Text Messaging Gets New Life Amid COVID-19
Hotels and restaurants are finding creative ways to employ technology to keep staff and guests safe during COVID-19. In some cases, this means overhauling and completely renovating common areas and spaces. In other instances, businesses might be employing special sanitation technologies. Some within the hospitality industry, however, or realizing the power of the text message and the way it can be used to limit person-to-person interaction, prevent queuing, notify guests of new protocols and standards, and even be used as a sales/marketing technology. To learn more about the way restaurants and hotels are re-thinking their use of the humble text message, HT spoke with James Lapic, Chief Technology Officer at Zipwhip.
How has texting taken on new significance for the hospitality industry?
Many restaurants and hotels are reopening, but it’s anything but business as usual in the hospitality industry. Wellness screening and temperature checks are required upon checking into a hotel, and amenities such as hand sanitizer and face masks are replacing shampoo and conditioner freebies in guest rooms. The Full-Service Restaurant (FSR) and hotel industry are some of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic, and are working overtime to overcome challenging hurdles during reopening. This is especially true as remote work settings are all but impossible in their line of business.
As a result of this new setting, we’ve seen businesses use texting to ramp up their operations. The technology exists that businesses large and small can text enable their existing landline, VoIP or toll-free phone number so they can reach customers faster and more effectively. In the restaurant and hotel industry, this technology is playing a new, and critical role in communicating with and retaining staff and customers. For example, face-to-face hotel concierge services are moving to texting to alert consumers about reopening plans or new rules and regulations. Similarly, some hotel amenities such as pool time, spa appointments and tennis court hours are now requiring advanced appointments, and texting is a preferred, and safe, communication tool to translate this information. In the FSR space, texting has played a key role during the pandemic, as restaurants are alerting diners via text when their table is ready, or when it is safe to enter their establishment to pick up food. This touchless form of communication between customers and employees is not only effective and efficient – it’s safe for everyone involved. In a time of crisis, consumers want to simplify their communication channels and use what they know best, which is texting.
How might texting technologies assist with protecting hotels and restaurants from COVID-19 liability claims?
As long as the risk of exposure remains, businesses face potential liability when they allow customers, vendors, and other parties to enter their premises and engage with their employees. While politicians are debating over the possibility of granting business owners immunity from COVID-19 claims, business owners should be aware of potential liability claims and the measures that can assist with protection.
Most states have premises liability statutes which kick in when someone is present on business property, and the greatest risk falls around “invitees” to the property, such as customers. During the pandemic, premises liability claims can be asserted if a business owner fails to properly protect visitors from COVID-19 exposure while on their property. Texting can help ease these risks and concerns because it can limit the time a customer or “invitee” is on the property. In the restaurant industry, this entails alerting customers via text when their food or outdoor dining space is available. In the hotel industry, many resorts are implementing check-ins via text and limiting the number of guests per floor. These safety protocols and liability safeguards are more easily and effectively enforced via text communication.
Liability claims also center around business advertising. Many organizations are already publicizing the steps they are taking to keep their customers safe and reduce the risk of exposure during the pandemic. Texting is a critical tool in furthering this message – and it can also provide added safeguards because it allows for interactive engagement between a business and a customer. For example, a business owner can text a customer engaging them with a “yes” or “no” reply regarding their comfort level with their new safety protocols. This added level of advertising can help restaurant and hotel leaders inform their customer base of the certain precautions being taken, and help protect against any potential advertising liability claims.”
How have one of your clients used texting effectively?
Boothill Inn is a small independent hotel in Montana. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Boothill has set up a texting template with our technology. Each guest receives the texting template prior to their arrival. The text outlines what they can expect and explains changes to the usual amenities in the hotel. This process allows guests to ask questions ahead of time and even allows them to make special requests – all in a safe and efficient manner. It’s proven to be a real time saver for the staff and puts everyone at ease – employees and guests. The texting template has also helped avoid some awkward and unfortunately angry conversations at the front desk when guests arrive.
On the restaurant side, Tiscareno’s Catering & Events is a family-owned catering company serving Orange County, Los Angeles and the greater LA area. Tiscareno’s says the pandemic caused them to reformat many of their communication approaches. They now send proposals via text and have increased sales. The owner says being able to simply send a text message to either a customer or an employee has been an amazing advantage. They say most people are wanting information on the now, and texting is able to offer that service.