Hoteliers: 8 Simple Steps to Success with Texting & Chat

Smile! That’s what hotel staff are trained to do even when talking on the phone. When you smile, you sound pleasant and interested. What are we to do in a world of texting and chat?

Traditionally hospitality has been all about the personal touch. Every guest touchpoint was an opportunity to add a personal touch. Any technology that got in the way of providing a personal touch was viewed with scepticism. Not anymore.

The pandemic has spooked a significant number of the guest population. For them, a personal touch is not the white glove service it used to be. They are looking for ways to reduce their exposure risk. For them, messaging is fast, easy, and convenient. And since pandemic, essential.

For hotels, messaging represents a fundamental shift in how employees communicate with guests—and with one another. To help with the transition, employees need tools and guidelines. Above all, they need strong leadership.

Whether you’re a general manager, front office manager, or hands-on owner, here are eight steps to success in text messaging and chat.

Choose the Right Tools

Hotels have numerous options for messaging software, but not all are created equal. Beware of “free” solutions, standalone apps, and chatbots that try to substitute human hospitality with artificial intelligence.

Your messaging platform should be designed to serve the unique needs of hotels. And it should integrate with your internal communication systems to facilitate collaboration across shifts, departments, and properties.

If the messaging solution is overly complex, it will be avoided by staff. Keep it simple and easy to learn so that staff love messaging as much as guests.

Assign Responsibilities

Who should oversee guest messaging? The front desk is the obvious choice. It’s open 24 hours, and staff are skilled in guest service and trained in reservations. Besides, with fewer guests calling and dropping by these days, it’s often an underutilized resource.

But all departments play a role in internal messaging. As a manager, you must ensure that employees understand and fulfill their responsibilities so that no guest request goes unfilled and nothing falls through the cracks. Keep a close eye on communications, looking for opportunities to increase efficiency and improve service.

Establish Guidelines

Messaging with guests is different from messaging with friends. Without proper guidelines, employees risk coming across as unprofessional or impersonal, and guests may end up frustrated or angry.

Set basic guidelines such as:

  • Respond promptly. People expect a quick response to text and chat. Set a maximum response time such as five minutes.
  • Personalize. Don’t be anonymous — introduce yourself when messaging a guest for the first time. If a sender is unknown, politely ask for their name and room number.
  • Be courteous. People are often on the go when messaging, so keep messages brief but never abrupt. Always remember the pleases and thank-yous.
  • Make it easy. If you seek a response from the guests, make the responses short e.g. ratings (text response: 1-5), want to see cocktail list (text response: bar).
  • Be professional. Adopt a friendly, conversational (but not casual) tone. Avoid obscure emojis, jargon, slang, and anything else that may confuse or be misinterpreted. Always check spelling before sending.
  • Be consistent. For your pet policy or parking fee, have a standard answer. This prevents a guest from getting confused by answers from different staff members.
  • Up-to-date information. If the information you are sending is apt to change, send a short link instead of sending it as an MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) e.g. today’s menu.
  • Don’t use texting to sell. Texting is a very direct, personal connection with guests. Avoid the urge to send marketing messages. Keep each touchpoint service-oriented and guest-centered.
  • Be secure. Never collect credit card data or other confidential information on messaging platforms. Send a link to your booking engine or call guests to gather this information.

Reach Out to Travelers

Once you have the tools, responsibilities and guidelines in place, it’s time to reach out to travelers. Here are a few ways to connect:

  • Display a chat widget on your website. Earn more direct bookings by offering assistance, answering questions, and providing recommendations in real-time at that crucial time when traveler shoppers are on your website considering your hotel.
  • Send a pre-stay text. Ensure a smooth check-in by inviting guests to start planning their stay prior to arrival.
  • Invite guests to message you. Let guests know there’s a new way to contact you by sharing a text number on your website, in confirmation letters, and at check-in.
  • Send an in-stay text. Prevent bad reviews and earn rave reviews by checking in with guests during their stay to ask how things are going and offer assistance.
  • Send a post-stay message. Thank guests for choosing your hotel and ask them to write a review or survey. Invite them to text you when planning their next visit.

Create Efficiencies

It’s high time to ease off paper-based memos, forms, logbooks, checklists, and phone calls, which are inefficient, hard to track, and easily misplaced. Today, everything should be digitized so that it’s accessible and trackable from any device or location. This includes policies and procedures, schedules, task lists, and contact lists.

Use automation tools to send texts to select guests at certain times of day, auto-replies to advise incoming messages of average wait times, and message templates to instantly reply to common questions and requests. Set up notifications to alert staff of daily tasks, cleaning schedules, and preventative maintenance.

Practice Social Distancing

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, reducing the time you spend face to face with guests and among your staff and guests is top of mind. Choose an application that allows you to capture digital signatures, reducing long interactions at the front desk during check-in and check-out.  

Find solutions that allow for transparency in common hotel services. For example, hotel staff should be able to determine the availability of rooms in the housekeeping funnel without tedious back-and-forth calling –software that opens up and allows one department insight into other departmental processes is key. 

Anticipate Needs and Automate As Much As Possible

Allow for distanced checkouts, and use targeted, scheduled messaging to inform guests of this service. Let guests know about any special in-house services or accommodations you can make for them via SMS. Send reassuring messages to let guests know that their safety is your priority. Put all of these messages on autopilot to save your staff time and boost your customer service scores. 

Plan out a typical guest stay and create messaging that is targeted to your desired view of their stay. Choose upsell messages and helpful hints that should be sent on each day of the guest’s stay. Staying in touch with your guests while social distancing doesn’t have to be hard if you work smartly, and with the right system, can increase the level of service your guests experience. 

Take some time to develop your messaging strategy, create templates for responses and write those templates in the “voice” of your brand. Use templates that can be inserted into SMS or chat responses quickly and easily. Time these messages for optimal delivery. 

Track Performance

Last, create accountability by setting objectives and tracking performance, including average response times, task completion rates, direct bookings, upsells, and guest ratings. Share results with the team, recognize achievements, and inspire staff to strive even harder to master the art of messaging.

For more tips and ideas, check out HelloShift’s Hotelier’s Guide to Guest Messaging .

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