Technological development nowadays has caused rocket progress for businesses to leverage on. Bots technology has allowed penetration by businesses into any barrier that limits the user-seller relationship. Every company today is always trying to improve its sales as best as possible in order to provide maximum satisfaction to the buyer and leave a positive impression that makes buyers come back again.
Online selling is increasingly enhanced by innovation. From the good old days of the online store, online transactions can now be done on multiple platforms, or OmniChannel, which provide convenience for the buyers, and in turn, increase profits for the seller.
The tourism industry is one sector which has taken advantage of online selling by setting up online travel agencies (OTAs) which provide travellers with various needs, such as hotel room reservations, car rental, and flight tickets.
In recent years, the OTA has garnered greater control over hotel bookings. Initially this was accepted by hotels as a middleman. Recently, because of the growing OTAs which potentially cause stricter control of hotel bookings, hotels have started to operate independently from the OTAs to attract the consumer through a direct booking system with the hotel.
Hotels now present direct booking with many benefits for guests such as free meals, WiFi access, and freedom in choosing specific rooms. By using this system, hoteliers hope that guests would prefer to make direct bookings with hotels rather than via OTAs so that the hotel gets plenty of opportunities for direct access to guests.
Hotels can also attract guests by providing incentives such as introducing points or reward programmes for loyal guests. Which can be traded with other benefits like discounts or a lunch voucher in the hotel’s restaurant. The goal is to build loyalty from every guest who will come or has come before to the hotel or who gives recommendations of the hotel to friends.
Several major hotel chains have also fought back against the OTAs’ domination of the Internet market. Hilton Hotel, for example, started the race by taking advantage of the 2016 Grammy Award which was viewed by around 25 million people worldwide.
With its tagline “Stop Clicking Around”, the hotel placed a video advertisement which showed the benefits of direct booking with the hotel at its website, to get the lowest price anywhere in the Hilton chain of hotels, on top of free Wi-Fi.
Similarly, Marriott did the exact same strategy though in a slightly different way. With its tagline “It Pays To Book Direct”, the video shows how to book a room easily simply by sending certain requests to rooms that have been booked through the Marriott International mobile app.
From the stories above, we can see that the key to fighting back is to ensure guests will book directly with the hotels. Giving them direct access to guests-only incentives and sustaining customer engagement. Based on the tips below, we know that hoteliers can follow the steps of major hotel chains to go against OTA’s domination and begin engaging guests by themselves:
Building your own website
Generally, 76% of online bookings happen through OTA. 50% of users will view the website of the hotel they had booked after going through the OTA. This means that an Internet presence via a website is important. Social media is also an indispensable marketing platform, what with dominating 46 billions users in 2017 alone.
Taking advantage of social media
Social media can also be an alternative to a hotel website in introducing your hotel directly to guests. You can create official pages on Facebook, Instagram, or a Twitter account. That can be used as part of your hotel’s branding campaign while engaging with your customers.
Place Customer Service Presence Online
You can also interact with your customers by utilising messaging apps, such as Facebook messenger, LINE, or Whatsapp. Which you can use as your hotel’s customer service contact besides the hotel’s general telephone line. You can also include a Live Chat function which is run by bots (also known as chatbots). As part of your online customer service, to respond to customers’ requests immediately even when there is no human customer service agents are available.
Bots can work smartly in many fields as seen from some examples such as in the finance industry. You can customise your hotel’s website by adding a chatbot. Which can answer questions or complete a request from customers 24/7. Using this OmniChannel concept, your customers have many options to stay connected with your hotel. Depending on which channels they choose. All these will enhance customer engagement between guests and hotels.
Chat bots are automated and powered by Aritificial Intelligence (AI). It is a sophisticated way of engaging with guests and potential customers while maintaining a permanent presence online. Its pervasiveness is seen from its use in many websites of various industries and its benefits are tremendous. It reduces costs as it can replace a customer service agent. And it helps ease the company’s need to respond to minor enquiries.
While it is not able to fully replace a human response. It can significantly reduce the amount of communication traffic that you will have to deal with. Such ease in customer engagement can have a significant impact in leaving a good impression on potential guests.
Qiscus is currently a service provider who can incorporate bots for your business’ needs. It has also integrated their self-made Chat Engine platform with AI which is customizable for various purposes. Is your hotel ready to fight back the domination by OTAs? Drop us a note at www.qiscus.com or you can read our white paper and see what we can offer for you.