Whats the future of customer care in the hospitality industry? See what top experts predict

Learn about the future of customer care in the hospitality industry, customer loyalty and guest's expectations.
Experts
Joao-Freitas
August 1, 2018

Customer care is an area where professionals are often equipped with superpowers to calm, cheer and solve!

All customer service heroes are armed with an impenetrable skin. Just like Superman, customer care heroes need a thick skin because they are often on the receiving end of anger and blame and need to have the ability to not let these things get under their skin. In addition, they must have the right tools!

Customer service representatives have a variety of tools at their disposal to deliver an amazing customer experience. Hyperawareness is a MUST! These heroes sense problems on an early stage and take proactive actions to address them before substantial damage is done.

How about the ability to thrive in difficult environments? Tough one, not everyone is cut out for customer-facing roles, in fact, some roles are just plain tough! One cannot forget about a special skill: super speed! Identical to Flash, they are lightning quick. Now and then the solution is not that simple and rapid, but the response should always be.

Customer care representatives are unseen heroes behind hotel services and HiJiffy wants to help them satisfy customers better! And that is why we decided to do a series of interviews with customer care heroes.

So we asked top experts about the future of customer care in the hospitality industry, customer loyalty and guest’s expectations.

Here are their answers for our customer care superheroes series:

Sadie Poulson – London Marriott Hotel Park Lane

We talked to Sadie Poulson, an At Your Service Supervisor at London Marriott Hotel Park Lane. This interview is part of the Customer Care Superheroes series brought to you by HiJiffy.

About Sadie

Sadie is originally from Essex, United Kingdom. She has a large family that mostly lives there, however, her parents have now retired and decided to relocate to Malaga, Spain. After college, where she studied to become a chef, she went on to join the University of Essex and the Edge Hotel School in 2014 to study for her BaHon’s in Hotel Management.

Sadie graduated in September 2016 and joined Marriott as an At Your Service Associate in October. In June 2017, she was promoted to At Your Service Supervisor!

About London Marriott Hotel Park Lane

The getaway of a lifetime awaits you at Marriott’s 5-star hotel. Perfectly placed in the city centre, the London Marriott Hotel Park Lane welcomes you with boutique accommodation, modern amenities and unmatched service. And the best of the city lies just beyond the hotel doors - from Hyde Park and Oxford Street to Marble Arch. If you want to plan a boutique escape, London Marriott Hotel Park Lane is the place!

We asked Sadie about the future of customer care in the hospitality industry, customer loyalty and guest’s expectations. Here are her answers for this week’s customer care superheroes series:

1. At your service supervisor, can you explain to me some of your daily tasks?

My daily tasks include managing the At Your Service Team with the Front of the House Manager to ensure high departmental standards. Regarding my day-to-day duties, those include monitoring the Trip Advisor’s responses and reviews or Booking.com’s enquiries. In addition, I must ensure communication between all departments is running smoothly for a better guest satisfaction. I also have to log all guest requests or issues into the computer software in order to contact the appropriate individual or department (engineering, housekeeping). And whenever there’s a report of an issue or complaint, I must follow up personally with the guest. Composing and conducting end of year reviews, midyear reviews and performance reviews are also part of my responsibilities, among other tasks.

2. What about some of your daily struggles and frustrations?

As with any hotelier work, daily frustrations are very common. My biggest pet peeve is incorrect communication, this can cause team members to become confused and have conflicts with other departments. I also believe all departments should be on the same wavelength when it comes to any guest complaints or issues that occur during the day. Daily briefings and follow up emails help with this.

3. What guests expect from customer care in the hospitality industry has changed at a fast pace. Can you make a portrait of the modern-day guest’s expectations?

5* guest expectations can be very high, especially since Marriott is a well-known brand with a highly thought of rewards system. Our guests know their benefits and will expect the hotel to go above and beyond to get them. However, I do not think of this in a negative way, we are a 5* property in the heart of Mayfair and Park Lane, we can provide a breathtaking experience to all of our guests, which is what they should expect of us.

4. How was your experience working with HiJiffy?

Working with Hijiffy and the mobile chatbot was a new experience for me. As a Marriott hotel, we had at the time a system called Guesttek, this was a system that allowed us to create cases for other departments such as housekeeping and engineering, but it also was the platform that the Marriott Mobile chat was routed through. The mobile chat was very similar to the chatbot used by Hijiffy. However, the product brought to us by Tiago and his team was more modern, composed and user-friendly.

