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  • Writer's pictureDeniz Tekerek

Avoiding the Whatsapp Conundrum: 3 Questions Hoteliers Should Ask Themselves

Personal data is sensitive! There’s no doubt that people are increasingly worried about personal data and the potential dangers of sharing access to such data, especially with the news cycle of the last few years floating around. One of the major milestones on that news cycle was the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by the European Union in mid-2018.

In essence, the GDPR was one of the most publicised pieces of legislation relating to access and distribution of personal data. What’s more, the introduction of this piece of regulation led to a snowball effect in regions outside of the European Union, with several countries agreeing to a similar framework to that of the GDPR, with Vietnam becoming one of the latest countries to follow suit.

In the context of the hotel industry, the official introduction of the GDPR was swiftly followed by the first major breaking news, with Marriott receiving a fine of just under £100M by the UK government for breaches of the newly introduced regulation. Indeed, Marriott is still in the process of dealing with several class-action lawsuits in relation to this data breach which jeopardised hundreds of millions of customer data.

While the news cycle has moved on from the Marriott story, the focus has recently shifted towards chat applications, with WhatsApp taking the limelight due to proposed changes to its privacy policy, which would put sensitive data at risk. With that being said, lots of companies are beginning to manage their internal messaging practices differently, with many asking staff to avoid any sensitive conversations on the chat platform.

Consumers have become equally worried by WhatsApp and its proposed privacy policy changes, and the simple fact that Signal, a WhatsApp competitor that’s deemed safer, experienced an outage due to the amount of downloads it has received, is a sign of changing consumer sentiments.

What does This mean for the Hotel Industry?

We had previously talked about the increasing importance of direct messaging with guests, in order for hotels to navigate the expected changes to guest behaviour in the months and years following the pandemic. Clearly, there is a need for such a direct ability to communicate with guests at a distance, as guest engagement must not suffer a blow triggered by guests’ preferences to remain physically distant to hotel staff.

As with many industries, a chat feature seems to be the way forward, and many companies have stepped up to provide such solutions to the hotel industry. For hoteliers, the focus in making the right selection when it comes to chat solutions, should take into account the following factors:

  1. How can I avoid utilising large B2C platforms like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger that won’t be as concerned as you might be about your guests’ data?

  2. How can I put guests’ minds at ease by not entering their personal space or eco-system via their personal devices?

  3. With people questioning the safety and security of existing chat platforms, how open will they be to hotel solutions entering that phone space?

In other words, and as counterintuitive as it might seem now, there is an increasing need to avoid the incorporation of guests’ personal devices, mostly due to a combination of needs relating to safety, data security and more effective digitisation.

Where does the Portier Platform sit in this Context?

Portier Phones are essentially a one-stop shop for guest experience and guest engagement. In fact, this one-stop shop has the highest engagement numbers recorded across the industry and with that being said, the overall platform is perfectly placed to deal with both the changes triggered by COVID-19 and the privacy concerns that are as significant as they have ever been.

For example, on the Portier Platform, an in-built chat is just one of many features guests and hotel staff alike use on a daily basis. Guests have a unique room ID associated with their temporary chat account and can simply use Portier Phones without giving up any sensitive personal data. Despite the lack of such data, hotel staff get to personalise the whole experience via that unique room ID. The Portier Chat, then, is a feature that is built on the basis of a fully uninterrupted channel for communication between hotels and their guests.

As a result, guests use Portier Phones and the in-built chat without having to worry about any of their personal data, and hotels get to avoid any negative run-in with the authorities, regulators and hackers, ultimately keeping these conversations as they should be, private.


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