Oct 4, 2021 | Customer Service | Reading Time: 11 minutes
How to provide the best customer service in the hotel industry pre-stay? Let’s imagine you are the traveler and you are trying to decide where to stay on your next trip. I’m pretty sure you will do some research from your mobile or desktop, check out hotels’ social media, and from the information you gathered, you will try to connect with your hotel of choice.
Where you are going to stay is an important factor that impacts your entire travel experience, so you don’t want to make a bad choice. As much as you want to gather information, at the same time, you probably don’t want to waste too much time doing research. You want to decide to start dreaming about your travel.
As you can see, your hotel customer service is crucial to converting online visitors into guests. Many articles talk about the customer service during stay, but what about the assistance provided before booking?
It’s at this moment you want to be there for your target audience and provide spotless and efficient customer service so they choose you over your competitors.
Keep in mind that the expectations of consumers of service are changing. You are expected to create delight at every customer touchpoint, including before stay.
Here is where two challenges arise for you, hotelier:
- You need to provide travelers with important information so they can make educated decisions about where to stay
- You need to be fast providing them what they are looking for before booking, after all, it is so easy to book another hotel.
Customer service is the heart of the hospitality industry. But it became a greater challenge with the multiple channels customers now have to contact a hotel.
In this article, we will explain how to provide excellent customer service in the hospitality industry with valuable and practical tips you can apply now to improve your service during the travelers’ decision-making process.
How Do You Provide Excellent Customer Service in the Hospitality Industry?
Even though there are different sizes for hotels, different ways to operate them, and different categories, the truth is travelers today have high expectations. With the additional note that when travelers compare your service, they don’t compare it only with other hotels, but with any kind of business they’ve been in contact with.
The buyer’s journey has changed. Today’s consumers do extensive research before committing to a product or service. Sometimes, they might even know better than your sales team when it comes to what your hotel doesn’t have or have in comparison to another hotel, or where they find the best rates – unfortunately, many times it is not through direct bookings.
Might not be fair, especially for small independent hotels, but that is how the game is played now. That’s why it is so important that you elevate your service in all channels.
Ok, so all channels are impossible for you right now? Then focus on the ones your ideal guests prefer. How to choose? Through data. Get to know your customers well before making a strategic move.
And remember that whatever channel you decide to focus on, the customer service must be top class. Don’t make the wrong first impression digitally, they do count!
👉 Your guests may be impressed (or not) by what they see online. Your social media presence reflects on your brand and direct bookings. Get tips on how to improve your presence online by accessing our [Social Media Kit]
What are the ways to provide excellent customer service during the pre-booking process?
There are great articles out there talking about customer service during the stay. But they failed to address the customer service provided before potential customers turn into guests. Without perfect customer service at that stage, your chances of getting more reservations decrease significantly.
Keep in mind that every new guest creates expectations around the services of your brand and takes past experiences into consideration.
If you are not sure how to start or where you could improve, we listed 9 useful tips to elevate your game and help you convert more reservations.
1. Be available on the main digital channels
We’ve mentioned before that it is important to be available on the main digital channels as travelers tend to contact hotels directly on their channel of choice. This means sending hotel DMs on social media, for example.
Nothing frustrates a customer more than:
- Sending a message and be asked to call or send an email instead
- Getting in touch by any channel (email, social media, chat) and having to wait for a long time for an answer
If any of these situations happen, the most likely result is that they will give up on you and move to another hotel.
Poor customer service costs you money
Most travelers check out your hotel website before booking a room and usually, they have questions about your facilities, payment conditions, rates, and more. Be sure that your website is easy to navigate and that users can find how to contact you.
The ideal scenario is to offer not only relevant content or FAQ on your website but also provide digital assistance so you can grab the online visitor on the spot. There are many tools to help you here, such as a LiveChat or a chatbot, or even both.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to convert travelers that are clearly interested in staying at your hotel.
👉 The multichannel customer service challenge is not easy to overcome. We ask global hospitality experts Calvin Tilokee, Adele Gutman, Max Starkov, Thais Bandinelli, Claudio Habibe, Christoph Hutter, and Waldin Duran what they would do if they have to prioritize one customer over the other. Read here what they have to say [Customer Service Dilemma].