5. Do you think automation has helped hotels to compete on a more level playing field with OTAs when it comes to data capturing and a better understanding of the guests?

I think it has, it allowed us to answer in real time as OTAs can do. This also permits us to prepare better for guests arrival and anticipate their needs.

6. Why is personalisation the key to gaining customer loyalty?

The happy guest isn’t just a guest who wishes to purchase more, they are a guest that is retained, upsold to and - perhaps most importantly - a guest who becomes an advocate for our brand and hotel.

7. A personalised customer experience can save you time and money. Do you agree? Why/Why not?

I completely agree! This saves us money as the guest books directly instead of using OTA’s, and also time as we already know their preferences and what kind of service they like. Saving us time to room move guests if they do not like the room and also allows the whole experience to be better for our guests and staff.

8. Why multi-channel support matters more than ever?

This allows guests to connect with you via multiple platforms as well as their personal preferred platform. This also allows us to be consistent no matter which channel they use to communicate, this comes back to an earlier point of correct interdepartmental communication. Multi-channel support also lets you build better relationships in the long term.

9. So, in summary, where do you think this is all going?

Technology is the way forward for many hotel brands, I believe if we want to continue to grow with the times, then we need to bring this type of technology into our properties.

>See Also: Does social media help improve customer care?

Renata Jardim – PortoBay Hotels and Resorts 

‍We talked to Renata Jardim, a Marketing Assistant at PortoBay Hotels and Resorts — one of the best Hotel Chains in Portugal! This interview is part of the Customer Care Superheroes series brought to you by HiJiffy.

About Renata

Renata is from Madeira Island, Portugal. She has a degree in Journalism from the Faculty of Arts of Porto University.

After returning to Madeira, Renata went through several professional experiences, until she was admitted to a professional internship in an e-commerce company. There, she Social Media. A few months later, a vacancy opened for the Marketing department of PortoBay and, guess what? She was the chosen one.

Renata considers herself as an extrovert, helpful and friendly person, especially online! Here’s a fun fact: she has a twin sister, Bruna, who is smaller, blonder and, according to Renata, funnier. Gummies, chocolate and lasagna are some of her all-time favourite food and snacks!

When it comes to leisure time, she enjoys reading, writing, Harry Potter and cats. She loves spending time on Youtube, Pinterest and 9GAG. And I almost forgot to mention her special superpower: she has a gif for every single situation!

About PortoBay Hotel & Resorts

The PortoBay Hotels & Resorts was the fruit of an idea: building hotels perfectly adapted to the demands of the market in terms of facilities, services and positioning. The group’s growth has been based on choosing the best locations, both urban sites and resorts. The PortoBay group is a hotel chain comprising 12 hotels: 9 in Portugal (6 on the island of Madeira, 1 in the Algarve and 2 in Lisbon) and 3 in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, Búzios and São Paulo), which among them have a total of 3050 beds in the 4-star and 5-star market.

We asked Renata about the importance of collecting guest’s data, customer support and automatization. Here are her answers for this week’s customer care superheroes series:

1. Can you explain some of the daily tasks of a Marketing Assistant?

Within the PortoBay Marketing department, I am part of the copy and social media team. My main function is the management of the PortoBay group’s social networks. Adding to that, I also produce content for the various online and offline communication channels. On a day-to-day basis, I am responsible for the preparation and management of content, advertisements, comments and all social profiles of PortoBay hotels and restaurants.

2. Can you describe some of your daily frustrations and challenges?

My job requires an almost permanent monitoring of everything that happens around our social networks. Due to the speed with which everything happens online, one of the main concerns I face is being able to give a timely response to all the requests and questions that arise. At the copywriting level, I challenge my creativity daily.

3. Why did PortoBay choose HiJiffy? What problem were you trying to solve?

PortoBay met HiJiffy by chance in Lisbon at WebSummit in 2016. The product we were introduced at the time seemed innovative, practical and a possible solution to deal with the growth we faced in terms of messaging.

4. Can you describe your experience working with HiJiffy?

I have been in this partnership between HiJiffy and PortoBay practically from the beginning. One of PortoBay’s characteristics when it comes to choosing partners for projects is the fact that we make sure to know everything that is happening and to be critical and objective in what we want. HiJiffy has been open to suggestions from the start and concerned with meeting our needs. This dialogue and discussion of ideas between the two parties proved crucial for the development of the product and its adaptation to the reality of PortoBay. We value the work, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit of HiJiffy, which results in a constant evolution in the service they provide us.

