The Importance of Direct Messaging with Guests
2021 is bound to become a year during which hoteliers will have to digitise their offering, if they are to stay in business beyond this year. That might be a strong statement, but the ultimate reality is that 2020 had such a significant impact on our lives and the associated daily behaviours, that our travel-related activities of the future are set to go under the microscope.
Despite an assumed need for contactless experiences and calls for fully digital hotel environments, the rather traditional need of keeping guests engaged for the sake of a stronger bottom line will continue to be boosted. As often pointed out by us, engaged hotel guests spend more on hotel stays than those that feel disengaged. In fact, expect the next few years to shift focus towards such guest engagement at a safe distance.
For us at Portier Technologies, the notion of engaging guests effectively at a distance has always been the number one focus. Having said that, our experience in building the most engaging hotel guest platform out there will only accelerate our involvement with hotels in the months and years ahead. While we utilise a variety of features to deliver strong hotel guest engagement, the most immediate impact in 2021 will likely come from our direct messaging feature and a variety of other direct messaging providers which are entering the market at seemingly record pace.
Why Direct Messaging?
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In a hotel environment, direct messaging guests is ultimately a way to create, maintain and empower a digital concierge experience. Many hotel concierges are differentiators, but they suffer from the same limitations that non-digital businesses suffer from; they can’t be attending to all guests at all times because they’re physically locked in to conversations with one to two guests at a time. Nevertheless, they are arguably the most powerful advocates of your hotel brand and the hotel guest experience, but how can they have more meaningful impact, when they are limited in capacity?
The same questions could apply to any other businesses that haven’t yet embraced the digital age. Some sales organisations for example, still seem to think that adding more sales staff is the only way to achieve more sales, despite a lack of economies of scale in such an approach. The uninterrupted availability of digital platforms has clearly changed that for the better, and a sales person with the right digital tools is now a lot more impactful than a whole team without such tools. In that sense, the digital concierge experience should be a top priority for hotels in 2021, in order to make exponential gains from great hotel concierges.
In that sense, imagine a digital concierge experience based on direct messaging. Whether guests are roaming around the property or are exploring the destination, a digital concierge experience has no physical limitations. Empowered by direct messaging tools, concierges can now speak to more guests at a time and share their knowledge of the property and the destination in record time. What’s more, having the ability to directly message guests saves time and elevates service levels, delivering a stronger guest experience in the process.
On the softer side, one could argue that, by lifting and amplifying the concierge’s knowledge and skills, direct messaging brings back the romance of the traditional concierge experience. Arguably, concierges have lost value in the last few years in particular, as hotels have made limited attempts to align with guests’ digital behaviours. In the process, concierges have become less important to guests, especially when it comes to unlocking the wonders of a destination. Today, that romance is readily available “on the shelf” and hoteliers simply have to equip their concierges, in order for a digital concierge experience to acquire a sense of romance again.
Where do I find these Messaging Platforms?
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By now, there’s a large variety of software providers you can work with. For instance, you can go for messaging platforms like Whistle and Glowing that integrate with your guests’ personal messaging solutions like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. These tools are a great way to keep things simple and they enable guests to stay in touch with hotel staff with minimal effort. The main drawback here is that the communication channels are not uninterrupted between guests and the hotel, and hotel conversations can be easily “crowded out” on a personal phone where hoteliers will have to fight for attention with guests’ daily habits and their personal conversations.
If you want a more private and personalised channel between you and your guests, our in-built messaging feature might be more impactful. As part of our platform, we equip our partners with a departmental messaging tool, and guests know that on Portier Phones, they would only ever receive messages from the hotel, empowering the hotel to capture more attention and to keep communications uninterrupted.
You can also decide to go “old school” and ask each guest for their WhatsApp account, but this would likely cause a management nightmare for your staff, as they wouldn’t have access to an organised backend to view and manage all conversations from one place. What’s more, when guests check out, their numbers would still remain stored on staff phones and likely cause confusion.
Finding messaging platforms is fairly easy today, hoteliers will simply have to decide as to which platform fits their philosophy and can best promote a digital concierge experience with limited to no disruption. The recommendation is to not deliver such solutions via in-house teams, but to work with companies like ours, in order to take the overall digital experience to the next level.