SMS services are still relatively new in hospitality. But texting is so mainstream among consumers today that smart hotels are starting to use it to generate guest feedback and manage their online reputations.
“It’s the immediacy that makes texting so appealing,” says Paul Mattimoe, president and CEO of Perspective Group. ”Guests are so comfortable with texting. They walk around with their cell phone always on them, so it’s great way to get feedback from guests during and immediately after their stay.”
The research supports Mattimoe’s view. Nearly all consumers (98 percent) open text messages within three minutes of receipt, according to the Pew Research Center. What’s more, a text message delivers eight times higher engagement rates than email.
The benefits of SMS messaging are numerous. Here how the service works to generate guest feedback and resolve issues fast.
Easy to Implement
Guests receive a link in a welcome text upon their arrival or pre-arrival if the hotel has the cell phone number. The text provides a link to a feedback form. When guests make comments on the form, the feedback appears in the general manager’s dashboard. Negative comments generate an alert, so the hotel can move quickly to fix the problem while the guest is still staying at the hotel.
Often it’s the little things that can lead to a less than enthusiastic online review. No decaf or not enough pillows in the guestroom? No problem. From towels to blankets to a malfunctioning remote and more, guests can easily notify the hotel if an issue – large or small – arises and get what they need within minutes. This type of immediate and attentive service makes for satisfied customers, which can translate into repeat business and enthusiastic online reviews.
Conflict resolution is one of the ways in which text feedback really shines. A remarkable 97 percent of consumers will not approach an employee face-to-face to express concerns or provide positive comments, according to the Customer Service Association. It is difficult to come up with a solution if you do not know a guest is having a problem.
No doubt every hotel would love to hear about an issue while the guest is on property, and there is still time to resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction.
An onsite guest feedback channel does just that, enabling hotels to resolve a negative guest experience while the guest is still staying at the property. The platform is available throughout the hotel – via its tablets, kiosks in common areas, Web links and email. However, the immediacy of texting gives SMS special appeal. When guests fill out a survey indicating they are less than satisfied with a service or amenity, their response triggers an alert to the general manager, so the hotel can resolve the matter fast.
Let’s say a guest just filled out a survey about one of the resort’s restaurants, indicating that his or her meal was overcooked. The negative comments would trigger an alert, and the restaurant could invite the guest back for a complimentary dinner during his or her stay. Everything would be arranged to provide a positive experience the second time around, assuring the problem was resolved to the guest’s satisfaction before he or she left the hotel.
“If a hotel fixes a problem, many guests will give it a higher rating on review sites than they otherwise would do,” Mattimoe points out. “After all, no one expects perfection. But guest do assume a resort will be attentive to their needs. Speedy and responsive service not only resolves an immediate problem onsite. It can also head off an ongoing reputation management problem online.”
Text mini-surveys about specific resort experiences – for example, the spa, nightly entertainment, daily brunch, activities program – for insights on popular services and amenities and areas in need of enhancements. For example, text a brief spa feedback form to guests after they finish a treatment. Find out what other treatments they would like to try and how likely they are to book another spa appointment during their stay. Based on their feedback, they could automatically receive a text offer for a special discount on their next spa purchase, valid during their stay.
Also important, mini-surveys yield valuable data for personalized offers encouraging future stays. Did guest surveys identify guests who are avid golfers? Invite them back at a future date for a golf getaway. Are a large number of guests giving your Italian restaurant a big thumbs up? Encourage them to return for a culinary weekend featuring cooking classes with the chef featuring the cuisine of Tuscany.
Also use texting for specific calls to action targeting areas of the resort in need of more business. Is the restaurant slow on Monday nights? Text a special offer to guests, valid on their current stay only. The same holds true for the bar, spa, golf course, excursions and more. More than four in 10 consumers (43 percent) are more likely to make a purchase when a mobile offer is part of multiple channels, according to the Pew Research Center. Texting special offers to current guests is a great way to encourage additional onsite spend.
After guests check out, texting makes it easy to stay in touch. Text a message, asking them to leave a TripAdvisor review. For best results, send your request 24 hours after they leave. This way, you will reach them while memories of their wonderful vacation are still top-of-mind.
Volume, favorability and recency of reviews all contribute to a property’s ranking, according to TripAdvisor. A recent study by Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research found that if a property can increase its review score by one point (on a five-point scale) on OTA channels, it could raise prices by roughly 11 percent and still maintain the same occupancy rate.
“Reviews matter,” Mattimoe comments. “For rankings and revenue, it really pays to increase the volume of online reviews from your satisfied guests.”
How do hotels manage and then leverage all this feedback? An easy-to-use review management dashboard tracks online reviews across all the major review platforms, such as Yelp, Orbitz, Expedia, booking.com, hotels.com, Google+, and more. The interactive dashboards serve up a full range of valuable insights, including average monthly star rating for each hotel, or brand-wide, as well as star ratings by platform like TripAdvisor or Yelp, and more. Resorts can read each review within the dashboard if they want without having to go online and log into each website separately. They also can respond to reviews with a simple click to jump out of the system and into the review site.
Survey data and analytics can show how successful a hotel is in navigating the day – measuring the number of complaints at any given time compared with previous days, weeks, months and more. Armed with solid business intelligence, hotels can incentivize employees based on their performance and ability to manage problems and find quick, workable solutions.
Hotels can also implement Competitor Benchmarking to better understand competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and use those insights to guide their marketing strategy.
By analyzing all the data, hotels can spot recurring complaints. While nobody likes to get negative feedback, complaints have their silver lining; they provide valuable insights that can lead to new revenue-producing improvements and innovations.