Text messages, chat are the new ways to communicate

Marriott mobile request chat screen (Marriott Mobile Request Chat Screen)

This article is part two of a four-part series on mobile in the hotel industry. Part one can be found here.

Using text messaging or text chat can enhance the dialogue between guests and hotels. Instead of having to make calls to the front desk, hotels use text messaging as a means to proactively communicate with their customers rather than simply reacting, said Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at JD Power. “It’s like having a personal concierge at your fingertips at all times.

“The new generation of guests is more comfortable with texting vs. calling,” Garlick said. “The mobile device represents convenience and a sense of connectedness to the hotel at all times, even before arrival.”

Mike Benjamin, VP of sales and co-founder of Guestware, has seen a rise in mobile service request and chat-style communication. “Simple things like, ‘can I get an upgrade?’ and ‘I’m traveling internationally, can I get this in my room when I check in late tonight?’” he said. “These are the type of requests hotels are seeing days before the guest actually checks in.”

His company works on the back end of these requests on both the forward-facing guest side and the back-end hotel associate side. “We work to manage to process on the back end of the house to ensure these job tickets are delivered to the right person,” he said. “There can be sophisticated business rules that determine which requests go to which runner based on location, time of day, skill and availability.”

JD Power data show that responding to social feedback with a problem resolution doubles the percentage of people who will recommend the hotel to others. While giving any response at all is preferable to no response, loyalty actually is enhanced when social media is used as a communication tool to solve a guest problem or issue, Garlick continued.

“Mobile messaging creates the impression the hotel is available and ready to respond at all times. Guests also use their mobile device to register their complaints (e.g., Twitter and Instagram) and get immediate responses,” he said. “Most people find social media to be the quickest way to get a resolution to an issue.”

Marriott’s mobile requests chat feature on its app lets guests message directly with a hotel associate, right from their own mobile device, wherever they are on the property, said George Corbin, senior vice president of digital at Marriott International.

Hilton Worldwide currently uses SMS texting at 200 of its properties and in the coming months, the company will be piloting a real-time messaging service that will allow communications via its app. “We see this type of personal interaction as an essential element of our overall digital guest-services strategy,” said Dana Shefsky, Hilton’s director of digital product innovation. “Many of our guests have already demonstrated that they want to interact with us digitally, so it just makes sense to extend that opportunity to talk directly to the hotel through our app. In doing so, we have an opportunity to serve our guests in real-time and resolve any issues with their stay. It’s a win-win for both the hotel and the guest.”

Benjamin warns hotels that the proper infrastructure needs to be in place to manage that technology.

“I’ve has seen many hotels demonstrate that if you don’t have a good system on the back end to manage those text and chat requests, it can actually create more problems,” he said. “You need to be able to manage all those tasks—­do it quickly and correctly.”