Shatter Proof
Lead Stories

Managing Expectations

Exploring How Automated Pre-Stay Communications Help Solve Labor Issues

By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky | September 28, 2022

Imagine yourself in this simple scenario that one of us (Larry) encountered during our first return to Europe this past summer as it relates to ‘expectation management’ and ‘first impressions.’

We (Larry and his wife) arrived at their hotel in Barcelona after a trans-atlantic and short connecting flight around 1 p.m. local time. Obviously not expecting our room to be ready prior to the standard check-in time of 3 p.m., we nevertheless were hoping to secure our luggage with the bell desk and grab a leisurely lunch at the on-site restaurant before heading up to the guestroom. To their chagrin, the on-site restaurant was only open for dinner service starting at 7 p.m., with no advanced notice indicating this.

Not the end of the world, but why risk disappointing your customers? Instead, you can send a simple ping saying something akin to, “Hey, we’re having labor problems like the rest of the world, so we apologize and here are some nearby recommendations for lunch.” Great pre-stay outbound communications can thus be a make-or-break for online reviews as well as upselling revenues, but it can also be a lot of work to effectively manage. That’s where modern automation platforms come in.

Rather than speak in generalities, we sat down with Michael Kessler, CEO of ReviewPro, to explore some specific features in the company’s Messaging Automation platform that help to smooth omnichannel outbound communications and prevent the scenarios like the one above, all while keeping labor requirements at a minimum.

Our Current Travel Surge

Before diving into features, the importance of managing guest expectations cannot be underestimated amidst all the ongoing disruptions throughout the entire travel ecosystem. Beyond short-staffed hotels, think about what guests experience prior to arrival—namely, cancelled flights, other airport delays and a coin flip’s chance of lost luggage. By the time they reach your doors, they’re already drained.

“True, people empathize with the current labor challenges in hospitality, but only to a point,” stated Kessler. “They still want to maximize their own enjoyment while rediscovering the world following two years of lockdown-related stress. Whatever back-of-house issues you have, the guest only sees the front-of-house production, and they will expect the services that are listed on the website or branded app to be readily available.”

Again, it’s all about proper outbound communication so that guests can formulate a baseline for standard performance in their minds.

Suppose your property has had to end lunch-time food service at its only onsite restaurant due to staffing issues. This may irk some hotel guests who are expecting a hot meal close to home. However, by embedding a well-written heads up into a series of prearrival emails or text messages—perhaps accompanied by some nearby dining suggestions—you can avoid this problem altogether. It’s not the ideal solution (which would be to have your kitchen remain open during lunch if you had the staff), but it won’t leave you vulnerable for negative online reviews.

Specific Features to Seek Out

In demoing ReviewPro’s Messaging Automation with Kessler, there are a few prominent features that every hotelier should be aware of when evaluating their workflows for efficient prearrival communications with guests.

  1. Omnichannel messaging cascades. Some customers want to hear from hotels by email; others want quicker, shorter messages through SMS or third-party instant messaging services like WhatsApp (platform of choice for Europeans) and WeChat (platform of choice for Chinese citizens). This is beyond any hotelier’s control and yet it benefits us to be as flexible as possible in order to have our messaging properly received and acted upon by guests. With enhanced delivery logistics, you can set a cascade of preferred outbound channels that’s different for each outbound messaging campaign.
  2. Profile-specific views. With a one-way push of guest profile data from the PMS, outbound messaging can be designed to target narrow workflows so that personalization is enhanced even before the customer is onsite. At its most foundational level, the pre-stay welcome communications should be split for first-timers and returning guests. Ditto for leisure guests and clients of corporate accounts. Now think about how you can engineer the pre-stay comms for direct bookings versus OTA guests: for the latter a goal could be to focus the messaging on phone-based channels and loyalty conversions, for example.
  3. Dynamic inserts. So, you have a delivery cascade and have set up different outbound campaigns according to some broad characters of your guests. The next enhancement would be for your messages to dynamically appear in the customer’s language of choice based off of their email or phone account settings. As well, the messaging should not just be blanket text but address the customer by their name and arrival date.
  4. Delivery statistics. Such reporting works much like the digital advertising funnel we are all familiar with. You have the messy raw data uploaded to your outbound comms platform. From there, the service can tell you which emails or phone numbers are actually valid. Then, of those validated guest accounts, you get a percentage actually delivered. And for all this winnowing out, you can map it over weeklong or monthlong stretches to report on KPI improvements for delivery and guest interactions in order to guide the evolution of your pre-stay messaging.
  5. One-off text alerts. The beauty of modern messaging platforms that can connect a desktop application right to the guest’s phone is that you can easily set up one-time SMS campaigns intended for information that’s important in the moment. For example, say the elevator breaks down. Rather than have an already busy front desk agent warn every guest passing through the lobby, a quick ping can be sent out to reassure everyone in house that it will be fixed within a few hours.

Defense Then Offense

Above all, the goal of these five features is to help establish a threshold for your service capabilities in as labor-free a manner as possible so that guests are fully up to speed on what’s happening on-property and are never disappointed. Again, it’s all about the labor which is in short supply for the foreseeable future. That’s the defense – managing expectations during this crunch so that no one is disappointed.

 

Credit
Larry and Adam Mogelonsky

Together, Adam and Larry Mogelonsky represent the world’s most published writing teams in hospitality, with over a decade’s worth of material online. As the partners of Hotel Mogel Consulting Ltd. a Toronto-based consulting practice, Larry focuses on hotel strategies and operations while Adam specializes in wellness planning, technology and marketing. Their experience encompasses properties worldwide, with a primary focus on luxury independent properties. Their work includes seven books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017), “The Hotel Mogel” (2018), “More Hotel Mogel” (2020), and “In Vino Veritas” (2022). You can reach them at adam@hotelmogel.com to discuss how they can help with business challenges.


Related Articles

Check Also
Close
Back to top button