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10/19/2022

How to Re-energize Customer Service

Travelers are not happy with the type of customer service they’re receiving in 2022, but technology could help turn this pain point around.
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an unhappy hotel guest in front of the check-in desk

It goes without saying that customer service should always be a priority in the hospitality industry. For hotel managers, ensuring your guests are receiving an experience that goes above and beyond can make all the difference in the success of your hotel.

According to J.D. Power's 2022 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Survey, guest satisfaction overall has decreased significantly compared to the previous year, despite guest numbers rebounding to pre-pandemic levels. So, what is contributing to guest dissatisfaction, and how do we address it?

Pain points in hospitality customer service

Ensuring that guests continue to come through the door along with a steady stream of revenue is vital. To build business resilience in the face of inflation, identifying pain points and acting on them is key.

A lot of customer trends concerning safety have emerged recently that signal a shift in the demands and expectations of hotel guests. There’s no longer a hesitation toward travel, but there are safety expectations that hotels need to meet.

According to a study by Oracle Hospitality and Skift, 73% of people surveyed now look for hotels that offer contactless technology that reduces contact with the staff and other guests. From managing their bookings remotely to contactless check-in, digital services related to hotel customer service are very important to guests.

Another thing that the J.D. Power report demonstrated is that even the most mundane issues affected customer service and subsequent satisfaction. Simple things like having access to WiFi within their rooms proved to be vital. With remote working continuing to grow, hotel guests expect to be able to log into their systems from the comforts of their hotel rooms.

Another major pain point that hoteliers are facing is ongoing difficulties finding employees. This past July 97% of hotels surveyed reported experiencing staffing shortages, while 47% said those shortages were severe. While improving wages and work-life balance is one way to approach this, this isn’t a silver bullet. The biggest challenge facing customer service departments in particular is responding to more guests with fewer resources, ensuring your hotel retains its reputation and revenue.

Technology can help

Personalization is one of the most important things that hoteliers can do to instill customer delight. This means providing a customized service, often by using guest data to better understand customers’ concerns and formulate a curated response.

Artificial intelligence in the form of a chatbot can help to make personalization happen while also easing staff pressures. AI chatbots that mimic human interaction can answer guest queries around the clock, for example, to schedule wake up calls and reserve dinner tables. In “smart” hotels that use IoT (“Internet of Things'') systems, a chatbot could even sit within a tablet or mobile device next to the guests’ bedside table. Imagine, instant customized support from your bedside. Can it get anymore personal?

The chatbots can then collect customer communications as data, which AI can quickly analyze and preserve for future interactions with that customer. The power of applying data analytics means hoteliers can create über-focused data sets to customize recommendations for future guests as well.

For example, a family of four from Arizona is probably going to have different personalization needs compared to a businessperson from Shanghai. Clearly, hospitality is already recognizing the benefits of AI: its use in hospitality is predicted to increase by 53% this year alone.

Another avenue to explore is omnichannel customer service platform in which data of all of your communication avenues is collected into the same database. It’s also a platform that helps customer service professionals provide more streamlined interactions with guests and customers. Omnichannel technology can analyze the data and anticipate needs for future clients as well as support in-bound queries redirected from internal chatbots. It can also help customer service agents prioritize query importance, allowing short-staffed teams to focus on more demanding sales.

Here’s how an omnichannel platform might work: A high-end prospective customer contacts your hotel by chatbot but then decides to send an email as well. Omnichannel technology means the customer service agent will see all of those conversations together so customers don’t have to repeat their questions.

The value of training

Technology should never overshadow the importance of people in the customer-service equation. To keep guests happy, you’re going to need a team that can truly represent your brand and continuously deliver quality service. AI is currently great with factual information, but it can’t pick up on emotional cues the way an empathic person can. At a certain point, customers need the human touch.

This also leads us onto the importance of training. More than 86% of hospitality staff receive less than 10 hours of ongoing training. Upskilling your workforce by explaining how certain technology will make their jobs easier and generating excitement can go a long way. Consider appointing hotel technology ambassadors to serve as go-to representatives for supporting other staff members as well as guests. You also need to adopt a multi-pronged approach to supporting the varying speeds at which staff pick up the technology.

Hospitality has faced a tough ride throughout the last few years. However, this has also been a catalyst for the adoption of technology at the better hotels – and guests don’t want to go back. Focusing on how artificial intelligence can alleviate staff shortages is a start but supporting employees during the adoption of technology can help your customer service department deliver a service that genuinely earns those positive guest reviews.