Much has been said this past year about using technology and data to improve the guest experience in real time, but get ready because now it’s a reality. Direct text communication between hotels and guests is going to grow in leaps and bounds in hospitality as these apps become more fully utilized in 2017, and some are even getting a boost from the ability to directly translate languages in real time. When used in the back of house, these tools can help ease communications between operators and employees, but currently there are major guest-facing applications.
New applications are now offering guest-facing technology that allows hotels to interact directly with guests, acting as a personal travel assistant for booking stays, tours and activities and opening up a line of communication between guests and their hotel of choice to intercept comments and concerns so they can respond on the fly. Often these tools are gated behind loyalty program apps, such as Marriott Rewards, and hotels have experimented with everything from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (in the case of Starwood’s W Doha property) to their own proprietary chat options, showing that interest in direct text messaging is on the rise.
One such application, TheBesty, partnered with globalization technology company Lionbridge to use its GeoFluent technology, allowing the app’s chat feature to instantly translate conversations between the guest and hotel in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
“We wanted to integrate our chat option in a way that allowed foreigners to speak in their language and translate it on the fly to chat back,” said Matt Baer, founder and CEO of TheBesty. “If guests have a question they can ask our chat, in their native language, and any employee can answer it.”
TheBesty is located in Santiago, Chile, and has partnerships with roughly 100 properties throughout Latin America. However, the company has plans to push into 10 U.S. markets in early 2017, and is using its existing base in Latin America as fuel for growing market share throughout North America.
Talking the Talk
The application is sold to hotels on a subscription basis and is integrated directly into a hotel’s property-management system, meaning operators can immediately take up the service and begin communicating with guests. According to Baer, in developing the app his team was forced to overcome the challenge of providing hotels with the option of giving guests a more cultivated experience, particularly when it comes to translations. Pulling this off required making sure that when a sentence was translated it sounded natural to both the guest and the operator in order to cut down on confusion and make the chat feature appealing to use.
“We wanted to showcase multiple languages in a professional way, not using pretranslated phrases,” Baer said. “It had to be a high-end translation tool, so we worked directly with writers to touch it up and make translations sound natural to the end user.”
Operationally, taking on this new technology requires training at the front-desk and concierge positions, as well as new signage and information at select areas of the property, including the front desk. An added bonus, from the guest side, is that travelers alone in a foreign city are able to stay in contact with a hotel’s concierge even when off property, creating new avenues to improve guest satisfaction. The app also comes with a comment section where they can leave notes about their stay, allowing hotel staff to instantly respond and solve potential problems, or anticipate guest needs or concerns, before the stay is up.
“The goal is to take action before your guest leaves and make sure a bad review doesn’t make it out,” Baer said. “We see ourselves as an extension of the concierge, and as an added tool to oversee guest satisfaction. We have a lot of guests from Brazil who use our product, and they can request amenities through the app in Portuguese, and the hotel doesn’t bat an eye. It’s effective when you are dealing with a large number of international guests.”