In 2016, Chris Messina, the inventor of the hashtag,
published a post on Medium dubbing a new trend called “Conversational Commerce.”
It highlighted Uber’s new Facebook Messenger integration, allowing Uber’s
customers to order rides conversationally within the messenger thread. He
further suggested that 2016 would be “the year of Conversational Commerce.”
At the same time, Messina noted that the big four
over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp had
surpassed the big four social networks in 2015, while WhatsApp removed its fee
for all users, further reducing the barrier to entry.
This marked the beginning
of Conversational Commerce, which paved the way for Conversational Hospitality.
Following the success of the Facebook Messenger API for third-party developers, WeChat and WhatsApp quickly followed, along with others.
provided ubiquitous access to billions of global travelers who can be reached
conversationally via their preferred messaging channel, without having to
download yet another app.
Bookings, upgrades, upsells, cross-sells, feedback, requests
and information quickly became within the art of the possible for vendors who
understood the guest journey and already provided solutions used by sales,
marketing and operations teams.
With Conversational Hospitality, regardless of
the channel, messaging between the guest and the hotel staff has become an
opportunity to build a relationship, deliver great service and increase RevPAR.
Guest preferences are shifting, and industry studies and
consumer surveys are validating the opportunity for Conversational Hospitality.
Those who think of delivering Conversational Hospitality as being available on a single messaging channel will soon find they are having to play catch-up to quickly evolving global guest preferences.
Jordan Parsons - Benbria
Gartner, for example, has reported that “by 2019, requests for customer support
through consumer mobile messaging apps will exceed requests for customer
support through traditional social media.”
Further, HubSpot recently determined
that “24% of marketers plan on adding messaging apps to their strategy in 2018.”
It can be said that messaging is now seen as less of a future trend and more of
a strategic focus to enhance the guest experience.
The channels for delivering Conversational Hospitality
involve not only integration of messaging channels and back-end systems, but an
understanding of the use cases that drive RevPar and ADR - all while delivering
an exceptional, repeatable and consistent guest experience that scales across
This is at the core of what customer experience management
strategists understand and preach - that it is the experience, not the product,
which will be the future driver of loyalty and revenue.
From this perspective, the problem or opportunity in hospitality
is compounded by the sheer volume of business models that are being introduced
to meet the needs of a diverse set of global travelers.
Take into consideration
the Airbnbs of the world and how they are now providing in excess of four
million properties globally in terms of inventory, putting pressure on the
existing one million properties owned by major and boutique brands.
a superior guest experience supported by easy-to-use and accessible technology
is what is winning the guest over.
Conversational Hospitality, a key technical
feature used by these innovators to improve the guest experience, has become
the new standard for service delivery, to the point where it has now become a
baseline many guests use for assessing the overall experience.
The major test for hoteliers in the coming year will be how to embrace this new medium of engaging the guest through Conversational Hospitality in a manner that reflects the brand’s values.
Jordan Parsons - Benbria
However, the ability to improve the guest experience through
messaging isn’t limited to these industry disruptors.
With the numerous SaaS
solutions on the market to support Conversational Hospitality across multiple
guest-facing channels, hoteliers of all sizes can take advantage of this trend.
The only limitation is their acceptance of this new means for communicating
with the guest, which has up until recently been viewed as counterproductive
to the traditional staff-to-guest experience, as opposed to being the guest’s
As such, hospitality and travel is the largest growth
vertical in the customer experience management market, and customer experience
is among one of the critical differentiators brands can use to complete in a
saturated and ever diversifying market.
In order to deliver an exceptional
customer experience in a Conversational Hospitality world, tools that combine
the intimacy of human interaction with the throughput of machines will allow
hoteliers to scale up their customer experience strategy through messaging.
Reach out and talk
The major test for hoteliers in the coming year will be how
to embrace this new medium of engaging the guest through Conversational
Hospitality in a manner that reflects the brand’s values.
Those with a solid
understanding of the guest journey, their persona and perception of a quality
experience will lead the pack. For others, testing or piloting with a goal to
succeed should definitely be explored.
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To start, hoteliers should look at the messaging channels
they have in place today, evaluate the ones which are growing in terms of
engagement and develop an initial strategy for testing use cases.
they can assess the overall potential and develop a road map for systematically
adding additional channels that align to their guest profile’s expectations.
However, the end goal shouldn’t be to add a single channel and consider this to
be mission accomplished.
With over five billion users active on two to three
messaging apps each, and the number of daily messages now exceeding SMS/text by
a factor of three to one, the trend clearly shows a need to embrace not just
one channel, but many.
Those who think of delivering Conversational Hospitality
as being available on a single messaging channel will soon find they are having
to play catch-up to quickly evolving global guest preferences.
It is advised
that any strategy to embrace Conversational Hospitality as a means to improve
the guest experience be an ever evolving, multichannel, and visionary journey
for the hotel - not to simply be relevant, but to align themselves to the ever
growing demand of guests who perceive an exceptional experience to include a
consistent and reliable messaging experience, on the channel of their