Click.: How does the new Guest Partner Chat feature differ from the previous messaging tools that guests and partners have been able to use to communicate?
Lee: What we've done is open up a channel for guests to speak freely with partners and to receive partner messages in a more convenient and visible way. In the past, guests could only begin a conversation with a partner via the messaging tools on mybooking or via email. Today, they can connect directly via Guest Partner Chat without interruption and this fosters more convenient trip planning and a higher response rate.
What's great is that for the partner, nothing changes in terms of their usual messaging features - it just creates a convenient conversation that can lead to quicker resolution of whatever questions are being asked. We manage guest expectations so that they understand that a partner will not be available to respond 24/7, and guests can add special requests during the booking process with the idea of showing all communication between guests and partners in a single place.
Click.: On which platforms can partners access the chat? Are messages translated?
Lee: Partners will still be able to access messages from Guest Partner Chat through all the usual channels - the extranet and Pulse. Guests will be able to access the chat functionality in their native tongue, and we're looking to build further translation capabilities in 2020. Currently, partners can then translate received messages through Pulse or the extranet.
Click.: What was the initial response to the tool in testing rounds?
Lee: We've seen a really positive response to the chat product via feedback loops on the guest side; 85% are very happy with this new product and are excited to continue to use it. And for partners, by removing barriers to enable a convenient free-flow conversation, Guest Partner Chat provides more clarity and faster resolution on any issues that may arise. The chat provides a single thread between a guest and partner and it's available offline too, so users can refer to messages and instructions whenever they need to.
Click.: There is so much buzz around automation and AI messaging - why choose to develop to a more human means of connecting guest with partner?
Lee: From the guest’s perspective, we've heard from them that for less complex issues, they don't mind being assisted by chatbots or via self-service. However, for more complex issues or even for trip recommendations, they prefer to speak directly with our partners.
Click.: How will it complement other smart messaging capabilities?
Lee: The team is working on allowing partners to create automatic replies on more topics that will complement the Guest Partner Chat feature. This will enable partners to further reduce any repetitive operational workload created by responding individually to guest questions on common topics - so they can spend their precious time on other aspects of their business. Partners who have scheduled templates to be sent automatically to their guests will also see these messages in the chat feature, allowing for a holistic view of the entire conversation.
Click.: Why is messaging so important? What are the benefits?
Lee: Messaging is such an important tool for establishing good communication with your guests, and the speed of your response can have a real influence on your relationship during the stay along with any resulting reviews. Combined with the likes of automatic replies, customised and scheduled templates, Guest Partner Chat can really help create a strong foundation.
We are constantly improving our messaging solutions to help reduce partners’ workloads, particularly with the likes of automation or personalised templates that allow you to respond quickly in just a few taps. But we also recognise the importance of those more personalised moments of communication, which is where Guest Partner Chat really comes into its own.
Given how much a speedy reply can impact the overall guest and partner relationship, we also share insights with partners around how well they are performing in terms of replying to guests in a timely manner through Reply Score. A higher Reply Score correlates with fewer cancellations and better guest reviews, so arming partners with a clear indication of how responsive they are can help them improve where needed to reap the corresponding benefits.
- Guest Partner Chat helps guests speak freely with the partners and receive partner messages in a more convenient and visible way
- Partners can access corresponding messages from Guest Partner Chat through all the usual channels - the extranet and Pulse
- By enabling a convenient free-flow conversation, Guest Partner Chat provides more clarity and faster resolution on any issues that may arise
- Combined with automatic replies, customised and scheduled templates, Guest Partner Chat can create a strong foundation for future guest communications
- Replying to guests in a timely manner can contribute to fewer cancellations and better guest reviews