(EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog is an adapted excerpt of our eBook, ‘Proactive Service Recovery: The Revenue Strategy You Can’t Ignore.’)
Inviting guests to speak freely about their experience and complain about their issues, while arming them with a fast and convenient way like texting, can seem daunting to the hotel’s frontline staff, but it shouldn’t.
If clear processes and expectations are established from the start and the right technology is deployed, texting will free up time for staff to focus on strategic efforts and more personal interactions with guests.
“If a guest has an issue, we need to handle that right away,” said Virgnia Crowe, VP of Guest Experience at Meruelo Gaming, which owns the Sahara Las Vegas and the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. “We make sure every team member knows they can use their best discretion to take care of the issue. You have to equip your team with the tools to do it because it can be upsetting to a guest if that front-line team member says, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t handle this for you, I need to get my manager.’”
Use Technology to Respond Quickly
If you get the problem, you own it, she says. The old saying that patience is a virtue is no longer valid in today’s world, where top brands like Amazon, Uber and Netflix have reshaped consumer expectations. Even in brick-and-mortar businesses, customers don’t just expect faster service, they demand it. The longer you make them wait to respond to a question, request or complaint, the greater the chance you won’t satisfy them.
“We typically recommend under five minutes as a best practice for response time,” said Julie Gamboa, Zingle’s Director of Customer Success, who works with hundreds of hotels and resorts and businesses across many different verticals. “Texting is far more immediate than email. Many of our partners automate escalations to management if messages aren’t responded to in a set period of time.”
Texting makes it possible to respond quickly, even immediately through artificial intelligence and automations. Sophisticated platforms can automate answers to commonly asked questions without any human support, like “What’s the WiFi password?” or “When does the restaurant open?”
With AI and natural language processing, more complex questions can be understood, answered or escalated, and even other actions triggered automatically. When text messaging can be integrated with other systems, like the PMS or a service optimization solution, automations can be even more powerful and the service response time becomes quicker.
“The integration provided us with guest data and streamlined processes that enable us to provide a quicker and more efficient service,” said Roland Ivy, a PBX/Instant Service Manager at the InterContinental Hotel Cleveland. “Instead of our front desk having to write down every guest request, and then input it into the ticketing system, all requests are taken care of (through the messaging platform). When our guest sends a text message request, the message gets automatically sent to the right department and the service ticket is created seamlessly. This improvement in process saved us hours when it comes to fulfilling guest requests and also helped reduce errors and missed requests because everything is done pretty much automatically.”
Use High Tech to Provide High Touch
Messaging platforms can also help identify opportunities that would benefit from personalized attention, and by automating answers to guest questions and streamlining other tedious processes, staff will have more time to take better care of those guests.
At the Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park in Colorado, a Delaware North property, a recent example illustrates the door that texting opened to build a deeper relationship with a guest. A family had checked out of the hotel and was on their way to the Denver airport when they realized their son had left his teddy bear in the room. The mom frantically texted and the hotel was able to instantly get in touch with housekeeping, who found the stuffed animal. The hotel texted the mom back, the family was able to turn around, the teddy bear was rescued and the family still made their flight. It all happened in minutes.
“Now, to most people, they’re like, ‘That’s not a big deal.’ But to that little kid, that was huge,” said Marcus Story, Guest Path Business Partner, Parks & Resorts Division, Delaware North. “And I’m assuming to that parent, who was probably going to deal with the kid crying all the way back to wherever they needed to go, it was a big deal.”
At the KOA Nashville, General Manager Aaron Williamson had a similar experience. On the last day of a multi-night stay at the campground and resort, a woman texted that she wanted to spend an extra night because her husband was not feeling well.
Instead of texting back, Williamson called her to say he hoped everything was OK and to make sure her reservation was extended. A little bit later, he texted her to see how things were and to share where the nearest medical facilities were just in case.
She never responded, but a couple days later, Williamson saw a review that called out the exceptional service.
“She said no matter where else she travels in the world, she wants to come back to Nashville and stay with us because we care,” he added. “I’m glad guests are contacting me when there are issues because it enables me to make it right and improve their experience.”
In both examples, the guests weren’t likely leaving disappointed in their stays, maybe frustrated by a renegade teddy bear or a sick spouse, but both properties were able to turn what may have been neutral experiences into truly memorable ones with quick, personal responses.
About the Author
Eric Stoessel has more than 12 years experience working in hospitality, serving in various leadership roles across B2B media and travel technology.