Dec 15, 2020 | Conversational Marketing | Reading Time: 12 minutes
Did they see it, but didn’t respond? Were they online, but said nothing? All of us have been annoyed by not getting a quick response, especially when using WhatsApp Business. You, a hotelier, have certainly had an episode of stress trying to answer everyone at the same time and felt frustrated when a possible customer complains about your delay in service, right? We are impatient when sending and replying to a message. This impatience is also reflected in the business world. Who has time to wait for a company to respond? Or a hotel? If you don’t respond quickly, your chance of closing the reservation decreases dramatically. Whoever texted you asking for a quote, will probably contact another hotel if you take too long. WhatsApp is one of the leading means of communication with more than 2 billion people in over 180 countries using the app. Therefore, it has significant relevance as a sales and communication channel in the hospitality industry. Your hotel needs to be where your customer is. However, managing WhatsApp Business for hotels is not so easy. For this reason, many hoteliers still hesitate to adopt this application as an official channel and do not take advantage of the sales opportunities that can be generated. Answering by WhatsApp requires organization and availability for quick service. If we think about the current hospitality scenario, this task becomes even more difficult. With many hotels operating with a reduced staff, how can excellent service be provided via messaging, social networks, phone, e-mail as well as the hotel’s own front desk? Here, in this complete guide, we will help you on this mission by showing: → Why is it important to serve your potential guest via WhatsApp?
- The world’s main communication channel
- Interaction for personalized service
→ WhatsApp Business for hotels → Service for greater direct booking conversions → Best practices for Whatsapp Business for hotels
- 1. Quote presentation
- 2. Service organization
- 3. Smart responses
- 4. Service availability
- 5. Response time
- 6. Lead generation
→ Main mistakes in using WhatsApp Business:
- 1. Employee lawsuits
- 2. English errors
- 3. Non-standard service
→ Automated and humanized WhatsApp Let’s get started!
Why is it important to serve your potential guest via WhatsApp?
Does losing reservations on WhatsApp impact your business so much? What is the sales potential of this communication channel?
a) Main Communication Channel in the World
It is not new that WhatsApp has become one of the main means of communication. With more than 5 billion downloads in the Google app store in 2020 alone, WhatsApp is one of the most downloaded apps in the world, being present in about 99% of active smartphones. Do you see the great sales opportunity for your hotel? << Check out this Hotel Cast episode with Shona Whitehead (Managing Partner of Cogent Blue) on how hotels can optimize their sales performances and the gap between hotel commercial teams and techs:
b) Interaction for Personalized Service
WhatsApp facilitates your communication and maintains closer contact with travelers looking for their next destinations. This way, you can get to know your customers better and thus, know their expectations. With that, they will arrive at your hotel with the experience they envisioned. No expectation x reality, okay? The integration with a chatbot and an intelligent service platform, for example, increases your chances of impressing even before their arrival in the lobby and allows the delivery of a unified service for each customer. Also, there is no need for the customer to repeat everything several times for each attendant or communication channel. How? The use of virtual assistants equipped with Artificial Intelligence on WhatsApp coupled with the platform allows all chatbot interactions to be shown on a single panel of calls, along with calls made on the hotel website and Facebook. It also organizes service by categories (tags), so you, the hotelier, do not get lost when responding, knowing each conversation history exactly. With this, the service gains agility, enabling you to deliver a superior experience to your customer.
WhatsApp Business for hotels
You may have noticed that some hotels have their own app. However, is downloading each hotel app a good practice from the customer experience point of view? What’s more, why invest so much money building your own app if most people already use a free app? In fact, WhatsApp’s potential has long been detected by major hotel chains. In 2014, the Starwood hotel chain in Qatar, W Doha, started a pilot project for WhatsApp. The idea was to test the app as a way for regular customers to send messages to the hotel, with requests and questions. Since then, the project, which made the name “Let’s Chat” official, has expanded to 150 more units. Travelers, like all of us, are constantly exchanging messages through their cell phones. Communication by messaging creates an even greater expectation of service speed compared to, for example, email. Especially on a cell phone, where the interaction speed between a hotel and a potential guest is already expected to be much higher than that of other service channels. Therefore, it is not for nothing that some of our customers, including those in Mexico, already report that WhatsApp is the responsible channel of communication, some reaching an impressive 90% of all hotel service. That is, being present on WhatsApp is, in many ways, more effective when investing in a personalized app, as it is in the daily life of every consumer, it is free and has a huge reach!
