In our recent webinar with Phocuswire, Marriott Vacations and Meruelo Gaming — Guest Experience in 2020: Uncovering the link between consumer behavior, service recovery and business impact — we learned that hotels, resorts and casinos using text messaging to engage guests can better identify, respond to and recover from service issues and drive real business results that impact the bottom line.
The audience had several great questions we ran out of time to answer during the Q&A session. We’ll tackle all those here…
Making Service Recovery More Proactive
Q: Is this in the luxury hotel sector or can it apply to all sectors?
Service recovery should be a priority for any business that values customer service, and in hospitality, that means all segments, from economy to luxury and everything in between, branded and independent.
The resources available and expectations may vary based on segment, but consumers today expect speed and convenience when it comes to service. Zingle partners with all types of hotels, casinos, resorts, campgrounds and vacation clubs along with many other business types, from retail to fitness to law firms and more.
Text messaging can be a great way for all types of businesses to engage customers, build more personal relationships and improve service response and recovery and the overall customer experience.
Q: How do you capture guest experience outside the hotel property? Is there a way to do this to improve guest experience so that it provides end-to-end 360-degree view of your guests?
That’s the opportunity that comes with using text messaging as a platform for communication. You are communicating with your customer on the device they’ve always got with them, so you can engage them throughout their entire stay, whether it is on or off property.
Of course most hotels and resorts are going to be particularly interested in the experience on their property and what they can impact, but many of our partners recommend and provide tips to local attractions and events.
Savvy operators know guests factor in their experiences off property to how they view the overall stay and trip, so relevant and personalized tips and recommendations can help lead to delivering more memorable experiences.
Q: What about using a virtual assistant to provide better service recovery? Do you have any examples?
Like Virginia Crowe, VP of Guest Experience at Meruelo Gaming, explained, the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, NV brands their use of Zingle as “Sierra,” so text communications come from her, like a virtual assistant. She (powered by the hotel staff, automation and artificial intelligence) answers common questions, responds to service requests and complaints and when situations arise, Sierra steps aside and the staff steps in, via text or in person.
As an example, when a mid-stay checkup text is sent by the hotel or casino and a guest responds with an issue, like the TV remote isn’t working well, the virtual assistant could flag, escalate and respond via text that a guest service representative is on the way with a working remote (through integrations and artificial intelligence, much of this can be automated if the property so chooses).
By opening the lines of communication and engaging proactively, a property can identify issues large and small and resolve them before they turn into more significant problems.
Q: There was a mention of SMS during mid stay. Don’t hotels use mobile apps for sending these messages? Isn’t mobile app usage at hotels still nascent?
Some hotels and brands utilize mobile applications for these kinds of messages and communication, but the challenge there is the guest must download an app to use. With as many hotels, brands and loyalty programs in the world, consumer adoption has been light.
Most consumers don’t travel frequently enough or always to the same brand to download, keep and actively use the mobile app to make this an effective communication channel. It’s a major reason this is still nascent in hospitality. With texting directly to and from a consumer’s mobile device, hotels can easily reach guests on their preferred communication channel.
They don’t have to download or update additional software and guests can communicate with the hotel through texting as they would with friends and family on the device they’ve always got with them. However, if a hotel chooses, Zingle can be integrated into a hotel’s existing app if they do not have a chat or messaging function.
Q: How does enabling an SMS channel affect the bandwidth of front line employees? Have you found that the staff is able to handle it?
“The greatest thing about Zingle is you can automate a lot of the messages,” said Shaun McCaffrey, Program Manager, Resort Operations & Guest Technology at Marriott Vacations Worldwide. “It’s not about throwing another body behind a computer and punching out hundreds of messages.
You can set parameters within the system that says two days after check in or whatever the magic number, send this template. Or answer this question or send this piece of information and you even have the ability to customize it and use the person’s name and even the gender and say Mr. or Mrs. to personalize it.
