Oct 8, 2020 | Conversational Booking | Reading Time: 7 minutes
*This article was contributed by Cristal Bukler, Tourism Researcher & Hospitality Specialist
Automated appointments booking through Facebook messenger, chatbots that perform like a business representative, automated WhatsApp business replies, and text messages with images… What do all these forms of communication have in common?
They all are conversational marketing tactics.
But, what exactly is conversational marketing, and what possible use cases exist for your Hotel? Why is using this form of communicating with your potential/current customers so important?
More importantly, how can you build a new way of communicating with your customers using this tactic while still performing like a human?
Hi! My name is Lucy and I’m your Hotel Digital Assistant
When we talk about conversational marketing, we are talking about a machine-human interaction that mimics a human-to-human dialogue.
It is a way of communicating with your customers that allows them to make diverse questions using text or audio (as it happens with Google Assistant and Alexa) and at the same time allows you to reply to them like if you were there 24/7 in a warm and human way (but using automated replies) resulting in a more meaningful and real conversation.
In terms of predictions about this phenomenon, a 2018 Gartner study revealed that by this year “conversational marketing would be a recognized channel for revenue in both B2B and B2C business”.
Also, when asked about the next big thing on marketing trends, 29% of people answered that consumer personalization could be one, with 26% thinking about AI and a 21.23% answering voice search.
And this trend only seems to keep growing and growing in the coming years.
➡ If you want to learn more about voice search and other tech-trends, check out our post: Top 6 hotel industry trends!
Regarding hotels, we can think in conversational marketing under, at least, 3 contexts (and that won’t cost you that much money as if you would have physical employees behind the screens):
- 1. In the form of a chatbot on your website
- 2. In the form of instant replies through WhatsApp Business
- 3. In the form of direct bookings through Facebook Messenger
When it comes to chatbots, they allow hotels to have two-way conversations at scale. These two-way conversations allow you to collect the information needed to create a high-value personalized customer experience.
Today we have seen data that indicates that as much as 80% of customer interactions have been resolved by chatbots without human interactions; they have particularly improved on redirecting unknown intent. And through this process, we now experience that chatbots are capable of assisting customers with very specific pain points.
🔔 Read here our most popular article on chatbots: Chatbot for hotels: the new co-worker in the hospitality of the future
Now, if we think about the WhatsApp business, this messaging app is really helpful especially for those hotels with a tiny budget that can’t afford an integrated check-in app. A few possible use cases here:
You can also create specific groups for regular customers to share exclusive offers with. Just a detail: Try not to spam them with constant messages because that could lead to your account being banned/blocked.
If you already have all this set up and receiving direct bookings is your main goal, Facebook Messenger might be the right tool here. It is an amazing way to be a part of the booking process asking your potential guest what kind of requirements for their stay they will need. Facebook also made it possible for Hosts to receive money through Messenger.
Personalizing the interaction by making the right questions and being creative is key here.
I want to feel seen and heard… And I want it now
Instant gratification. Instant response. Instant… Instant… Instant.
Thinking about the main reason why you should implement this communication tactic is that we are living the “I want it now” generation. And even though we may attribute this behavior to millennials and centennials (thinking they are whimsical kids) the truth is that the current digitalization made of instant communication is moving all of us, no matter the generation we belong to, to want and demand instant replies.
Actually, this is a very common general human behavior and it happens mostly because we, as human beings, are used to receiving instant responses when communicating face-to-face with other human beings.
And guess what: we expect the same response from the technology we interact with on a daily basis. 💡
If we go through the research made by Princeton University, we will find out that our brain is divided into two areas: one is emotional and the other one is rational. Yes, there we have: the emotional part is the one that pushes us to enjoy the instant gratification and the one that demands the instant response as well.
But if you are not sure yet, let’s try to imagine the following scenario:
Your married anniversary is coming. Thinking about the dinner with the love of your life, the roses on the bed, and the happiness she/he will feel because of this gift, make your heartbeat fast. When you start to think about the ideal Hotel, you begin the online search.
You know exactly what you want as well as where to start looking.
When you find your ideal Hotel (the pictures are marvelous enough to capture your attention and make you feel even more excited) without any doubt you press BOOK NOW.
