Booking.com is launching an SMS-style chat tool via its desktop and mobile web sites and via its mobile apps, the company confirmed to Tnooz.
Customers will be able to start a chat with hotels where they have a reservation. A hotel will see the message and be able to respond to it via Booking.com’s nearly-a-year-old Pulse for Accommodation Partners app. (Hotel staff use the Pulse app to message each other about tasks and other property management tasks, not just to review guest requests.)
The chat rollout will be slow. During the next few months, the reservation giant will gradually make the chat tool available to hotels. As of today, most hotel partners worldwide aren't able to use chat.
For standardized messaging requests, such as requesting an early or late check-in/check-out and making a reservation for on-site parking, Booking.com offers translation templates. A hotel employee who doesn't speak the read in the language as a guest can choose from a menu of templates to send a relevant message in the guest's native tongue. Where possible, multiple-choice answers are used to avoid confusion.
Booking.com’s chat tool is an improvement on its current communications system, which is a pop-up box appears and invites a customer types in a message that is emailed to the hotel. This email-based system can experience delays of up to 48 hours, while chat theoretically promises faster answers.
Booking.com is notable for having been built its chat tool in-house, while other companies have turned to third-parties to supply the technology and integration.
The company said it has also been testing an integration with Facebook Messenger's new chatbot functionality. The Booking.com chatbot on Messenger would primarily be limited to customer service to start.
The catch is that Messenger's chatbot service doesn’t allow a chatbot to handoff a conversation to an individual hotel. So Booking.com's solution is more comprehensive for its needs than what's allowed via Messenger's system.
Earlier: Chat apps taking off for large hotel chains