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Running Short on Hotel Staff? Conversational Marketing Technology Can Pick Up The Slack

Running Short on Hotel Staff? Conversational Marketing Technology Can Pick Up The Slack

Tom O'Rourke
Tom O'Rourke April 12, 2022
Running Short on Hotel Staff? Conversational Marketing Technology Can Pick Up The Slack

The hospitality industry has always demanded the best of its employees. That means remaining calm under pressure, multitasking, and thinking on one’s feet — all while offering guests a seamless and relaxing experience.

But March 2020 brought with it an earth-shattering new challenge. As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe, the hospitality industry came to a screeching halt. It was every hotel owner’s nightmare: Lockdowns led to a rapid termination of all the business-sustaining activities — from leisure and business travel to corporate conferences, sales events, and weddings — the hospitality industry relies on. Worse, businesses were forced to lay off or furlough valued staff. 

The immediate challenges were unparalleled. And the echoes of that extraordinary moment are still reverberating today. Two years later, the hospitality industry is rebuilding. Unfortunately, the task of recruiting workers back into the fold has been difficult, to say the least. But even with limited staffing, you still need to take reservations, book facilities tours, answer questions, and handle day-to-day operations without a hitch. 

Hotels must find creative new ways to operate, regardless of staffing challenges.

The solution? Conversational marketing. Conversational marketing is exactly what it sounds like: marketing your hospitality services through well-timed conversations. The kicker? Those conversations are deftly guided not by desk staff, but by intelligent chatbots.

Intelligent Chatbots as a Solution to the Hospitality Industry’s Labor Shortage

Given the labor shortage in the hospitality industry, your employees’ time is incredibly valuable. But the truth is that much of that time is misspent simply by virtue of the way your booking system runs today. 

Consider, for example, a bride’s journey through the traditional booking model as she considers your property as a wedding venue. She first finds your website via organic search or a paid ad. She likes what she sees and decides she’s interested in booking a site tour. So she finds your group bookings page and fills out the requisite form for additional information. 

Here’s where the trouble often starts. Your prospective bride is eager to make a decision, but her forward momentum will depend on your staff’s ability to respond in a timely fashion. Depending on their efficiency, she may not hear back for several days or even weeks with a packet of additional marketing materials. 

The bride, meanwhile, has lost track of how many wedding venues she’s contacted. With each new website, she’s been forced to complete a similar form. At this point, she’s received half a dozen marketing packets and is more than ready to actually talk to someone.

By the time your staff finally gets the bride on the phone, weeks may have elapsed. And don’t forget that she’s still an unqualified lead. You may discover within five minutes that your location is not within her budget. Even if it is, you may be unable to accommodate her preferred dates. And that’s all assuming she hasn’t already signed a contract with another property.  

Let’s review. In this unfortunate scenario, the bride has been forced to wait much too long  for someone to reach out to her. Your facility has wasted money by sending a marketing packet before qualifying her as a lead, and (assuming she’s a good prospect) you’ve wasted precious sales time not speaking with her immediately.

This entire process could have gone differently. It could have been streamlined into an efficient exchange with a chatbot that quickly answered the bride’s questions and qualified her as a lead before anyone on your staff spoke a word.

Conversational Marketing Makes Better Use of Hospitality Workers’ Time

With hospitality staffing at an all-time low, it’s crucial you’re able to qualify leads without wasting time. With conversational marketing, the entire qualification process can take place in five minutes, saving both parties time and effort.

Imagine the same bride had gone to your site, decided she was interested in additional information, and encountered a chatbot rather than a form. 

She could have asked to see the floorplan of the event space, found out the cost, and confirmed whether her dates were available. In addition to providing a more satisfying customer experience, this real-time conversational marketing exchange could have qualified her as a lead. Finally, the chatbot could have helped her book a time to speak with your representative.

Notice that this transactional interaction produced a qualified lead without taking any time away from your staff. Not only that, but by the time the bride shows up for her appointment with your team, they already have an understanding of what she is looking for, which allows them to craft a more tailored sales experience. That customized experience in turn increases your property’s chances of successfully booking her event.

In Hospitality, Chatbots Assist with More Than Just Speciality Bookings

Conversational marketing is relatively new to the hospitality industry, and many owners are only now discovering the many benefits the technology has to offer.

Beyond specialty bookings, intelligent chatbots can be used to increase efficiency across the board by allowing people and technology to share tasks that were previously the sole responsibility of desk staff. 

Conversational marketing can be used to: 

  • Answer frequently asked questions 
  • Augment sales and catering staff 
  • Qualify event leads 

In doing so, conversational marketing frees up your staff to do the mission-critical tasks that require a human touch, from greeting and checking in guests to hosting site tours and conducting late-stage sales calls. 

Imagine a potential guest wants to know if your hotel is pet-friendly. In years past, they would have needed to pick up the phone and make a call to find out. Today, they can visit your website, pop open the chatbot, and get an instant answer. The chatbot, preprogrammed with a host of responses, can quickly answer questions about your pet policy and other frequently asked questions.

If the customer chooses to continue with a booking, the chatbot can also walk them through that process.

In short, chatbots take the pressure off your limited staff, enabling them to serve your customers more effectively — and with less stress.

Conversational Marketing Makes for a More Inviting Hospitality Experience

You strive to serve your guests with excellence — your brand promises nothing less — but you also aim for efficiency. Conversational marketing checks both boxes. 

That’s true even though chatbots may have seemed too “cold” or impersonal by hospitality standards up until recently. However, that concern is rapidly fading as your target demographic shifts to the younger, more technologically savvy generation. As digital natives, millennials are  less and less interested in picking up the phone to ask questions. And submitting a form, only to wait for an email or phone response? That will become a relic. Instead, your customers are going to expect an immediate response — one that doesn’t require talking to a representative. 

Instead of waiting until the technology is ubiquitous, consider how adding a chatbot to your hotel site now can serve your potential guests more effectively — while also helping you maintain your quality of service in the face of a serious labor shortage.