Sep 22, 2021 | Customer Service | Reading Time: 8 minutes
Recently, I’ve posted on Linkedin a poll where I presented a surprisingly common dilemma hoteliers have to face: who comes first in the hotel multichannel customer service?
Truth to be told, long before the labor shortage hotels are facing now, hoteliers had to do tricks to be able to answer multiple customer service demands: guests standing in front of them at the lobby with the annoying sound of the phone ringing in the background, while they are looking at the nonstop number of incoming emails on their screens.
Not to mention the requests from social media, such as DMs and comments, that have increased significantly over the past years.
The dilemma: what to do first? They know they won’t be able to answer everyone fast enough and that someone will end up feeling frustrated.
That’s exactly what I asked in the pool and asked hoteliers to answer. I gave the following options:
- Will you talk first with your guest standing in front of you and let the phone ring?
- What about email? Will you let the next shift answer them?
- DMs: how to answer them? Should you just copy and paste: “Please send us an email”?
Top professionals from different countries have kindly answered the post, sharing their experiences and insights on the matter. I believe their answers bring great insights, so I’ve decided to share them in this blog post.
Let’s see what Calvin Tilokee, Adele Gutman, Max Starkov, Thais Bandinelli, Claudio Habibe, Christoph Hutter, and Waldin Duran have to say!
1. Calvin Tilokee: IHI Top 50 in Hospitality 2021 – US and CEO at Revpar Media
In this scenario, the guest in front of you always has to take priority. But this raises a great point. ALL of these are crucial touchpoints in the guest journey and they cannot be ignored. The guest at the desk has likely gone through all of those phases and they wouldn’t be standing there if we dropped the ball.
In my opinion, not enough focus and respect is given to the booking process in hospitality. Too much focus is on “the guest at the desk” not realizing there is so much work that goes into getting that guest to arrive in the first place. Quite frankly, that is the heavy lifting. And that job is only more difficult now due to the pandemic.
2. Adele Gutman: Top 25 Extraordinary Minds HSMAI, USA Top 50 Influential Leader in Hospitality 2021, and Host at Hospitality Reputation Marketing Podcast: Get Great Reviews
Any answer to this depends greatly on the hotel, the size and staffing, and the magnitude of the problem. Also, you need to determine if a short-term band-aid is needed to solve a temporary issue, versus when you need long-term solutions for persistent problems.
I had a very serious situation at one hotel where the emails responses were backed up for more than 3 days! I wish I had an AI assistant for reservations requests back then.
You must take care of the customer in front of you first. The phones still always need to be answered within 3 rings. It might be an emergency or might simply need a transfer to another department for assistance.
If you have someone in front of you and no one else is answering the phone ringing, apologize to the guest in front of you and ask for a moment to answer the call just to ask if you may call them back as soon as possible. If you have time to ask what kind of help the caller needs, you might find that there is someone else in the organization who is also, or even better equipped, to help them, so you can transfer the call immediately to them.
If you are anticipating that the inundation of calls and people at the desk will be ongoing for an extended time, have a backup plan on whom you can redirect the calls in the event of overload. Customer service is not a department. Everyone should be well trained and more than willing to pitch in when needed.
Cross-training your team is one of the best ways to enhance loyalty, guest satisfaction, and therefore, revenue!
It is never okay to ask a customer in need of assistance to contact you again at another time or via another format. If a guest asks for help, whether it is in person, on the phone, or sends a question by dm to email you, it is your court now. It is your responsibility as the service provider to provide the answer or gather the contact details and have someone else provide assistance to the customer.
If drowning in emails is an ongoing issue, you need to identify people on the team who can help when you are not consistently able to provide responses within the shift, or at most, within 12 hours.
Think about long-term solutions and ask yourself and your team:
⇒ Why is the desk getting so many requests for assistance in person, on phone calls, emails, and DMs?
⇒ Are your team members trained, equipped, and empowered to resolve issues in a positive way without having to get management approval?
⇒ Does everyone have access to all the latest information to most questions on their device?
⇒ What questions are people asking?
⇒ How can you communicate the answers to those questions better on your website, booking engine, photo gallery, social media, confirmations, and pre-stay emails so customers won’t have to continually ask?
⇒ Do you have an FAQ page that addresses the most common questions and misunderstandings?
