View from the Triptease product team
When we launched our Direct Booking Platform: Ilio Edition earlier this year, all eyes were on the brand-new messenger feature it contained. The release of Front Desk marked the opening of a new chapter in the Triptease story - and it's taught us a lot about what messaging means to the hospitality space.
Front Desk is a web chat that sits on a hotel's site, allowing potential guests to message reservation agents and receive answers in real time. It forms one of a multitude of messaging touchpoints that today's guests increasingly expect from the hotels they engage with: from on-stay Whatsapp to post-stay chatbots, guests are getting comfortable with being able to message their hotel at every stage of their journey.
We sat down with Front Desk's Product Manager Thomas Griffiths to talk about the importance of web chat to hoteliers. We wanted to know what went into building a messenger specifically for hotels: what did clients need, what were the challenges, and what did the team learn?
Why do hotels need live chat?
Thomas: At the start of their booking journey, guests purchasing a hotel room are highly rational. It’s often a high-pressure transaction, and they’re scared of making a mistake: there are millions of different options and there’s a fear of missing out on the perfect deal. So, they start on Google and more often than not move to an OTA to see everything available. They narrow the selection down by ticking points off their checklist: is it the right price, the right location, does it have the right amenities and availability?
By the time they’re visiting a website, they’ve done their research: now they’re coming to fall in love with the product. Through chat, you have an amazing ability to connect prospective guests with your greatest asset - your staff. These are the people who represent your hotel the best. We know people want to buy an experience, and speaking to those staff is part of the experience. That’s incredibly hard to replicate on an OTA.
Why did Triptease decide to build a live chat?
We want to help hotels bring hospitality to life on their websites. Your staff are already experts in guest experience: you don’t need loads of digital marketing knowhow, you just need an easy and accessible way to bring that customer service online.
We want you to be able to meet and greet those on your website as easily as you do with people walking into your lobby from the street. Technology can simplify and help to perfect that process.
How is Triptease’s chat designed specifically for hotels?
Front Desk (Triptease’s chat solution) draws its strength from the different elements of Ilio, our Direct Booking Platform for hotels. For example, our Price Check element provides Front Desk with valuable insight into the customer arriving on the website: we can determine their intent, who they will be travelling with and their price range (through Price Check’s connectivity with availability searches). We can combine this information with other details from analytics and geo-positioning.
For a hotelier who is trying to deliver beautiful online experiences that are worthy of the physical ones they’ve worked so hard to create, those small advantages in understanding a prospective guests and what might be relevant to them are really important. They allow you to move your interaction beyond the transactional and into the conversational.
How should hoteliers approach live chat?
Don’t just treat it as a way to answer questions. If a customer asks you how deep the swimming pool is and you answer ‘three metres’ then they leave, you haven’t made the most of that interaction. With Front Desk, you have an idea of their intent - so you can move straight into building a brand experience. You can respond with questions that tailor your experience to them - “if you’re bringing children, would you like to know a bit more about our free babysitting service?” That’s how you move a chat forward and make it into an experience.
If somebody on your website is driven to ask a question, they are already an engaged customer and potentially one that is willing to book. Don’t assume people have randomly strayed onto your website and into your chat window. Make the most of their desire to engage.
What has Triptease learned from building and running a live chat for hotels?
Front Desk has helped us to understand just how diverse the rhythms and demands of hotel life on different staff members in a hotel can be. We quickly realised we needed to create something centred around the individual that could be malleable to their needs and their complex working life. We’re deploying features like SMS notifications so an agent can be safe in the knowledge that they’ll never miss a potential guest.
It’s also been a great reminder of the kind of commitment to delivering great guest experience there is in hospitality. Our clients are custodians of service, and that’s wonderful to see.