Research shows that social messaging is one of the fastest growing behaviors online today. This should come as little surprise with WhatsApp, Wechat, Viber and Facebook Messenger coming to dominate how much of the globe communicates.
Look at the daily active user (the lifeblood of any application) totals for any of these platforms and you’ll find them consistently outperforming social media mainstays such as Instagram or Pinterest.
These services are the arterials that connect people, and by 2018 it’s estimated that social messaging will account for 2.5 billion global users.
More than a few big hospitality brands have taken notice, with Starwood and Hyatt having already made notable efforts to embrace this new method of communication. Hilton and Marriott are reportedly not far behind. No one seems exactly sure how to fully capitalize on this vast new opportunity to interact with people. But the early consensus seems to be using it as a service channel, not a promotional one.
This means using messaging for:
- Confirming reservations
- Welcoming guests
- Providing concierge/helpdesk services
- Providing orientation information
- Thanking guests after they leave
Some have taken a different (much more cutesy) tact. Aloft garnered quite a bit of attention by launching a room service menu based on texting emojis.
This opportunity is not reserved for billion-dollar companies, however. Smaller properties can get creative and find their own ways of serving and connecting.
A few tips for smaller properties:
Wait for Guests to Opt-in
No one likes a barrage of unsolicited emails or text messages. But if a guest reaches out via message channels you’ve provided, it’s a safe assumption that they will probably welcome further (helpful) contacts. Phone numbers can be input into your Guestfolio (or whatever you use) for such occasions.
Be Personal with People
One of the greatest advantages small accommodations have over corporate chains is authenticity and personality. Don’t stifle this with overly professional, plastic-sounding messages. You might not have time to write personalized messages to every guest, but you can determine the tone you want to take. Use humor or a personal sign-off with an emoji or two.
Develop a Messaging Plan
Text messages are much more intimate than emails or tweets so they need to be handled with care. Texting is about speed, so ensure that if your guests want to reach you this way you can get back to them quickly. Develop a framework for escalating conversations to phone or email if needed. And work out a few best practices for staff to follow.
Don’t know where to start? TravelTripper has created a great resource, which includes a linked podcast with Drew Patterson, CEO of Checkmate – a leading hospitality communication and customer management platform.
As social messaging has become the default mode of communication, hotel owners are faced with a choice: embrace or ignore. These are powerful trends and ignoring them certainly has a cost. Embracing, on the other hand, likely paves the way for a business to grow and thrive in an increasingly digital world.