Service for Greater Direct Booking Conversions
How much commission do you pay to OTAs? 15%, 20%? More? It is likely that your objectives this year are to increase direct bookings and reduce the volume of commissions paid to third parties. We have already talked about how to bypass Booking in just six steps on the hotel’s website, and now we will learn that service via WhatsApp Business for hotels is the tool to achieve this goal. Many potential guests come to your website to answer any questions they had when they accessed your hotel page in an OTA. It is at that moment that your hotel needs to be prepared to serve this customer. Use this weapon to connect directly with them and conduct a direct sale. << Have you heard about Conversational Marketing? It is the top-notch strategy to communicate with potential guests and effectively boost direct bookings and revenue. Read more: ⇒ Conversational marketing for hotels: converting guests through online communication
Best Practices for Whatsapp Business for hotels
Now you know the advantages of WhatsApp for your hotel! But how can you get the most out of this app? First, you need to understand the limits of its use. There is no point in bombarding your customer with a million messages that will have no effect. What’s more, the platform does not have space for ads yet. That is, whoever is on WhatsApp is not used to receiving advertisements. If you are going to use the app for marketing, be careful not to bombard it with messages! Second, if WhatsApp is a booking channel, how will you present quotes via messages? Some hotels just send the price alone and this often scares the customer. The price alone will not make the traveler close with you. You need a good strategy for quotes! Let’s look at some good customer service practices through WhatsApp.
1. Quote Presentation
Always keep the number 1 sales rule in mind: before showing the price, show the value! If you keep both connected (price + value), the cost you present to your customer will not be just a number, but the sum of all the benefits if they decide to book at your hotel. Your hotel has different room categories, be it standard, luxury, super luxury, master… When a potential guest asks you the daily rate on Messenger or WhatsApp, how do you present all the room options and rates? Some just play with the link of the booking engine in the chat or even those who request it by email. Changing the communication channel is never a good strategy. When asking the prospective guest to change the means of communication, there is a great chance that the person will feel frustrated and simply abandon the attempt to contact your hotel. There are also those who send a super long message with all the options available, such as the example above. In this case, even if you answer on WhatsApp itself, you are simply showing the price. That way, you can’t explain the real value of the accommodation. Therefore, any of the options mentioned above are not ideal. Meet your customers on their chosen communication channel and always show the value before showing the price! Thus, it will be easy to justify a luxury suite of $800.00 per day. The challenge is to find a way to send, through messaging, the values, photos, and descriptions of the amenities of each room category in a clear and organized way. See the example of automated response below. Developed by Asksuite, the robot responds to quotations with photos, values, amenities, and even compares rooms in all categories: Travelers can click on the option that they find most attractive and see more information about the room. Robot or human, your attendant should not forget to send the photos of the rooms together with the values, as this is one of the steps to pique curiosity and interest in the traveler.
2. Service Organization
Another big challenge with WhatsApp service is the organization of services. WhatsApp Business allows only one account, which allows multiple users within the same hotel to access it and respond to requests via messaging. This can cause a great deal of “who said what to whom” messages that can be deleted, and in the end, your potential guest will be frustrated with receiving different responses or having to repeat themselves for each attendant. For this reason, some hotels leave only one employee responsible for service on this channel. This is a good solution for those hotels that can afford to hire an exclusive employee for this function. But this is far from the reality of most hotels. To resolve this issue, adopting an intelligent service platform is an excellent strategy when more than one employee has access to WhatsApp. On the platform, conversations are recorded and organized, including by subject. You can see the tags or subjects of the conversations as a quote or service request. With these tags, you are able to prioritize what is most urgent, such as quotes, and quickly find all calls.
3. Smart Responses
Most of the customer’s questions are related to things that your hotel doesn’t have! To better get around this problem, you need to respond intelligently so as not to lose the sale. Opening the range of possibilities is a good strategy. There are also questions that your hotel’s website will never answer, but employees need to be prepared to do so in a polite and creative way. There is no swimming pool, but is the hotel close to the beach? Why not say that to the guest? See an example of a service provided by our chatbot below: In this example, the hotel does not accept pets, however, instead of simply saying “no”, the chatbot offers the option of a pet hotel nearby. This way, the traveler remains interested in the hotel and feels well attended to their requests, even when the answer is negative.
4. Service Availability
It is difficult for a hotel to have customer service via WhatsApp 24/7 due to the number of employees it would need and the extra cost that this means. Therefore, make the hours of operation clear on your hotel page. Nothing discourages a customer more than “being in a vacuum”. It is vital that your hotel keeps track of service statistics at the reservation center. In the case of Asksuite, we have the numbers and percentages of each customer, which give us a complete view of the online service demand in the hotel industry. What we note most prominently is the volume of customer service outside business hours, which today accounts for almost 60% of the total. This number varies from hotel to hotel, but in most cases, this is the harsh reality. Another thing that we observe is the weekend demand, which is equivalent to 24% of the total. In addition, the number of visits on Sunday is equal, if not greater, than on Friday. So, it is important that your hotel has ways to meet this demand, which is relevant even on weekends. Tip: Add the cell phone number and the WhatsApp logo on the hotel’s homepage. Remember to always make your hotel’s hours of operation clear to the user.