2. Capture potential guest’ information
Not all people that get in touch with your hotel make a reservation. Many travelers contact you while they are still considering making future trips.
This is a great opportunity for you to get their contact information, learn about their preferences and send them an email, give them a call, text them to let them know about a future reservation, promotional packages you have, and new special services.
When they reach out to you, they are opening a door to a relationship with you. Don’t waste the opportunity.
A customer may or may not want to commit at this point but if you make it easy to do business with you, they might make a reservation at the spot or later on.
You can capture this information with or without technology. You can write down on an excel spreadsheet their basic information during a phone call, ask them to leave their contact number while assisting them in the LiveChat.
Or you can have a chatbot in place on your website. They can capture the contact information when your potential customer asks for a room quote, for example. It’s easy and fast.
Then, your team can elaborate a strategy to contact those potential guests coming from different channels and create email campaigns or SMS campaigns to send them according to their preferences that you discover while providing customer service.
This way, they will get relevant offers, making it hard to say no!
Of course, not every traveler that contacts you will turn into a possible customer, but you will definitely have a better chance of increasing direct bookings if your team is prepared to get the best of the customer service provided during the pre-booking process.
Nurture your relationships, get to know your target audience and your business will thrive.
3. Train hotel staff
Phone, email, social media, chat. Whatever channel your reservation team is working with, it is crucial that they are well-trained.
It’s imperative that your property implement hotel customer training so your team learns ways to improve their customer service skills. In one episode of our Hotel Cast Podcast, we chatted with Consultant Jutta Moore about the skills that are required to work in Reservation and Sales. Here is what she said:
“ At reservations, you have to be absolutely super flexible, have great interpersonal skills, and most of all, you have to be hospitable. Because we are all about hosting, making customers feel good, and delivering that welcoming experience.
Your phone voice and mannerisms are so very important. The listening skill it’s really important in Reservations because guests are so much more anxious now.
They want to know what’s happening at the property, what covid measures do you have in place, how secure it is, and so on. You really need to be able to listen to the customers to see what they need.
In sales, you need to be a bit more competitive to actually fight for the business, and to be more creative as well so you can create any kind of special offer. You can be a little bit more competitive and a little bit more efficient as well.”
She also stressed the importance of getting back to potential customers quickly, be reliable, and deliver what you said you would be delivering.
Jutta pointed out that agents so often spend so much time with a customer you give them all the information. Hotel agents tell them everything they want to know but they don’t ask for the business at the end. Which can be as simple as saying: “Can I make this reservation for you?” before you hang up the phone.
👉You can listen to the entire podcast episode with Jutta here: [Hotel Sales]
Or answering an email, instead of you writing: “Sorry, we don’t have any more available rooms.”, why don’t you offer alternative dates? More often than not, travelers might be interested in staying at your hotel for at least a few days on their next trip.
Whatever your customer is asking for that you can’t provide, don’t say a simple NO. Give them an option, a solution, so they have a reason to stay.
🎥 Mobile chat is an important part of customer service in hotels. In this short video, Hotel Expert and Award-winning GM Christine Trippi, tell us what are the 3 biggest mistakes hotel teams are making in mobile chat and why yes is the answer:
4. Combine human agents and technology
Another great way to provide excellent customer service is by combining human resources and technology.
The number of requests coming from different sources can be overwhelming to any hotelier. Especially when the industry is facing a serious labor shortage, finding it difficult to hire talent.
Since we are still not able to divide ourselves into two or three people, the best solution is to analyze your hotel tech and find solutions that can help you in customer service.
Let’s be clear: technology is not here to replace humans. Instead, technologies were built to provide better conditions for hotel staff to perform with excellence. Technology empowers humans.
What is the most scarce resource? Time! Consequently, hoteliers must use their time wisely: there is no turning back time!
Simple and repetitive activities don’t bring value to tasks performed by a human agent. Automating these activities can bring advantages both to clients and hotels. Including financial ones.
Answering 24/7, on the main messaging channels, a hotel chatbot allows human agents to prioritize more complex activities than answering 20 times the same question.
