Messaging and chat are the big customer service trends of 2016, and hotels have already begun experimenting with various ways to give guests an additional communication channel through messaging apps like Facebook Messenger for Business and WhatsApp. Another way we’re seeing hotels capitalize on the chat trend is through live chat tools, which hotels are implementing directly on their websites to give guests a direct line to customer service as they are researching or booking a hotel.
What are live chat tools?
A live chat tool is essentially an instant messaging system that is specifically assigned to your website. It connects potential customers to a service representative in real time. The customer service agent can use the software from a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Customers can use multiple platforms to access the chat as well, making it very convenient and efficient.
Many live chat tools have added features such as tracking and archiving so that interactions with customers can be saved and documented. Many also include traffic analysis and traffic monitoring, giving you further insight into your customer interactions.
How live chat tools can increase conversions on your site
Your website is often the first interaction that a potential customer will have with your hotel. If a customer visited your site right now, how would they be greeted? Would they have to search through various menus to have their questions answered? Live chat gives you an opportunity to give a stellar first impression by allowing those questions to be answered by an actual person. It adds a personal and human touch to your online presence.
Live chat also gives you the opportunity to address specific questions that may not be addressed on the website. For instance, it can allow for representatives to discuss aspects of the person’s stay or requirements they have for their room. It allows for optimal customer service and allows representatives to make recommendations to customers based on their interests and needs.
Best of all, live chat allows for customer concerns and questions to be addressed in real time at the point of research or sale. This helps to facilitate the decision-making process and builds trust with the brand, ultimately helping to increase conversions.
In a 2010 study, 44 percent of respondents indicated that the ability to have questions addressed and answered by a live representative was one of the most important features of a website. Live chat has a satisfaction level of 73 percent, the highest among all customer service channels. (Email came in at 61 percent while phone came in at 44 percent.) In another survey, 63 percent of customers indicated that they would be more likely to return to and use a website that has live chat than one that does not.
Live chat tools that hotels can use
There are several great live chat options from which you can choose and integrate into your website. We’ve highlighted some of the vetted ones that we’ve seen hotels and other travel industry brands use. This list is not comprehensive; there are many options available to integrate with your website. We recommend speaking with your website provider about the best possible tool for your needs.
This live chat platform lets you see who is visiting your site, what they are viewing, and what is in their shopping cart. It is very flexible, highly customizable, and super easy to install. It also integrates easily with your existing CRM. When a representative is not available, Olark allows the customer to leave a message so that you can get back with them easily. The system uses a third party instant messenger but does allow for a variety of commands that include transferring customers and blocking. Also, while the service can be made multilingual it does require programming skills to execute it.
This platform, which is from the makers of Zendesk, offers a free 14-day trial so you can take it for a test drive before committing. One very attractive feature for this service is their chat routing. This is particularly effective for busy hotel websites. Incoming chats are automatically routed to active agents so the customers don’t have to wait and the agents don’t get overloaded. The platform itself is not as easy to use as others on the market, but this is mainly due to their numerous features. You can change the look with the style templates, but there aren’t that many. You can also change colors, but several of the appearance features are only allowed with the premium plans.
This live chat service offers some great features including interactive training panels, business intelligence reports, and re-engagement activities. It offers full Facebook integration so that customers don’t have to actually visit your website in order to chat live with you. The chat windows are designed to be fully responsive, meaning that the chat will still work properly no matter if you are on desktop or mobile.
This chat platform allows you to save the answers to common questions so that they can be sent quickly when a customer asks. It has reporting options so that you can easily see how many chat sessions end up with a room booked. You can also see how efficiently and quickly your agents help customers as well as the level of customer satisfaction.
According to reviewers, the chat tool itself is easy and even fun to use. The basic widget is very attractive but it does offer other different templates. The CSS can be edited by advanced users, which may be a downside for those who lack the knowhow. The greetings are customizable and are user defined, but the chat window is not easily hidden if you are only interested in using chat invites that are triggered. The tracking and live analytics could be more detailed; it only shows very basic information like IP address, country, and current page. Also, while you can customize the interface texts, you have to install different snippets of code in order for the tool to fully support multiple languages.
This chat program allows you to set your chat behavior so that it better meets your goals. There are toggle switches that allow you to choose proactive chat, forward chat, survey form, or register form. You also have a chat history as well as user information right at your fingertips and can organize the chat by team function and personalize it with a personal photo or custom avatar.
The tool is fairly easy to use, but some of the settings are more complicated than is really necessary. Setup is fairly simple, consisting of copying and pasting code. However, there is a delay between adding the code and the changes becoming active. This can result in a slower set up. One real downside is that in order to implement behavior based triggers, you have to actually go in and alter the code. This makes it a little more complex for users who are not as advanced. Also, you do not receive detailed user information until after you are engaged in the chat. It is not available before.
Live chat’s ultimate goal: better customer service
Live chat can make a real difference in your hotel’s customer satisfaction, conversion, and customer retention. The key is finding the platform that best meets your needs. Take your time, determine which features would best suit your goals, and find a services that matches them. Show your customers that you care; offer them live chat and they will keep coming back.
Interested in understanding more about tools and integrations for your hotel website? Contact us or request a demo to learn more about our comprehensive web booking solution for hotels.