Hotel bookings for summer 2021 are rising in the United States and in other areas around the world. As COVID-19 restrictions loosen, and more vaccines are administered, many travelers are ready to get back on the road! Summer is coming, bookings are up, but is your hotel ready?
COVID-19 had a massive impact on the hospitality industry, and many hotels are still operating with lean teams, and will continue to do so through the summer. Hotel operations software helps hoteliers do more, with less.
We sat down with Andy Kong, ALICE’s Product Manager, to talk about how hoteliers can leverage hotel operations software, especially, guest messaging tools, to increase guest engagement and meet the needs of this summer’s crowds:
ALICE: We know you undertook a big project this past year, a deep-dive of sorts … can you tell us about it?
Andy: Here at ALICE, we’re lucky because we can see operational data across thousands of hotels all around the world, and this gives us a vivid internal view of the hotel industry that no one else can see.
ALICE: You have had a great deal of experience digging through the messaging data for the last year - what surprised you? What didn't?
Andy: We looked at guest messaging data because we wanted to find out how hotel guest behaviors changed during COVID-19. The first question we had was, What did guests talk about before COVID-19?
We also wanted to know, what were they talking about through the pandemic? We wanted to find out what had changed. So, we took a sample size of about 100 hotels and saw some very interesting shifts in conversation topics.
There weren’t a lot of things that surprised us. In fact, a lot of the messages confirmed our hunches about hotel guest and hotel employee communications. Here’s what didn’t surprise me about what we saw:
- There was a sharp decline in messages having anything to do with restaurant and amenity reservations (reservations, questions, menus, confirmations, room service, etc.). This made sense as many hotels closed their in-house restaurants, and most restaurants in the US faced some sort of closure (especially for indoor dining) during 2020.
- Hotels had creative ways of managing check-in and check-out, with the help of guest messaging apps and software. Many hotels were sending pre-arrival messages telling guests what to expect, and how to do contactless check in. They were also confirming departure time and providing instructions for key dropoff boxes.
- Guests were asking questions. A lot of hotel procedures changed during COVID-19. Even if guests could see pool hours online, it made sense to send a text message to the front desk and get a real time response to ensure that the pool really was open.
ALICE: Do you think these messaging trends will last?
Andy: Yes, absolutely. The number of service requests did not drop. Despite guests wanting to avoid face to face interactions, even in a pandemic, guests still need services delivered to them. Hotels just needed to do it in a safe way.
You can put as many towels as you want in a room, but you will still get guests who ask for more!
ALICE: Did you do any other research around hotel guest messaging?
Andy: Yes! Once we started digging into this, we couldn’t stop. The other source of our research was reviews, which we solicited from our users (hotel employees) during the pandemic to see how they felt about using a messaging solution.
While we knew messaging was an effective way to control touchpoints in a contactless guest journey, we wanted to know how it was working for staff. It was great to see that employees across a range of hotels (big, small, branded, and independent) felt that they were safer communicating with guests via a messaging solution. Guest messaging tools improved both the staff and guest experience (and guest satisfaction!) at hotels during the pandemic.
ALICE: We believe that everything in a hotel is better when it is connected to everything else. Platforms are effective. Can you help us understand how it benefits anyone for guest messaging to be connected to something that seems very distant from that guest -- preventative maintenance, for instance?
Andy: Great question. If you think about it, everything is centered around the guest at a hotel, so there isn’t much that’s distant, not even the engineering department’s preventative maintenance tasks! If you think about the examples we talked about a little earlier - the operational impact of a messaging solution is quite significant.
- Welcome messages can reduce in person conversations during the check-in process, but still engage guests.
- Check-out reminders enable staff to effectively prioritize housekeeping cleaning.
- For maintenance and engineering teams, messaging can be used to coordinate repair requests to make sure engineers do not walk in on the guest while they’re in the room.
What I think is unique about messaging is that it gives staff a quick and effective way to not only make sure that service is delivered, but that it is delivered well. We saw staff checking in after a service delivery task, and then from there, one request became a relationship between guests and staff.
ALICE: So it’s safe to say that at ALICE - we firmly believe messaging should be integrated into an operations platform?
Andy: That is 100% correct. And we have the data to prove it.
Because messaging is integrated into ALICE, we had the opportunity to understand how conversations often turn into requests that require operational teams. A natural question for us was How many times will a hotel employee create a ticket when after engaging with a hotel guest using a messaging solution?
What was very interesting to us is that around 28% of time when a hotel employee is using ALICE Guest messaging, either a guest request or an internal service ticket is created. This was amazing to see because it helps validate the need to have a messaging solution natively embedded in an operations platform. If communication of service and delivery of service do not live in silos at a hotel, the technology solutions shouldn’t either.
Did you miss our latest webinar, Summer is Coming: Serving Surging Crowds with Skeleton Crews? We’ve got you covered! You can watch it on-demand as Sean Cohen, ALICE’s Creative Director, breaks it all down with Andy Kong, ALICE’s Product Manager, and Anja Luthje, CEO Unique Hospitality Solutions.