Emails can also be automated. Artificial Intelligence can help you work smarter and finally be able to end the endless incoming emails.
With the right technology, hotels gain productivity, efficiency, and control. Technologies can help organize guest data, customer service and to scale your service. Many solutions are “ all-in-one screen”, which is an incredible asset.
When it comes to multiple customer service channels, there are omnichannel platforms, like Asksuite, that enable you to control your customer service quality and manage multiple demands.
Not to mention the possibility of great teamwork between humans and machines since human intervention is possible at any time in any conversation the bot is having.
You might still be hesitating to adopt technology in customer service. But just take a look at these numbers provided by Business Insider:
- 45% of consumers don’t care if they interact with a human agent or chatbot (as long as the service is efficient);
- 49% of consumers use automated channels, without any human interaction, at least once a week. Between Millennials, this number goes up to 66%.
Invest in the partnership between humans and machines and increase customer satisfaction and maximize hotel revenue.
🎧 In this podcast episode, we talk with Rita Varga and Brendan May about how technology and Artificial Intelligence can help hotels obtain more productivity:
5. Be fast and efficient
Time is money. Or in this case, time is booking. If your potential guest has to wait for your answer, chances are they will try to contact another hotel instead. After all, who has time to wait?
Answering travelers quickly and efficiently is essential to increase direct bookings, but many hotels are still overlooking this important aspect. Take a look at the guests’ expectations regarding time responses:
These are high expectations to meet. But there are tools that can help you and your team to provide excellent customer service.
You can create email templates to answer faster, especially since many emails are very similar. There are even technologies that autofill your answers by text or email, which decreases your response time.
You can also have an omnichannel platform that unifies your customer service in one screen. Using this tech, you will be able to follow the different requests easier and faster, without the need to change tabs on your computer all the time to check for a new message.
You work smarter and your customers get assistance faster. They won’t even have time to check out another hotel.
6. Be consistent
Standardization in service is a fundamental strategy to attract and retain travelers. It provides a sense of professionalism and it’s the best way to guarantee the quality of your service in every channel.
When we analyze hotel service, unfortunately, we often find fragmentation and carelessness in support. Many hotels don’t even have a playbook or any kind of guidelines to give their associates in customer service so they know the dos and don’ts.
The result? Confused and frustrated customers that get different experiences not only in different channels but even in the same one, depending on which agent they will talk to.
The way your employees communicate with guests and how they guide the conversations have a major impact on your hotel service. Standardization will diminish errors and optimize the quality of your service.
Good hotel training is imperative to fix the problem. You can create templates that they could consult whenever they need. Email templates are quite common to use in the hotel industry.
And, once again, you can also rely on technology to make your job (and your associates’ job) easier and standardized. If you use a chatbot, for example, it will never answer incorrectly or say something that is not aligned with your brand.
7. Segment customers and assign the right agent
There are many types of customer service requests:
- Group packages
- Room quotes
Make sure you assign the best team member to assist in that particular request. Many hotels divide their teams in three:
- Group package
Each group requires a different approach and different skills from your teams. Groups usually request negotiation about prices and rooms to allocate them; a company that is looking for a place to host an event needs specific information about infrastructure; a family trying to book a hotel room asks about hotel facilities.
Assigning your best agent to a specific demand will provide a better service and increase the chances of sealing the deal. Better prepared staff means more satisfied customers and more revenue.
Working with different sectors inside of Reservations requires some kind of triage when customers get in touch with you. Be sure to train your team so this process runs smoothly and doesn’t turn into customers’ frustration.
There are technologies that can help you with that. A platform integrated with an AI chatbot, as the one Asksuite provides, can do this work for you.
The tags that you can add in each chat helps you keep track of what kind of assistance customers are requesting, making it easier to assign the right human agent.
Finally, if your hotel can’t handle the multiple requests due to a labor shortage, a good option is to outsource your call center or hire a consultant.
Besides, having a pair of fresh eyes can be very beneficial for your operations. They might see clearly how you can improve your hotel customer skills, providing outsourced staff, tools and strategies.
👉 Do you have any hotel customer service tips? Share it in the comments!