⇒ Is there anything you can automate, to deliver a perfectly formed, warm, and welcoming answer to guests faster, easier, and more conveniently than having to wait for a human to be available? Make sure that there is a human option and oversight to ensure that every answer has completely satisfied the guests’ needs.
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3. Max Starkov: Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant & Strategist
The issue with calls or emails is that when people call or email, someone at the property has to pick up the phone or manually reply to the email.
Analyze why people are calling the property. Is it to make reservations? If yes, then your property’s website and booking engine are not doing a good job. If it’s for information, your website technology and content need a serious overhaul.
Here are some features you should be on the lookout for:
- Website: Does your property have a mobile-first website? 70% of today’s travelers visiting hotel websites via mobile devices.
- A virtual concierge on the site to answer questions about the destination, the property amenities, events and happenings?
- How about a user-friendly, state-of-the-art website booking engine to guide the user through a frictionless booking process that results in significantly increased sales of rooms, packages, promotions?
- Do you have a chatbot on the site like Asksuite to engage users, answer all of their questions and steer them toward making a booking? Chatbots provide users with information through text, images, video, audio, and serve as your property’s 24/7 virtual customer service department.
🎧 In this episode of Hotel Cast, we chat about hotel technology trends in 2021 with Hotel Tech Expert, Brendon Granger. Listen to the episode here:
4. Thais Bandinelli: Hotel Management Specialist and Consultant
It’s always complicated to divide attention and have to choose who will be served first.
However, I think the ideal scenario is not to have to choose! This means having a team/way to serve everyone, in the most agile and hospitable way possible.
In non-ideal scenarios, I choose to give priority to the “live” action, which would be the guest at the front desk and on the phone.
I always tried to answer the phone courteously and ask the customer to wait a moment or ask for their phone number or room number. Or I redirect the call to the back office, to be able to complete the service at the front desk. This will depend on the process and the demand.
Emails, DM’s, and other messages are equally important but easier to manage – just don’t forget about them and reply to them as soon as possible.
Today’s guests demand full attention and agility. They want to be heard and feel welcomed. The ideal is to have enough staff to meet this expectation. Failing that, do your best and manage the tasks and priorities, with a lot of enthusiasm and that hospitable way you always have!
5. Claudio Habibe: Revenue and Pricing Consultant
Great question. In my opinion, front desk staff should be looking after guests and prospects that are at the hotel. Phone ringing, incoming emails, and social media messages should be delegated to a reliable virtual assistant.
A great virtual assistant or virtual concierge can take care of it, and they could, even, provide service to a hotel on an exclusive basis.
6. Christoph Hutter: non – traditional Revenue Manager & Consultant for Independent Hotels and Hotel Groups
I would talk to the guest in front of me because thanks to the technology I implemented, all the text channels will probably already be answered.
I recall when I came across the first live chats, maybe 10 years ago or so. I immediately was excited. This would improve the workload of reservation agents or front desk teams notably.
Yet, 10 years later and this is still no standard.
But it is a competitive advantage! Not just compared to other hotels in your market but especially OTAs!
And the technology has of course evolved a lot over the past decade. Today we don’t just have love chats but can automate this with chatbots. Emails are processed automatically, freeing up the time of the agents to actually sell and upsell when they have someone on the phone.
It is very exciting to see how much this all has evolved and continues to evolve. And we are still in a phase where early adopters will be rewarded!
7. Waldin Duran: Sales & Marketing Director at BTH Hotel Boutique Concept
In my times as a front desk agent back in 2010, I used to say the guest in front to give me a moment to put the other guest on hold. Then I took the phone and explained to the guest on the phone t kindly wait a moment.
Today I would encourage hotel managers to include automation and software that could help front desk agents pay really attention to the guests in “Front” of them, without losing the potential client on the phone.
Hotel Multichannel Customer Service Challenge
The challenge is not easy. Every hotel in the world strives to provide 5-star customer service. Customer care can enhance guest satisfaction, guest loyalty, revenue and even drive more bookings to your business.
Unfortunately, most hotels don’t invest in staff training nor technology, making it almost impossible to achieve their goals. Customer service is the core of hospitality. Hotels need to keep up with the changes customers demand to meet their expectations.
As you could read in this article, experts have different approaches and strategies to tackle the multichannel problem.
The game is on.
What is your strategy?
👉 Is Instagram part of your marketing strategy? Are you getting many requests on this channel? Take a look at the video below and check out how automation can help you improve your digital customer problem: