Top-notch customer service and a multi-faceted approach to engaging customers may be the key differentiators within the hospitality sector. Hotels have been steadily losing customers to companies like Airbnb over the past few years, but being able to provide consistent customer service through an omni-channel strategy can be a significant competitive differentiator within the market.
A recent blog post from Aspect (News - Alert) Communications, a company focused on customer experience and engagement strategies, reveals some disturbing statistics for the hotel industry. Aspect cites research from Cowen & Co. showing Airbnb’s worldwide bookings are expected to grow 70 percent this year, resulting in $12.3 billion in lost revenues for hotels.
The forecast is even bleaker in the future, with Airbnb positioned to book 500 million rooms per night by 2020. To put that number into perspective, Marriott, Hilton and Expedia (News - Alert) booked just 200 million rooms per night apiece last year. In order to compete with a growing and serious threat from companies like Airbnb, the hotel industry needs to look to its core competencies to fight back.
In other words, hotels must provide superior customer service over a broad range of channels, without exception. And they have the tools and infrastructure in place already to achieve this, an area in which Airbnb is lacking. Airbnb offers scattered and random listing and rental policies, with many of the details handled by individual homeowners. There is very little recourse for unhappy customers if a room doesn’t meet their expectations or if something goes wrong during their stay.
Hotels can retain omni-channel customer engagement platforms for seamless interaction with customers and potential customers throughout all their properties, through whatever means the customer prefers. Customers can drive these interactions, and hotels have the resources and policies in place to respond quickly and efficiently to questions and potential problems.
Traditional hotels can also offer mobile self-service apps to their customers as a value-added service, providing information about weather, traffic, and flights as well as special offers on area dining, shops and events. Hotels are also in a prime position to offer proactive customer care to travelers, including automated advice and alerts about popular destinations in the area. Finally, hotels can employ workforce optimization tools to ensure agents and personnel are readily available to handle questions and concerns. These types of solutions also ensure customers are connected to the most qualified personnel to handle their specific problem or inquiry.
Hospitality is a niche industry and customer service is very often a key competitive differentiator. Traditional hotels may not be able to compete with Airbnb when it comes to low prices, but they can undoubtedly offer a higher-quality and consistent customer service experience across a broad range of channels. Happy and engaged customers are the key to long-term success, particularly in the hotel market.