Effectively Using “Chat” To Capture More Sales

Seems like most marketing and distribution people that I meet at my presentations for lodging conferences these days see a chat sender as a completely different customer than their voice and online guests. However, when I make the rounds training six or seven lodging companies each month and peek into their chat log, it is obvious that they chat sender is actually the same customer coming to us via a different medium. The way I see it, chat is a wonderful tool for both sales and service, provided that it is deployed correctly.

From our side of the equation, chat can be a wonderful tool for answering basic service questions. It takes much less time to respond and a well trained call center agent can multi-task and work a chat window or two while also processing calls. Chat is great for answering simple questions such as these examples:

  • “My spouse is arriving early, can he check in?”
  • “Do you have a crib for my baby?”
  • “How much approval will you be holding on my credit card?”

Or everyone’s favorite special request…

  • “I know you don’t take pets, but can I please bring my dog? He is very cute and cuddly. He never barks, doesn’t shed and has no fleas, but he does weigh 65 pound!”

Aside from saving time, it is a wonderful chance to make a human connection with a guest who we might not otherwise even talk to prior to arrival, and if your company uses remote keyless entry, we might actually never talk to at all! This is why it is important to take an extra few seconds to humanize the chat exchange by using pleasantries to open and end messages. Another easy way is paraphrasing, restating and/or commenting on the chat sender’s situation. Examples:

  • Sender: “We’re taking the grand kids to the beach for the first time. Are there lifeguards?”

Reply: “How exciting! I’m sure they are going to have memories that will last a lifetime. There is a nearby beach that does have lifeguards I can recommend for you…”

  • Sender: “It’s our 25 anniversary.  Do you have the number of a local florist so I can have flowers delivered?”

Reply: “Wow, 25 years, that’s fantastic! I’ve only been married for 8 so far and I already know that’s a big accomplishment! We can definitely recommend a few options…”

Besides quick questions such as these that come over via chat, some web-surfing guests send more in-depth questions that obviously point to the fact that they are shopping online and looking for a place to stay. Rather than addressing these via chat, try replying by asking if it is possible to reach the sender by phone right then and there. For one, if we can reach the prospect by phone we have a better chance of making a human connection as we can sense their reactions and interest in what is being said. Also, it just might save a bit of time vs. chatting back and forth and trying to answer complicated questions such as these:

  • “What accommodation do you recommend for honeymooners?”
  • “Is this room / suite a good choice for families?”
  • “What’s the difference between the standard and premium categories?”  

In the end, if we can shift the exchange from chat to voice, we have a far greater chance to get the booking right then and there. This is a wonderful way to increase direct bookings, as many guests who visit OTA websites chat over questions regarding how the room category they are seeing aligns with the ones at the direct website.

So when encountering chat questions such as those above, train your team to reply by saying:

  • “That’s a great question. Are you by chance by a phone that I can give you a quick call?”

Indeed, some might respond back by saying “No, I’m in a waiting room…” or “No, I’m at my kid’s piano school…” or “No, I’m supposed to be working and my boss is in the next cubicle!” However you will also find that a good percentage of them say “Sure! Call me at….”

– Doug Kennedy

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest