Mr. Schvimmer

Technology

Texting Makes Real-Time CRM a Reality for Hotels

By Matt Schvimmer, Chief Marketing Officer, Zingle, Inc.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a tried and true method of connecting with guests and customers across a number of platforms including websites, social media, apps, live chat, email and phone. Selecting a CRM software solution is notoriously laborious and the software itself has the reputation of being expensive and hard to implement. Hotels and hospitality organizations who operate at a local level, and thrive on the relationships they have in the community, need a nimble, real-time CRM solution to engage with their guests and be responsive to their service needs. Although mobile technology has certainly equipped hospitality teams with more on-the-go solutions such as apps and responsive websites, customer relationship solutions that are truly real-time for both the organization and the guest, have not been available.

The need for real-time CRM is definitely a product of today's society. Today, people expect instant gratification and near instant responses from the companies and brands they interact with. A 24-hour response time is no longer acceptable for any inquiry, and of course in the high-demand environment of hospitality, response times are measured in minutes, not in hours.

The widespread adoption of texting and ubiquity of mobile devices has now made real-time CRM a possibility. Ninety-seven percent of texts are opened and read within the first three minutes. The benefits of this instant connection with guests are numerous. Hotels and clubs alike are experiencing benefits that include more personal and frequent engagement with guests, better operational efficiency, more income and the coveted goal of increased guest loyalty. Texting platforms are also scalable and approachable for 100-room properties or 1,000-room properties and beyond.

Personal, Ongoing Text Conversations Are Key to Guest Engagement and Decreased Calls Texting allows you to interact with your guests in the moment and in a more conversational tone, while establishing two-way communication. An ongoing, threaded text conversation mimics how people interact with each other in their everyday lives, which also means that when guests are texting their hotel, restaurant or club they are building a more personal connection than ever before.

For example, Hotel Del Coronado, the 129-year-old legendary oceanfront beach resort located in San Diego, adopted texting as a real-time CRM tool last year. In less than four months, the number of texts they received from guests doubled, which reduced its inbound call traffic and response times. The efficiency of texting with guests is tremendous. Staff members using a texting platform can manage multiple conversations at once, compared to phone calls that last much longer and can only be managed one at a time. Since the record of the text conversation remains stored in a platform, other team members can pick up the same conversation when their shifts start. The customer records stay with the property, despite any staff turn-over that may occur.

Guests Relationships Thrive on Communications Continuity

Think about the "old way" of doing things. Within the hospitality environment, guests can engage with hotel staff via e-mail, apps, face-to-face and on the phone. Although face-to-face chats are advantageous for building connections, it's just not possible to support hundreds of guest relationships, simultaneously face-to-face. The idea of it is just ridiculous when you think about it. Using the phone usually sends a guest's frustrations through the roof. At a bustling resort, there may be five to six different extensions to call depending on whether the guest needs their car pulled around, to order room service, request an item from housekeeping or make dining reservations. That often requires guests to call multiple people or to hold the line as they are transferred from desk to desk - an exercise in patience that no one wants to experience!

Apps seem like a convenient and modern approach, but according to ComScore, 85 percent of smartphone users spend most of their time using just five apps. And the truth is, for an independent property, it's an expensive and time consuming undertaking to create an app, that will quickly go technologically out of date.

That leaves e-mail, which on the surface seems spot on for engaging with customers. But when a guest works with staff via email, things can get complicated quickly. Imagine that the activities desk e-mails a guest before they arrive at the property to encourage the guest to pre-book recreational activities. First, there is only a 28 percent chance that the guest even opens the email (Smart Insights).

But let's assume this time, the guest does open the email. Theoretically, this seems like a great touch point. It's personal and the guest feels like they have a dedicated person to work with them on their needs. The guest responds when they can, only to hear nothing back. That team member has now finished his or her shift, and maybe they aren't back on the property for another 24 hours. So, another activities team member responds, from another email address, to the guest. Now the continuity has been lost, the guest has already experienced delays and is confused about who to work with. Now that feeling of getting special attention is gone, because they've learned their requests are just bouncing around from person to person, lost in an email vortex.

