Building post-stay rapport with travelers is one of the greatest challenges facing hotels today, particularly with the scant number of online reviews being filed per stay.
How are hotels to keep in contact with travelers in a way that is welcome and keeps their attention? According to Alex Shashou, co-founder and president of hotel operations platform Alice, the problem is more difficult to answer than it seems because guests would most likely prefer to be left alone.
“Email is the least intrusive—I don’t want a phone call asking about my stay,” Shashou said. “SMS texting is a great way to start the discovery process and is very engaging for setting up reviews. If you have an integrated environment and the concierge booked a car to take a guest home, the front desk will know when that guest is leaving and can send a TripAdvisor link during the ride, which is perfect timing.”
Shashou said that SMS texting is shackled to a window of opportunity for post-stay contact with guests. The window is smaller than many operators would like to admit, with Shashou suggesting hotels reach initiate text conversations with guests before they get on a flight, and after that switch to another medium.
“Because the service allows for candid, one-on-one contact, it feels tangible and real. We don’t want to risk ruining that kind of opportunity by overwhelming guests,” Shashou said.
According to Christopher Hovanessian, co-founder of Whistle, guests who have positive experiences using text messaging with operators will text back prior to booking rooms for future stays to ask about availability and other questions about the hotel.
“We don’t encourage texting deals to guests, something like offering 20-percent off their next stay,” Hovanessian said. “That can potentially ruin the experience and make guests unwilling to opt in to text communication. Instead, offer more information about their reservation or the property, and keep it as an open line of communication.”
Chad Hinver, brand training champion at Hersha Hospitality, said operators should be careful to take on only services that they have the bandwidth and manpower to monitor for quality and consistency. It doesn’t do a hotel any good to offer a point of contact with guests if the service is clouded by poor communication.
“If you have a Twitter account for post-stay communication, but nobody monitors it, then you are only setting [your property or brand] up for failure,” Hinver said. “You don’t have to be on every platform—but you do need to be engaged with the platforms where you exist.”