Automation, artificial intelligence, and interactive voice response systems have dominated customer service for the past 10-15 years. If you picked up the phone right now and called any major brand in the world, it is more likely than not that a robot will greet you. Customer service horror stories are a plenty and statistics don’t lie. People crave real human attention. There are many things you can do to increase the human touch at your property.
While your hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast, or inn likely doesn’t suffer from the massive influx of customer calls as, say, AT&T or Comcast, it is essential to the success of your business that you respond like a human.
The Negative Effects of Bad Customer Service
45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their question is not answered fast enough, according to Forrester. If a potential guest has a question, the ability for them to reach out and receive an answer is crucial. Even more telling, 89% of consumers stopped doing business with a company after receiving bad customer service (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report). It costs any business a significant amount of money to obtain new customers, so you want to do everything in your power to keep them.
Automation and robot phone answering systems increase consumers’ frustrations when they need answers fast. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in an endless phone tree. While in some instances, it makes sense to automate, the majority of communication should be organic.
Reducing Labor Costs with Automation
In an effort to reduce labor costs, many businesses rely on automation to answer customers’ questions. But, automation cannot answer nuanced questions and there needs to be a quick way to get in touch with a human.
It is common for businesses to view their customer service department as a cost center that generates no revenue. While customer service centers don’t directly produce revenue, they are essential to your business. They maintain current revenue streams and ensure long-term customer satisfaction. Businesses that view customer service as just an added costs will feel the pain when they lose business.
How to Add the Human Touch
There are many ways your small to midsize property can increase the human touch. Personal service will help you provide your guests exceptional customer service.
There are simple things you can add to your emails to increase the human touch. Start by using their first and last name when addressing them. While you can and should continue to automate some emails, adding simple personal touches won’t go unnoticed.
Think about how you can provide your guests with more value in emails. For example, when you send booking confirmation and post-stay emails, use them to collect information.
In booking confirmation emails you should ask your guests the purpose of their stay. When they answer you, give them recommendations for food and entertainment based on their needs. You will impress your guests by providing them this type of information without them having to ask.
Also include your phone number in your emails when it’s appropriate. Some guests will feel more comfortable conversing over the phone than email.
You should encourage guests to call your support staff if they need help. Guests want to know they can reach out and talk to someone real with their questions.
Consider adding a live chat to your property’s website. Live chat programs like Olark allow you to chat with your website’s visitors on desktop and mobile app. As we mentioned above, 45% of consumers will abandon a purchase if their questions aren’t answered quickly. A live chat gives you the ability to answer questions in a timely matter. If you can answer their questions while they’re researching on your website, it will lead to more bookings.
Live chat programs like Olark offer mobile apps that let you answer questions when you’re not sitting at your computer. This makes it easy to answer on the go. And if the question is too difficult to answer over chat, you can have them call your front desk.
If you decide to install a live chat, make sure that someone monitors it at all times. Or set up consist operating times. If the chat is closed, then the chat will forward to your email. But, with the option to answer via mobile app, it is not crazy to offer a 24/7 chat.
It has become industry standard to have someone attend to the property phone 24/7. There should be someone available to answer your property’s phone at all times. Most small to mid-size properties do not need interactive voice response systems, so you are already better than most customer service call centers. Smaller properties, like bed and breakfasts, do not typically monitor their phones 24/7. If this is the case, clearly state on your website when the phones are monitored.
When a customer calls with a question and an actual human picks up, they will be elated. Guaranteed.
Consumers often turn to social media to ask questions. As part of your normal social media monitoring strategy, pay special attention to those asking questions. You should reply to people within no more than an hour, but the sooner the better. Be cordial and if the question is too complicated to answer online, ask them to call or direct them to your email.
Even if you can’t answer someone’s question immediately, make sure the person knows you received their question. Then ensure them that you are doing everything to get it answered.
Startups Looking To Add Human Touch
Startup travel apps are nothing new. However, travel apps focused on increasing legitimate conversation between companies and consumers are. For example, Hyper Travel allows travelers to chat with real live travel agents, according to Skift. They are focused on connecting consumers with people who can help them book their travel plans.
Kayak also announced late last year that they were going to release an SMS-based travel service. It’s not surprising that companies are looking towards SMS and chat as a means to communicate with travelers. As Hyper Travel’s co-founder told Skift, it’s easier to scale chat because one agent can help up to five people at once, where a phone call is only 1-1.
I agree with Skift that we will see more companies enter the human touch market. More startups will emerge to help hoteliers manage the influx of questions and comments coming from potential, current, and past guests.
Needless to say, there is a lot of room for innovation.
Customer service and showing your humanity is key to any service-based industry. Hospitality is no exception. There are many things you can do to increase your property’s human touch. To succeed, make yourself available to your guests and provide them exceptional value. We look forward to seeing how the industry continues to evolve customer satisfaction.