Challenges Facing the Hospitality Industry

Hotel brands are starting to better understand the importance of the guest experience to their success, but few are considering the customer journey in its entirety.

In the reputation economy, the consumer's voice is louder than ever. With just a few taps on their smartphones, they can compare room rates, check your hotel's ratings and reviews, and make a purchase decision based on the experiences of other guests. When it's so easy for your guests to share a positive or negative experience -- whether via social media, TripAdvisor, or other sites -- the impact of the guest experience becomes even greater. Consider the financial implications of sub-par experiences1:

  • A poor experience decreases loyalty by 20% -- meaning that, for every five guests that have a negative experience with you, one of them will never stay with you again.
  • Price sensitivity doubles when guests experience problems, and doubles again when more problems arise -- meaning poor guest experiences significantly decrease profit margins.
  • Compared to positive experiences, poor experiences cause two to four times as much negative word of mouth -- meaning unhappy guests will generate two to four times as many nasty reviews on TripAdvisor.

Many hospitality brands now understand the importance of the guest experience to both short- and long-term success, but few are considering the entire customer journey. A guest's hotel stay is just one piece of the puzzle. All touchpoints, from researching to booking to interacting with guest services, need to be considered as a whole.

For every five guests that have a negative experience with you, one of them will never stay with you again.

According to Forrester, 78% of US online consumers prefer to get answers via a company’s website vs. telephone or email. What's more, messaging has been the fastest-growing online behavior over the past five years, even outstripping social networks, and is on track to total 2.5 billion users by 2018. How does this translate into what guests expect from your brand? Basically, people want to find their own answers and help themselves, and when they need assistance, they want to talk to brands in the same way they talk to friends or family: using chat or messaging, then progressing to voice or video if needed.

Messaging apps are expected to have 2.5 billion users by 2018.

People also expect these interactions to happen with the immediacy they've come to expect from SMS and social media. For example, if a customer tweeted or texted a friend for help, their friend would reply quickly -- and their friend probably isn't looking to make money off them! Their friend is also going to have context around who the person is and what they need; they're not going to need to ask them to explain their whole backstory. Customers expect that same easy transition when communicating with companies via multiple channels. They expect anyone they speak with to already know the situation and pick up where the last channel left off.

Brands like yours are being held to the same standards for ease, intelligence, and speed of conversations as humans, but most are finding it impossible to keep up.

Rising to the occasion: Meeting guest expectations for service

For brands that are delivering the service experiences guests expect, technology is playing a leading role. A key innovation is self-service using chatbots. This technology allows customers to communicate using chat and messaging through websites, apps, and social media. They are able to ask questions and engage in conversation with a bot, who uses natural language processing to understand and respond to what the customer needs, and finds answers within a deep-learning knowledgebase, business systems, and/or external sources. Interactions are intelligent, personalized, and feel a lot like interacting with a human agent. Using this technology, your brand would be able to provide consistent, effective service at a lower cost.

When escalations to a live agent do need to happen, leading brands are making use of one-click escalation software that enables agents to pick up where the previous interaction left off. Guests can choose to communicate with a phone call or video chat, and agents have all the context on the back end -- they know who they're talking to, what they have recently done on the website or app, when they last stayed at one of your hotels, records of previous communications, and so on. The consistency of the guest experience can be maintained regardless of where and how guests choose to interact with your brand, resulting in an optimized customer journey.

Source 1: According to data from hundreds of studies conducted by John A. Goodman, author of "Customer Experience 3.0"

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