5. What do you feel is the most effective way to build a long-lasting relationship with guests?

In my opinion, the most effective way to build a long-lasting relationship with guests is to provide an excellent service, be attentive to their needs and available whenever necessary. At PortoBay, we receive one in three customers with a “welcome back”, which reflects, in my opinion, the relationship of trust with our clients and the focus on their well-being.

6. Nowadays, personalization is key. Do you agree / Disagree? Why?

I agree. Personalization allows us to improve our service and customer experience!

7. In your opinion, what is the best way to collect and analyze data to customize guests’ stay? Why?

In my opinion, the best way is through a preference form, which aggregates feedback from the customer’s experience during the stay. Then, centralize all information relating to a customer profile on a single platform, so that it can be easily queried and analyzed. This allows you to get to know the customer and, consequently, direct personalized marketing campaigns. As important as adding information, is having the appropriate tools for analysis and processing of this data.

8. What are the most effective channels for customer care?

It’s important to be where our customers are. And our customers are increasingly on social networks and messaging apps, so of course, customer support on these channels is indispensable. Although many guests still use channels such as email or phone for customer support, instant messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp are always more appealing to those looking for a quick response to a problem.

9. Why is multi-channel communication more important than ever?

Assuming that communication with our customers is a two-way street, it is important to assure to the customer that we are always available when and where he needs us to be. The confidence that a good customer support service conveys contributes greatly to the level of customer satisfaction.

Sofia Freire – Zmar Eco Experience

We talked to Sofia Freire, a Sales and Marketing Director at Zmar — a Portuguese hotel at Zambujeira do Mar. This interview is part of the Customer Care Superheroes series brought to you by HiJiffy!

About Sofia

Sofia took a Visual Design course at IADE and in 2007, entered the hotel sector. She enjoys reading, practising sports and going to the beach. During her free time,

she likes to draw and paint, although there is little time to do it since Sofia privileges all the free time she has to be with her family. When it comes to movies, she likes slushy ones but can’t elect a favourite. Though, French cinema keeps a special place in her heart!

About Zmar Eco Experience

Located within the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, this sustainable eco-resort offers wooden accommodation with solar energy in an HiJiffy.com area of ​outstanding natural beauty. The buildings and their furniture were constructed with recycled and renewable materials. Zmar is 13 km from the beaches of Zambujeira do Mar and 80 minutes’ drive from Portimão, Algarve.

We asked Sofia about customer care in the hospitality industry, modern-day guests’ expectations and Artificial Intelligence. Here are her answers for this week’s customer care superheroes interview series:

1. Can you explain some of the daily tasks of a Sales & Marketing Director?

My daily work consists of the coordination of the teams I work with: marketing, sales and the sales department. I manage the daily sales and sales forecast, supervise the execution of the marketing plan and give support to several departments.

2. Can you describe some of your daily frustrations and challenges?

The challenges are the big financial objective that the company has, customers’ satisfaction and communication, meaning that we need to be always innovating in order to surprise our target audience. Zmar is a complex and avant-garde project so, it’s not always easy to communicate and explain. It is necessary to go there and live the experience in order to understand it.

3. Why did Zmar choose HiJiffy? What problem were you trying to solve?

At the time, the need arose because we only had 1 person in a 40-hour schedule doing all the customer management, which is humanly impossible since the requests are 24/7 and we did not want to leave customers unanswered! HiJiffy was the platform that presented us with the solution to our problem.

4. Customer care in the hospitality industry is a chaos. Do you agree? Why/Why not?

At Zmar, we try not to be! Our customer care is quite well organized and we are congratulated for the work done. Regarding my own personal experience as a guest of other hotel units, the idea that I have is that customer care is the order of the day. I don’t think there is chaos if you try to solve the problem.

5. What is the biggest advantage of having a customer care chatbot?

The advantages of having a chatbot are many! But if I have to choose one, I must say the ability bots have to don’t leave unanswered queries. With a virtual assistant, we are able to give a real-time response to our guests.

6. Nowadays, one of the words that describe guests is impatience! Is AI an answer and a solution to this?

Yes, definitely! Guests want answers, as long as they know that is an automated assistant to respond, they are satisfied! In case they feel the need to talk to an operator, they also know it’s possible and that we will answer to them as soon as possible.

7. In hospitality, intangible products such as (customer care and experiences) are more important than tangible products (the room). In your opinion, how do hotels have made the guests’ experience more personalised?