So it’s not needing more bodies to accomplish that. And we’re substituting, in a lot of cases, for people who were using phones to answer questions and now answering with text messages and automation. We haven’t had to add staff and it’s been really efficient. The automations take away manual processes.”
Q: What about smaller, independent properties (rather than resorts and chain hotels) interacting with their guests? Do the same rules apply?
Yes, text messaging works at all kinds of hotels and across all business types. Zingle partners with many smaller independent and boutique properties, as well as many different business types, from retail to fitness to F&B and more. AI-driven text messaging can help any business that wants to better engage customers and provide more proactive and personalized service.
Q: I understood that the survey results and the experiences shared during the broadcast happened only in the U.S. Do you think this might change in other regions or cultures? Do you have any insights from other scenarios?
Certainly there could be differences and nuances in different regions and cultures, but the one constant: We live in a world dominated by mobile. According to GSMA, 66.4% of the world’s population owns a mobile device, and more than 560 billion SMS are sent monthly all over the world. So the opportunity to use text messaging for communication and customer service is global.
Q: What are your points of view on NPS as a standardized methodology, is there any better approach to problem solving and measuring experience?
Hotels and resorts use a variety of methods to track the guest experience and their guest service. NPS is one method many of our partners use, especially in verticals outside of hospitality.
Although within hospitality, KOA Campgrounds Nashville recently shared how using a messaging-based guest engagement platform like Zingle helped them improve their NPS scores by more than two points. Guest satisfaction surveys are also very popular for many hotel companies, and as Virginia discussed on the webinar, tracking social media and online review sites like TripAdvisor are also very important.
With Zingle, you also have a full dashboard with analytics that show response and resolution times, message volume and more. You can even sort and categorize messages by topic to help identify trends and issues. There’s no right way or one standard methodology to measure service and guest experience.
Q: What software program(s) do hotels use to track and manage customer feedback?
“We really use our post-stay survey as our baseline and set benchmarks and guest service goals for every department,” says Virgina from Meruelo Gaming. “That’s the one we rely on the most, but we know we’re not getting feedback from everybody. So we’re also always looking at our social media channels and TripAdvisor is very important to our properties, but also Expedia reviews, Yelp and other channels like text messages and the mid-stay survey on Zingle. We try to take a composite view and look at it holistically.”
Q: Do you set response time standards for text messaging? Reply within 1 hour? 3 hours?
Texting is a more immediate channel than email and guests usually expect a reply within a short period of time. Zingle’s customer service team typically recommends under 5 minutes as a best practice for response time and most of our partners set up escalations to management and even corporate if messages aren’t responded to in a set period of time.
Q: How do we deal with fixing problems for those guests who are not planning to visit the hotel again? Is it worth solving all the issues stated by all guests?
Do you ever really know if a guest is going to return? Might you head off a negative review or bad word of mouth if you resolve the problem or attempt to? And if it’s after the fact when you learn of the issue, even if you don’t believe they’ll ever return, it still makes sense to address and attempt to resolve it so other guests aren’t affected or it doesn’t develop into a bigger problem.
If it’s something very specific to that one guest and you know they’ll never return, perhaps you shouldn’t devote too many resources to fixing the problem, but I’m not sure how you’ll ever know those things for sure. As the survey indicated, when you can turn a negative into a positive 42 percent of guests say they’ll return.
Q: Do you have any metrics or the monetary value of this from a customer?
The Guest Service Report and consumer research study provide insights into how consumers say they feel about guest service and the value of it, but we do have several customers who have shared how text messaging has helped drive significant results.
- Talbott Hotel used Zingle to fill empty rooms and generates $5,000 per week
- La Cantera Resort Achieves Highest Guest Satisfaction Scores Ever with Messaging
- Sahara Las Vegas Improves Guest Satisfaction Scores with Mid-Stay Reviews
- Luxury Coastal Vacations Improves Online Reviews with Messaging
About the Author
Eric Stoessel has more than 12 years of experience working in hospitality, serving in various leadership roles across B2B media and travel technology.