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How to make customer interactions contactless without dehumanising client relations

More than ever, the time is ripe for digitalisation. Even the most traditional  hotels  are gradually equipping themselves with technology  so that they’ll be able to reopen and offer guests a secure, contact-free experience. But, by making interactions and processes completely contactless, aren’t we starting to dehumanise the relationship and lose touch with our guests?

Here are 5 good practices to retain some “human warmth” in your digital exchanges with guests.

 

TIP N°1: PERSONALISE ALL YOUR COMMUNICATIONS

PERSONALISE THE SENDER

An email sent by “Hotel X” or “Reception” is too neutral to create a relationship between the guest and the hotel. Just because you automate your email sending doesn’t mean that your emails should not be made personal. Each email should be signed with the first and last name of the sender, the title of the person (Director, Receptionist, etc.) as well as a photo.

 

ADAPT YOUR MESSAGE TO THE RECIPIENT

The basis of sending an email or SMS is to name the person you are addressing. And we can never repeat it enough: personalise the content of the message! Messages sent en masse to all your customers are to be outlawed! You need to plan different sending scenarios for each type of guest, such as regular guests, guests who have booked live or via an OTA, ‘weekday’ or ‘weekend’ guests, long stays… The differences between these messages are sometimes subtle, but they make the difference because they give guests the feeling of being treated personally, as would be the case in a face-to-face meeting.

 

 

TIP N°2: REASSURE YOUR GUESTS EVERY STEP OF THE WAY

Times are unstable, travel is uncertain and anxiety is prevalent. Your guests need to be reassured. Normally, they are already asking for information before they arrive. Take them by surprise and explain to them how their arrival is going to take place and what you need from them. They will be all the more likely to follow your instructions! 

 

SEND YOUR INSTRUCTIONS AT THE RIGHT TIME

Whether it’s check-in or check-out procedures, it’s better to explain it to them twice than not at all. Via message, summarise the stages to come (filling in the pre-check-in form, signing the policy form, collecting the key at Reception, etc.) and schedule these communications at the appropriate times (the day before arrival and the day before departure, for example). Too late, the message will be of no use, but too early, the message will be forgotten. Timing is therefore very important. 

 

CONFIGURE YOUR SENDINGS TO THE STAGES OF THE STAY

Using a message sending management tool is the only way to avoid wasting time on this time-consuming and daunting task. Simply setup the tool by indicating the timing at which you want to send each message (D-1 before arrival, H+1 after check-in, D-1 before departure…), some tools can even be configured to the minute! The system then calculates the sendings according to the dates of stay and time zone of each guest, adapts the language and sends the appropriate message through the channel where the guest is most receptive. 

 

 

TIP N°3: INTRODUCE YOUR TEAM

IN YOUR MESSAGES

A guest will feel more confident and relaxed upon arrival if they know who they are going to meet and who is going to welcome them. They will feel as if they already know you. As mentioned above, sign your emails with a photo. There is no problem having two team members to talk to if the message is different! For example, you might have a thank you email from the Manager following the booking, but an email inviting the guest to fill in the pre-check-in form from the Receptionist. Messages can even be set up according to the receptionist on duty on the day of arrival. 

 

IN YOUR APPLICATION

If you have a guest portal, consider adding an employee directory of your team. This could include a photo accompanied by a small description to highlight the personality of each member of your team. No need to make a fuss, a simple but effective presentation is welcome. Why not include hobbies that could be a topic of conversation?

 

TIP N°4: BE RESPONSIVE

Receiving an SMS or WhatsApp message from the hotel can be surprising for the guest who is not used to it. Most guests respond immediately just to thank the hotel and commend the initiative. This is because the guest is more used to receiving informational or commercial SMS messages that they cannot respond to. This means of communication thus has a greater impact than a message from your standard no-reply email address.

 

DON’T LEAVE YOUR GUESTS HIGH AND DRY

For the guest, sending such a message is “manual” and “personal”, so they will easily forgive you for making a spelling mistake (the message will look even more authentic!).Not  answering them however will not be recognised in such a favourable light. So invest in a tool that allows you to properly manage your guests’ requests across all communication channels and notify you when some have not been processed. There is no point in contacting guests through a particular channel if you are not able to respond back to them through that channel.

 

BE INSTANTANEOUS

Instant messaging has several benefits for the guest: firstly, the guest is very familiar with the tool. Imposing a particular channel on the guest is never wise, they will ignore it and your messages will not be received. SMS, the leading medium for all age groups, is just behind WhatsApp, which outnumbers all messaging applications in terms of user numbers. With either, you will be heard and the guest will be more likely to respond and reach out to you. To maximize your chances, proactively message your guests. They will then have the means to contact you simply by replying to your first message; whether it is to inform you of a delay or a problem in their room. 

 

 

TIP N°5: BE PRESENT ON ALL MESSAGING CHANNELS

In times of crisis, phone lines are congested, waiting times are never-ending, and every email sent receives a flood of out-of-office messages. Guests instead turn to other support channels. Zendesk, ticketing management software for support teams, has recorded a 100% increase in the number of tickets from WhatsApp since the end of February, with chat and SMS increasing by 34% and 30% respectively. 

Source: Zendesk

EQUIP YOURSELF WITH A HIGH-PERFORMANCE TOOL

Technology plays a critical role in lightening the workload of customer service teams. Good tech solutions allow teams to provide guests with the information they are looking for quickly thus avoiding simple queries and reducing the overall number of queries. Alongside this, the very same systems can support Front of House teams by providing them with the information they need to respond effectively to the guest. 

 

BE AGILE

The most agile organisations are those who have mastered their crisis management. Even with guests’ requests pouring in, they were able to maintain a steady response time to each request. According to the same Zendesk report, the companies that best solved their guest requests were those that were able to deploy new channels or adapt existing channels to guests’ needs the fastest. 

 

The crisis may have forced some establishments into the digital world, but this should not mean that they lose contact with their guests. Technology should make the journey easier, not more complex! Physical interaction with the customer is currently being put aside because it presents risks of contamination and is a source of anxiety for the guest as well as the hotel staff. It is therefore necessary to counter the effect of distancing by being present for your guests on their smartphone, where they are tuned in and more at ease. 

 

 

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