Even Congress is asking questions.
If the current situation were converted to a math equation, it would be More Travelers + Fewer Employees = Customer Service Problem.
As a result of the worker shortage, many hospitality players are increasingly looking for new technological ways to bridge the gap. One of them is customer service (CX) via chat.
Chat commerce is not a tough sell on the consumer end. Billions of people around the world already use chat apps like Facebook Messenger, Apple iMessage, Google Messages, and WhatsApp.
And the chat commerce wave is building. Our recently released Chat Commerce Trends Report survey of more than 1,000 U.S.-based Millennials found 89 percent are interested in making purchases via their chat apps; 63 percent said they would make hotel reservations via a chat platform, and 54 percent reported they would buy airline tickets via chat.
But for hospitality organizations considering whether or not chat commerce makes sense for them, it’s important to define what chat commerce is -- and what it’s not. For starters, chat commerce is not about asking people to add yet another app to their phone.
App Fatigue vs. True Chat Commerce
Apple famously coined the phrase, “there’s an app for that,” when there were fewer than 500 of them. More than a decade later, there are millions of apps — and consumers are increasingly tired. With more than 80 apps on an average smart phone, users tap on fewer than half of those each month—if that. The simple takeaway is that most people don’t want another new app for every company they do business with.
True chat commerce is where consumers use one or two apps to chat with friends and family—and to do business with trusted brands. By seamlessly combining two-way mobile messaging, automated interaction, and live agent support, without a phone full of countless apps, chat commerce could be a game changer.
But many businesses aren’t getting the message. They keep building their own apps in hopes of talking to consumers. Moving forward, hospitality players considering whether to expand their chat commerce presence will need to experiment to determine what’s best for their brand, just as they did in the early days of the Internet and e-commerce.
While it’s still early days for chat in most sectors, there are some notable developments, most of them in retail. For example, Walmart enables consumers to message it via a third-party platform and Domino’s Pizza lets customers to message it via the company’s Facebook page.
Of course, the hospitality and travel sectors have already done a lot of work in this area, too – using apps to help guests check in, use their phone to access their room, etc. However, the problem is that it's all app-based and, as a result, you’re only connecting with tried-and-true road warriors – people who travel a lot for work. But for the much larger group of ordinary travelers, it doesn’t work – they don’t have the particular company’s app and probably don’t want it. As they see it, they already have too many apps.
As chat conversations become more contextual, hospitality operators will know more quickly what the consumer wants. Chat conversations will be shorter and more natural. In the future, brands will use chat to proactively reach out to consumers and personalize well-timed offers -- e.g., room upgrades, meals, tourism or events, etc.
Chat commerce offers a way for brands to take digital channels and extend them to the common traveler. Consumers have the ability to chat on phones. They have location-based capabilities. Ultimately, chat commerce migrates existing capabilities onto a broader chat channel, taking capabilities you have on your website (and app) and making them available via chat.
With more people travelling and fewer employees available to help them book their plans, call centers are backing up and consumers are getting frustrated -- chat commerce presents an innovative way to bridge that gap.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pieter de Villiers is CEO and co-founder of Clickatell, Inc. Since its launch in 2000, Clickatell has built one of the largest messaging-as-a-service footprints globally and fastest growing mobile pre-paid networks, serving more than 28,000 companies across 960 mobile operators in more than 220 countries and territories.