Yes, undoubtedly! The only common denominator in the hospitality industry is the sale of more or less sophisticated rooms. Consequently, it’s the experience and concept of the hotel what will distinguish the product and make the guest repeat the stay. The experience begins before the stay, in the first contact that the guest has with the hotel’s digital properties and, here again, is innovation that will stand out!

8. Hotels still tend to devalue social media as a customer support channel. What problems does this bring?

Zmar has bet on social media since day 1, even at a time when the public was not yet so dependent on them. Nowadays, it is unthinkable to not exist on social media! Millennials are a generation that is deeply impacted by social media and it has become their preferred way of communicating with a hotel.

9. Will the future of customer care be omnichannel or multi-channel? Why?

The future is, clearly, omnichannel! The synergy between channels is vital, in order to, guarantee and standardize the same experience to every guest in whichever channel or platform they choose.

Marcio Bastos

We talked to Marcio Bastos, a Night Manager at one of the most prestigious hotels in London.

About Marcio

Marcio is Portuguese and studied Tourism. His first job in the hospitality industry was in Porto Santo, where he spent five years.

Afterwards, he went to the Algarve and since 2013 he moved to London, where he is living and working. He likes to spend his free time enjoying the huge cultural offer of London like going to museums, musical shows and theatre plays.

We asked Marcio topics ranging from automation to personalisation in customer care in the hospitality industry. Here are his answers:

1. Can you explain some of the daily tasks of a Night Manager?

I am the senior manager during the night and as such, I am responsible for the operation during the nocturnal time. Besides the operational part in which I must ensure that everything conforms to our standards, the job also involves a more administrative part such as preparing financial and operational reports. As a night senior manager, I am often called upon to make decisions in relation to complaints or other operational matters.

2. Can you describe some of your daily struggles and frustrations?

When working on customer care, we are constantly dealing with expectations that customers have about the product and with the expectations of our employees. Managing all these can be exhausting and frustrating, especially when the team fails to realize the importance of meeting those expectations.

3. What is the department of your hotel that you think could be improved? Why?

The hotel where I am currently working operates at a great level due to the quality of the product we offer, the location and guests’ profile! Obviously, there is always room for improvement and growth, especially when it comes to collecting and analysing data which can allow us to be, more frequently, one step ahead.

4. Can you give me your opinion regarding automation and AI? Do you think it could streamline certain processes at hotels?

AI can obviously facilitate some hotel processes, notably in the processing of requests by the guests and the distribution of tasks to the various departments, especially regarding speed and efficiency.

5. Do you think AI and Chatbots are changing customer care?

More and more customer care companies are using chatbots with great success! The use of chatbots is not yet very frequent in the hospitality industry, but it will be a matter of time until the widespread use of hotel chatbots, particularly concerning order processing at an early stage. Chatbots can accumulate all the necessary information to solve all the requests or questions. Most of us have gone through the experience of being 30 minutes waiting for someone to answer the phone, only to be transferred to another agent because who answered the phone does not know or can not help us with our request.

6. Do you think personalisation and bots are a potential solution to improve customers’ satisfaction?

Undoubtedly! A personalized service is the only way forward to increase the retention rate and loyalty to the hotel and the brand. In addition, the use of chatbots decreases the response time making communication instantaneous. It takes less time until an order is recorded, processed and finalized, contributing to greater customer satisfaction.

7. What are the most effective channels for customer support?

Many of the guests still favour telephone contact or direct contact mainly because they feel the need to talk to the human being and in the case of complaints try to manipulate to achieve a result that favours them. Online channels have the advantage of recording all interaction which from the customers’ point of view is beneficial since everything discussed is recorded and can be used as evidence.

8. Why is it so important for hotels to provide customer care through multiple communication channels?

Communication through multiple channels increases the visibility of the hotel. There are several niches and segments that favour a certain type of communication and hotels should keep on all fronts. Hotel guests belong to various generations and cultures, thus, everyone has their preferred medium of communication. A hotel that does not work all communication channels can lose guests and potential customers.

9. What are your predictions for customer service for the next 5 years?

No doubt that Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots will become increasingly important! Many hotels that target millennials will unquestionably be more automated, while others will continue to take a more traditional approach. But everyone will adopt chatbots even if it is for data collection and analysis in order to increase efficiency and obviously reduce costs.

Joao-Freitas
Head of Business Development @HiJiffy

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