Now that TRACK Pulse has added chat to its toolbox, clients will have yet another way to engage both prospective guests and existing guests beyond email and phone calls.  Maybe this is a new medium for your lodging company, or perhaps you are moving over from another system.  Either way, it is important to recognize what a fantastic tool this is for reaching out and connecting with those online guests who might otherwise book with another hotel, resort or vacation rental company or book via an expensive third party travel agency.

In conducting reservations sales training for all types of lodging operations, I frequently get to peek behind the scenes and see firsthand the live chat exchanges popping up in real time.  Most of the time I see guests who have already committed to a booking typing over basic questions such as: “The reservation is in my name, but my spouse is arriving early. Can he check-in?” or “Do you have a crib for my baby?”  Other times I see those who are ready to book, but who still have simple questions such as: “Is there an airport shuttle?”  or “How much money will you be holding on my credit card?” Occasionally the questions are a bit more complicated but still pretty easy to answer via chat such as: “Hello, I already booked a reservation and I know you don’t take pets but can I bring my dog?  He never barks, doesn’t shed and has no fleas…” and of course that’s an easy “Unfortunately, no!”

However, what always surprises me is how many times prospective guests click over complex questions that potentially take up a great deal of time (and a lot of typing) to fully respond to.  For example: “Which accommodation would you recommend for honeymooners?” or “What’s the difference between the standard and premium categories?” or “Is this a good choice for families? I have a 5-year and a 15-year-old as well as a grandma — what can I find for all of them to do?”

In my training programs, I always advocate for a phone call in these situations.  A few of my participants resist at first and the most common response is “If they would have wanted to talk on the phone, they would have called us!  These are ‘chat’ people Doug!” However, once they give my ideas a try, they find out that some guests are very open to talking. It’s just that for whatever reason they started out via chat.  Hey, it’s worth a try, right? Isn’t it better to engage an undecided guest via phone so that we can share our enthusiasm and show empathy for their travel plans or circumstances? Can’t we better “read the guest” when we can hear their reactions, vocalizations and inflections?

So when you find yourself fielding complex questions that make it obvious that the sender has not yet decided to book, try typing something like this:  “That’s a great question!  Are you by chance by a phone that I can give you a quick call to help you plan?”  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….”