Customer service interactions are mostly reactive. A guest experiences a hiccup, maybe something in online booking or not being able to find the spa hours on the website, and the people who pick up the phone or answer the chat work to resolve the issue.
With recent advances in technology, hotel CTOs have an opportunity to transform customer service from a reactive cost center to a proactive revenue driver. Here are some of the most common problems in hotel guest service and the best solutions to turn customer service into a money maker.
Problem #1: Chatbots and search bars don’t get it.
We’ve spent months (years?) dreaming about finally taking that next vacation. Guests likely have an idea of what they want their trip to look like—and the guests who know what they want have the highest intent to actually book something. In high-traffic destinations, a customer has pinned down where in the city they’d like to be, but chances are there are probably five hotels down the block that they’d be happy with.
More than two-thirds of customers will look for information themselves before contacting customer support. Customers want fast responses to common questions like: Does my booking include free breakfast? Is there parking? What’s the cancellation policy? Can I book two rooms next to each other? These questions could be the deal makers or breakers that send your guests down the street.
Solution: Invest in conversational commerce powered by semantic vector search.
Booking a vacation is an emotional experience, so it’s important to understand the guest's intent as accurately as possible. Unfortunately, most chatbots and search bars can’t handle specific long-tail queries where their intent is hiding in plain sight, especially if they’re not an exact match to what’s in the hotel’s FAQ. Chatbots are the first line of defense for your customer service team. The other day I was searching to see if a hotel in Miami had a parking area and how much it cost. I couldn’t find it in the FAQ page, and the chatbot couldn’t answer it for me. It’s likely that if I found another comparable hotel where that information was more easily accessible, I would probably book the other hotel.
Once guests have booked and begun their stay, there are a lot of great examples of VIP chatbots that are only a text away. But if guests can find answers in the booking stage, you’ve already lost them.
Misspellings and unfamiliarity with amenities can dead-end your guest experience. Semantic vector search uses deep learning to associate answers with queries in a shared semantic vector space – sort of like the way groceries are organized in aisles and shelves in a physical store. The semantic vector search model continues to learn over time as hotel offerings and guest preferences change. Creating more reliable conversational commerce isn’t just a way to help customers help themselves, it’s a chance to upsell and cross-sell. Which leads us to the next problem.
Problem #2: Problem-solving without cross-selling.
Hotel chains are facing stiff competition from Airbnb on the price front. It’s important for hotel brands to find opportunities throughout customers’ booking journey to sell additional services or packages that the hotel brand has to offer to increase the average booking price. In a recent survey, just over half of contact center agents identified selling as “part of their job” and 84% reported that they sometimes or always upsell or cross-sell when helping a customer.
We hear from a lot of our contact center customers that their biggest frustration is not having one place where they can see all the information they need to support guests and do their jobs.
If the contact center tech stack isn’t updating live, making it easy for agents to find what they need, and proactively recommending relevant amenities, they’re not set up to successfully upsell cross-sell. And that’s a huge opportunity missed.
Solution: A more connected customer service tech stack.
Nearly 80% of people say they’ve had a customer service representative offer suggestions for additional products or services to purchase. Of those respondents, one in two say that recommendations are helpful, and they’ll usually purchase the additional items or services an agent recommends.
A lot of hotels took the opportunity to renovate during the pandemic. Be sure that you’re updating your customer service agents and desk staff to understand any new offerings or amenities that are available to consumers. Your customer service agents have the power to drive best-in class customer experience while creating revenue—but only if employees have the technology to solve problems quickly and offer additional amenities or services that guests didn’t realize they wanted.
Beware of a common pitfall: not personalizing offers to meet a specific guest’s needs and preferences. This takes us to our final point.
Problem #3: Failure to provide a personalized guest experience.
The classic customer service problem is an endless journey of phone holds to another agent to another hold, etc. Disconnected data sources are setting your staff up for failure and frustrating guests. The guest that booked a king room for two nights is the same guest that made a spa appointment and is the same guest that asked for a late checkout. Don’t make them feel like a stranger by not connecting the dots when they reach out on any channel.
Solution: Connect signals from guests to paint the whole picture.
A single platform that connects customer data and signals across disparate platforms can help employees provide five-star service. And that can continue when guests come back. When a guest comes back for their second trip, a connected platform can make it easy to make them feel like a member of the family, acknowledging that they’re choosing their stay with you once again.
The way consumers and companies approach customer service has transformed in the past few years. Companies have provided customers with multiple channels to find answers, but innovation and upkeep must continue to meet changing demands and unanticipated challenges. Hotels that can understand the big picture of the customer service journey, from the guest to the agent, can connect the dots and create compounding value across the entire organization to drive customer satisfaction, increase revenue, and support happy employees.
Better Service, Happier Guests, More Revenue
Expedia is calling 2022 the year of the GOAT, or the “greatest of all trips.” Guests are ready to spend and customer service is the untapped magic. Set your customer service agents up for success with the technology that makes it simple to deliver personalized, connected experiences for wanderlusting guests.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sathya Raghavendran is the SVP, Technology at Lucidworks. He is a hands-on technology leader with over 25 years of experience helping Fortune 500 ecommerce companies across hospitality, big-box retailers, auto parts, home improvement, and high-end apparel transform their search. Sathya Raghavendran has a wealth of knowledge in building products, platform engineering, technology architecture, GTM strategies, solution engineering, running consulting P&L, and growing global teams in this space. In 2010 he co-founded an ecommerce search company named Cirrus10. The company was acquired by Lucidworks in 2019.