Somehow during this booking process, you feel like you need to ask for special requirements. After all, it must be perfect! So you decide to press CONTACT NOW. This button leads you to a form that asks you for information that you do not feel like filling.
At the very bottom of the page, you see an email address, the reservations one.
“Oh! Much better, I will contact them directly and let them know about my special requirements”.
After writing the email and pressing SEND, the wait begins.
5, 10, 15, 30 minutes pass and you don’t receive a reply.
1hour and… nothing!
“It is already midnight, they won’t reply”.
So you decide to begin a new online search.
Does this situation sound familiar to you? The truth is that when it comes to hotels’ potential customer interaction, this is more common than we think.
The so-called “social anxiety” that technology provokes us, leads us to want this instant response from companies, no matter the product or service they may offer; and hotels are not the exception to the rule.
At least, the Hospitality industry has the biggest advantage among other industries that try it hard to satisfy their customers: we are the “happitality” industry (like Kike Sarasola, the Founder of Room Mates, tends to say). That means that we have the service delivery and experience creation at the very core of what we do.
The dark side of it (if any) is that all these trends and new ways of perceiving the service come with new challenges, as adapting ourselves to these new ways of communication as the new wave of demands that customers create because of this.
The best way to deal with it is by putting a very well-defined communication strategy where at least one of the examples shown previously takes place.
The Conversational Marketing framework that actually converts
All sounds amazing but: how can you build your own conversational marketing strategy? What is the right framework to do this?
The truth is that during the decision-making process, your prospective guests want to truly feel that they are being genuinely helped. Your business is there to satisfy their needs and alleviate their pain points! They expect you to give them help, guidance, and direction to make the best decision (in this case, they have to decide whether booking with you is a good option or not).
At Asksuite, we believe that conversational marketing is the future of customer experience and that it is the best way to engage with your prospective/current guests and convert more direct bookings through our chatbot on Facebook, website, and WhatsApp (officially integrated)
Building meaningful relationships with customers is not something only reserved for face-to-face interaction; technology is here to help you to build this relationship with them throughout the different touchpoints (something that you cannot do physically all the time).
In which other ways can you build this communication strategy to keep converting?
Hubspot already has an inbound approach to this. Let’s explore their tips more in-depth.
- Personalize: personalized details make the conversation feel more natural and help [your guests] to get the response they need as quickly as possible
- Contextualize: conversations that aim to answer the most important [and relevant] question first will provide the best user experience. When customers interact with your business, chances are they don’t want to spend time talking about cat videos or their weekend plans. They want to solve their most immediate need in the fastest and easiest way possible; so spend some time analyzing your interactions to determine what data will help improve your customer relationships
- Standardize: standardizing elements of conversations helps bring a level of professionalism and consistency to your business. Conversations should be repeatable and predictable. [Put yourself in your customer’s position] and try to discover the most frequently asked questions, then draft approved answers for bots and marketers to use
- Empathize: Emphasizing helps customers feel valued and heard. We already saw this in our previous article on how to make the interaction between the chatbot and your customer more human and empathetic
- Optimize: [optimization is key]. Learn from your past conversations so you can improve them in the future
Final thoughts on Conversational Marketing
Interactions between you as a brand and your current/potential customers can happen anywhere and at any time.
Yes, conversation is the new marketing.
Think about this possibility if you want to convert and retain your guests. Empathize with them and their needs and make a plan (without it, nothing really works!).
Regarding technology, more than one Hotel Manager I had the opportunity to learn from, made clear that the implementation of technology comes with new ways of doing things, as well as with teaching the employees how to work with it. And what I take about those conversations is the expression “how to work with it”, because I firmly believe that machines, whether if it is in the form of a chatbot, a digital assistant, automation, or a robot, they are not here to replace us as humans.
They all are complements, and a complement is an added value, not the whole value itself.
The most important value here will be you, they, and me.
All of us with our human touches. All of us with our empathy. All of us with our heart and the ability to make things awesome.
The present is digital.
The future is human.
About the author: Cristal Bukler is a Hospitality Specialist transitioning to Software Development with a focus on humanizing technology