5. Response Time
As commented before and worth mentioning again: the response speed in the service is fundamental for the sale. So, if you want to serve at your hotel with WhatsApp, make sure that you have enough people to respond at the speed that customers want and need. And more and more they want an “on the spot” response! The expectation of travelers is that the service via WhatsApp is much faster. Instead of sending an e-mail to the hotel and waiting for a response, the customer wants to contact you immediately by message.
6. Lead Generation (potential guests)
Some hotels use services that automate WhatsApp, allowing the creation of forms that capture emails in online chats. The interaction in the application opens the door to capture information from new customers or potential guests (leads). You are able to collect data from travelers who have shown interest in your business and then approach them in a personalized way to close a booking. The so-called lead capture is very important, especially in times of low season or low demand. You can use this list to do an email campaign, for example, especially for those people who have already shown interest in your business. << Do you know that Asksuite smart platform is integrated with many hotel software? Check out here our integration with Revinate, which allows hotels to build stronger relationships with guests and convert more direct bookings: ⇒ Asksuite and Revinate Announce Technical Integration
Three Main Mistakes in Using WhatsApp Business for hotels
To avoid creating misunderstandings with customers or critical situations with employees, take certain precautions with the app. Below, we list the three main errors in the use of WhatsApp that can cause you headaches!
1. Employee Lawsuits
As mentioned in the section “Service organization”, WhatsApp, even in its business version, allows only one profile per number. This means that only one employee will attend the app at a time, and several will work with it throughout the day. Especially when only one is responsible for this channel, a condition that needs to be made clear in the contract is that the responsible attendant will be able to attend only via the hotel number, not the employee’s, and NEVER outside business hours. Otherwise, it can be counted as overtime, and if your hotel does not know that an employee is answering customers at home, it can cause great confusion. A client of ours alerted us about this case, which happened as follows: Without management’s knowledge, the employee responsible for answering customers on WhatsApp via the hotel’s cell phone passed his personal number to the customers and continued messaging at home via WhatsApp after his shift ended at 6 pm. He ended up suing the hotel for overtime. The problem was that the hotel didn’t even know it was happening, and let’s agree, it is difficult to control this type of situation. Therefore, it is especially important to make it clear to your employees that hotel messages are answered only with the company’s number and during the established hours.
2. English Errors
Keep an eye out for English errors. I say that because it is disconcerting when someone sends you a message in CAPSLOCK FOR EXAMPLE or misspellings. It is normal to change words like “you” to “u” when we are talking to a friend. But in the service via WhatsApp Business, errors like this do not go unnoticed by your customer. You may find these mistakes too obvious and you would never make them, but they are extremely common when we are in a hurry, especially when the service demand is extremely high. When the attendant needs to split between WhatsApp, phone, email, meetings, and other tasks, there is a high risk of speeding things up, shortening answers, making grammar mistakes, or forgetting the activated caps lock. Unfortunately, in multi-channel hotel management, this is widespread.
3. Non-Standard Service
Generally, when we think of service standardization, we think of large teams. However, the lack of standardization can be present in small teams and cause great losses. Let’s say that your hotel has three employees to serve through the app: one in the morning, one in the afternoon and another at night. Probably each employee has their own unique vocabulary and responds to each interaction in a different way. Standardization is important as it is a benchmark for guaranteed quality in all units, be it a hotel chain or an independent hotel. In addition to retaining customers, standardized management puts you in the spotlight in a highly competitive market.
Automated and Humanized WhatsApp Business for hotels!
Take it easy, let’s not panic! As with any other digital channel, we must be careful with customer service via WhatsApp. Each media has its own rules for not generating conflicts with customers and critical situations with employees. If the use of WhatsApp still seems complicated for your hotel staff, service automation is a great option. Chatbots, or attendant robots, work by artificial intelligence, whose advanced technology allows them to understand natural language (without being limited to buttons) and are always available 24 hours a day. The robot can also work alone or with its employee, as there is the option of human intervention at any time during the conversation. In this way, the robot answers the most common questions, and the attendant can focus on more specific cases as well as services that bring more value to the customer experience. The fact remains that people want to contact companies through apps, including hotels. Certainly, the reservation center of your hotel must have already received numerous questions such as: “Do you have a WhatsApp number to contact?”. WhatsApp cannot be ignored by the hotel industry. With due care, WhatsApp Business for hotels becomes a great ally in winning new customers along with guest loyalty. Invest in this channel. Already using WhatsApp in your hotel? Share your experience in the comments!