With nearly 50 million Americans preparing for Thanksgiving travel, and another 100 million booking trips between Christmas and New Year’s, hotels are preparing for some of the busiest days of the year.
With hotel bookings on mobile devices up 67% in the U.S. last year, that means many guests are primed for mobile customer service engagement with their hotel upon check-in. Given the fact that 913,242,000 texts are sent every hour of every day worldwide, and text messaging is the most used form of communication for American adults under 50 (Gallup), mobile support increasingly means chatting via messages instead of talking on the phone.
In fact, research from Harris Interactive previously found 64 percent of people prefer text messaging versus calling for customer service, and another 44 percent would rather send a text than stay on hold.
With more than 600,000 hotel guests exchanging customer support messages with hotels like Marriott, Hyatt and Wyndham through the Zingle platform, we know firsthand that guests see tremendous value in using messaging for needs and requests during their stay.
However, with the growth of automation within the messaging customer support market, we wanted to take a closer look at whether or not hotels should be further investing in messaging technology to aid customers more quickly with customer help solutions delivered via text.
To examine what hotel guests are not only looking to text message support, but are actively looking to receive solutions to their problem via text versus a phone call from the front desk, Zingle commissioned a Google Survey “Hotel Help: Text or Call?” of a sampling (824) that is accurately representative of the current U.S. population.*
When solving a problem during their stay, 43% of guests noted they would rather have a hotel text a solution than call with a solution. However, while overall respondent interest in support solutions delivered via messages fell just short of the majority, nearly 52% of 25-34 year-olds would opt for text customer support versus receiving a phone call. Compare that with only 23% of those 65+ who’d prefer support via text rather than phone during their stay.
With Millennials leading the paradigm shift from calling to texting, it’s not a huge surprise that they are also the most interested in receiving customer support via text. Previous research from Nielsen found that Millennials average monthly call minutes dropped from 1,200 in 2008 to 900 in 2010, while their texting increased from 600 to over 1,400 texts a month.
In short, Millennials don’t like calling people and they definitely don’t like picking up the phone to receive a call. This also illustrates a further benefit to hotels that adopt two-way, business-to-guest messaging support versus the legacy approach of front desk phone assistance. If the front desk or concierge can’t solve an issue for a guest while on the phone they need to open a follow-up conversation in calling a guest back. The messaging customer support route leaves the conversation essentially open and following-up with a guest with a dinner reservation or room service’s ETA via text is far less invasive than a follow-up call.
More advanced uses of messaging chatbots in the hospitality space -- especially those that integrate with hotel management systems -- can also cut out the need for a customer support follow-up message completely.
For instance, a text message such as ‘more towels’ from a guest can be automatically routed to housekeeping to complete the task without any manual forwarding. As the request is being processed the guest may see “on the way” as an automated response, but there is no additional follow-up needed from hotel staff.
Interestingly the “Hotel Help: Text or Call? survey also found that the next generation in millennials’ shadow -- Gen Z (18-24 year-olds) -- were slightly less likely to be interested in text messaging (47%) support during their hotel stay than the generation before them.
Perhaps this is because they are more consumed with standalone messaging apps. More than likely, they’ve simply yet to experience the speed and simplicity that texting with a business can deliver.
In addition, the survey also found that women were slightly more likely (44%) than men (41%) to be interested in receiving text support from a hotel during their stay.
Finally, those originating their travel for the holidays from the West Coast were slightly more interested in customer text support (46%) than those in other regions. Residents in the Northeast were the least likely to be interested in text over phone support during their stay, with 40% of respondents noting they would be interested in having their problem solved via text.
Delivering personalized service should be the number one priority and being available when guests need you no matter which channel they choose is another step towards a more delightful and differentiated experience.