Human nature is grounded in communication. Since the dawn of time, people have attempted to make communication easier. From cave drawings to morse code to the telephone, there are many ways that we have communicated with one another over the course of time. Today, countless companies have created platforms in an effort to decrease communication barriers. While many companies focus on consumer-to-consumer conversation, a few now have their sights on business-to-consumer. Hoteliers and other accommodation providers can greatly benefit from these new technologies.
Here, we’re going to discuss the business trends that are beginning to shape the future. There is a huge trend where business to consumer communication are changing from primarily phone and email to instant chatting. And a few large companies want you to succeed with some pretty helpful tools.
What’s the Trend?
Over the past few months, we’ve seen a lot of attention on business to consumer communication channels. This trend has been brewing for awhile, but we believe we will see more businesses utilize these platforms in the next six months to a year.
Consumer apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, Kik, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger have made instant communication almost effortless. Because people use these platforms on a daily basis to talk to one another, they, as consumers, want the same connection to businesses.
While most business-to-consumer communication happens over the phone and email, instant message and direct communication is now being explored.
Platforms Leading the Battle
Last month, Facebook launched a new messaging platform for businesses. The update makes it easier for Messenger app users and main app users to contact various businesses. There are now page usernames, links, codes, and pre-configured messages. This update comes after the company announced that there are more than 900 million active users on Messenger.
Here are a list of features, as reported by Business Insider:
- Businesses now have the option to add a username so that people can more easily find them.
- Facebook will give businesses short links that will direct straight to Messenger.
- Each business will get a Messenger code that links straight to a business’ account. Businesses can place this code on advertisements, billboards, etc.
- Facebook gives businesses the ability to send automatic Messenger Greetings before the conversation starts. The message allows the business to set the tone and supply any information that may be necessary before the chat begins.
On launch day, Facebook had already partnered with a few companies, including the Wall Street Journal, which use Facebook’s API and robots to send the correct response. For example, the Wall Street Journal automatically delivers news based on a user’s request.
While many small or medium-sized hotels won’t have the resources to build on Facebook’s API, their other features will likely come in handy. In the future, we expect potential and current hotel guests to use Facebook to communicate with properties. Instead of using phone or email, guests will be able to get an automatic connection to your staff. And the best part is that this infrastructure already exists.
Last week, booking.com announced that they too are launching a chat tool to allow hotels and guests to talk, according to Tnooz. The chat will roll out to properties over the next few months. Eventually, the chat box will pop up when a potential guest is going through the booking process.
It will be powered by the existing Pulse for Accommodation Partners tool which launched over a year ago. But now, it will be integrated into booking.com’s website. The chat can be configured with pre-written questions and answers that can help speed up the process. It also has built-in approval system that allows managers to approve or disapprove message responses.
The chat hopes to replace the current system that shows a pop-up that directs to the property’s email. The instant message system hopes to speed up the amount of time it takes for a customer to get a response.
Both the examples above are great for talking with potential guests on websites other than your own. But, there are several instant messaging platforms that hotel owners can install on their personal website.
One tool that we use here at Cloudbeds called Olark allows us to instant message anyone who is active on our site. The tool lets customers ask questions about the products or services without having to email us or try and call. It also has some other cool functionalities that show the business more information about the website’s visitors. From the admin panel, you can see who is on your site and which pages they’ve been on.
Hoteliers can use an Olark instant chat box as a supplement to any contact forms they have on their websites. The tool also allows you to set hours so that people aren’t messaging an empty room. Cutting down on emails and phone calls with a chat box allows you to answer questions as they come in and hopefully gain more bookings in the process.
Your property is likely already active on Facebook and hopefully responds to any incoming messages. As Facebook continues to add functionalities be aware of them and try to take advantage of their new innovations. At the moment, there isn’t that much else you will need to set up if you already have a Facebook page.
Facebook did add a new functionality where you can auto message anyone back. If you would like, you can set this up so that guests know you check your messages, and you’ll get back to them. Social Media Examiner has a great guide to setting up your Facebook Messenger which you can see here.
As for the booking.com chat tool, be on the lookout for it to roll out for your property. Hopefully it will be a beneficial asset to your current marketing efforts.
If you have it in your budget, you should add a service like Olark to your site immediately. Their pricing starts at as low as $15/month and offers a free trial.
I expect more companies to put a focus on business-to-consumer communications for the rest of 2016 and beyond. It will be interesting to see what large companies, like the Wall Street Journal, do with these new tools. While your small- to medium-sized property probably won’t create an automated robot, there are certain aspects of their larger strategies that you can implement.