Let's face it, that means this guest is likely to give up or wait until they are on property to speak with someone face-to-face. By then the inventory is booked or the opportunity to capture the additional revenue for spa services or a round of golf is lost.

Texting on the other hand can solve these problems. There are two primary advantages of texting that are different than any of these other methods. First, it's asynchronous (a big word that just means a texting exchange can start and stop whenever the guest is ready), and conversations are in real-time or can be picked up whenever the guest wants to, making it convenient for both parties. And second, it's a threaded conversation, meaning it continues in a steady back-and-forth flow so that the context of the exchange is maintained and the history of the conversation and the guest's preferences are captured no matter how many times it's stopped and started.

With texting, who to call or what their number is, is no longer the guest's problem. Hotels can have one phone number that the guest contacts with any request. No app is required to download or update in order to communicate with the hotel.

Automated Responses - A Key Communication and Marketing Tool

Whether a hotel is a small boutique location or a large enterprise, using a texting software platform can help them automate responses to guests in real-time. For a small property that may only have one customer service associate or that doesn't have overnight staff, automations help them respond immediately no matter the hour. For example, if someone messages in with a question, an automated response can be initiated so that guests are acknowledged immediately, even if someone isn't at the desk to respond.

Some CRM messaging solutions allow hotels to customize the automatic messages in the system depending on the situation. For example, if a guest texts in requesting the WiFi password, the texting platform can recognize specific keywords and respond accordingly with the WiFi password.

Automations can also be used as a marketing tool. With customized automations programmed in a system, hotels can send out messages any day of the week to inform guests on activities and promotions that are available around their properties. From room upgrades and pool activities, to spa appointments and dinner reservations, automations can be set up so that guests are always aware of what is going on, and in turn, be a tool to generate more traffic and revenue. This can be an incredibly effective tool to create more revenue during a guest's stay at the property.

Revisiting the example of the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. During slow periods at the hotel's spa, spa associates send text messages to guests with offers using automation features or in real-time. In one month, the spa generated $20,502 in services that would not have otherwise been booked without implementing outbound offers via texting.

The Influence of Texting on Guest Loyalty

Everyone knows, online reviews directly impact a hotel's pricing, demand and desirability. Although only some guests take the time to do online reviews, according to a survey by BrightLocal, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Thus, today it's vital that hotels encourage reviews and obtain feedback in a way that is easy and quick for guests.

A real-time texting CRM solution can be used to encourage guests to review their stay experiences while they are motivated to do so, and the experience is fresh. Once guests leave a property, management can send a quick survey or a direct link to their review sites via text. By sending the request directly via text from a messaging platform, it makes it easier on the guest to provide feedback and honest ratings from the convenience of their smart phone.

Don't be a Dinosaur

The proof is clear. Messaging - whether through social media, messaging applications or SMS - is the number one preferred customer service channel in the U.S. Nine of out ten people want to use messaging to talk to businesses, yet many businesses are not prepared to do so. With affordable, messaging software platforms available, any hotel or resort can have their own real-time customer relationship management solution to engage with customers. Those solutions are scalable across numerous properties or approachable for a small, boutique hotel. But the results are the same for all - increased income and customer loyalty, and decreased guest response times.

Matt Schvimmer is chief marketing officer for Zingle. In his role, Matt is responsible for marketing initiatives, product management and business development. Mr. Shvimmer has more than 23 years of industry experience in designing, building, marketing and selling solutions for global organizations. Prior to Zingle, he held several executive roles at ServiceNow. He served as the general manager for the ServiceNow Express Business Unit, and led the product management and product strategy organizations. Mr. Schvimmer also worked for HP Software, managing and marketing the IT Management business. He has led product management and marketing teams in IT Management and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) markets. Mr. Schvimmer can be contacted at 877-946-4536 or marketing@zingleme.com Please visit https://www.zingle.me/ for more information. Extended Bio...

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