services that the lodging might recommend, and that additionally, gives them a discount or special extras (tours, stores, bars, museums).

In a study carried out by HOTELS quality, data gathered from hotel guests that are already using “in-stay” communications shows that 68% of users who receive a message of this kind (before or during their stay) click through. 38% are interested in upselling or cross-selling proposals (other hotel services), and 58% in helpful information and on destination activities.

The ongoing multichannel conversation is the other trend that users say they expect in their service provider. If the customer finds the hotel through its communication channels, or in others proposed by the hotel, and the messages are relevant, the result is an improved experience. Some customers will be more comfortable with communication through email, others with messaging services like Whatsapp, Kik, Pinterest… Public or private communication, the customer decides.

Nothing can stand in for in person communication with customers in the lobby or at breakfast in vacation hotels, but reaching everyone is extremely difficult. A good digital communication strategy with your guests increases the service level, guest stickiness, and recurring sales and recommendation opportunities (which today continues to be most economic and profitable of hotel distribution channel).

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