How SMS services make hotel stays convenient for guests

With countless messaging apps hitting the market day after day, all with their own fancy features, you might think that good old SMS is past its prime. But it’s 2021 and SMS is still booming. In fact, SMS messages have a 98% open rate in the hotel industry, with 95% of those messages being read within 5 minutes of delivery. Compared to a 20% open rate for emails, 98% is a very high number. This tells us a lot about the relevance of SMS in hospitality communication, where interaction means everything.

Improved customer service for hotels

Hotels will benefit greatly from an integrated SMS service. They usually ask their guests to provide their phone number when they book a room. This is an opportunity to get permission to use SMS as a concierge service. There’s a lot you can do with SMS, including notifying room service, sending emergency messages, reminding guests of check-out times, suggesting things to do near the hotel, and even offering in-house services and advertising.

Offers sent via mobile are much more successful than advertisements sent via printed copies.

Responding to guest concerns is also easier and faster with a two-way SMS system.

A smooth hotel check-in process is a must for most travelers. According to a Cornell University study, a five-minute wait at check-in decreases guest satisfaction. This could be why 60% of consumers are more likely to choose a hotel that allows guests to check-in and open doors with a smartphone. With only 40% of hotels offering mobile check-in capabilities, these can become an enticing differentiator – which is why so many companies are starting to offer SMS services. 

Because they offer quick and personalized guest service, SMS is becoming increasingly popular with both businesses and travelers, especially as convenience becomes more important to today’s hotel guests. 

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SMS services allow hotel staff to quickly send reminders about

Incorrect check-in times and missed check-out times can disrupt operations and, in the worst cases, lead to disgruntled travelers camped out in the lobby. While many hotels send check-in and check-out reminders via email, often these reminders are not read quickly enough.

Travelers are likely to have their smartphones with them at all times, as important travel documents are now stored on them. A SMS reminder is much more likely to reach guests than an email and increases the possibility that they will arrive and depart on time. These reminders can also be personalized. For example, if a hotel employee notices that a family of four needs to check out, he or she can ask if the family needs a late check-out, since families often need extra time. Of course, before sending reminders, the hotel should ensure that the guest has opted in to the SMS service and received confirmation.

SMS services allow staff to easily inform guests about the room status

Even when hotel staff do everything right, sometimes guests arrive early or rooms aren’t ready. While this situation is understandably stressful for weary travelers, there are ways for hotel staff to ease guests’ anger – from a free upgrade to a few drinks on the house.

SMS services can be used to improve wait times. By letting waiting guests know that a text message will be sent to them when a room update is available, this can allow guests to begin their trip in comfort, leaving their bags at the front desk to quickly visit a local attraction or grab a snack at a nearby cafe. When their room is ready, a quick SMS is sent, ensuring they see it in time. 

SMS services enable mobile check-in

For over 76% of travelers, their smartphone is their most important travel companion. In fact, a survey conducted by BookingSuite found that modern hotel guests wish they could do more with their phones, such as request information about local activities (80%) and request additional items for their room (76%). 

To help tech-savvy travelers centralize their hotel experience on their favorite devices, a company can allow customers to complete the entire check-in process either through traditional means, such as at the front desk, or via SMS. Hotel staff can either ask for guest details and confirmation numbers directly via SMS, or send a link to a website form that enables check-in. To access rooms, guests can either quickly pick up a key after showing their ID, or to complete the mobile experience, use a high-tech mobile key. In addition, guests should be able to contact the concierge via SMS to make spa or restaurant reservations, further enhancing the hotel experience. 

SMS services provide a convenient channel for guests to ask questions

Inevitably, guests will have questions. Whether they are pre-stay questions (Do you still have rooms available at Easter?), or inquiries during their stay (Can you bring up a toothbrush?), they are often too timely for an email. Phone calls are timely, but most people feel uncomfortable talking on the phone when they’re trying to relax.

By providing a Q&A channel as part of the SMS service, a hotel is able to answer questions immediately, improving the guest experience – and overall guest satisfaction.

SMS services offer an easy way to solicit check-in reviews

Positive reviews of a comfortable check-in experience are one of the best ways to attract guests to a hotel – and get them to try the modern check-in process. 91% percent of people read online reviews regularly or occasionally, and 84% of people trust them as much as recommendations from people they know. However, getting guests to take the time to leave a review can be difficult.

According to a study by Heymarket, business SMS have a response rate of up to 80%, while emails have a low response rate of 6%. Also, about 1 in 5 people click on a link in a text message, compared to only 4.2% for emails. In other words: If a hotel sends a review request via SMS, guests are likely to click on the link and submit a review. Travelers can even fill out reviews on smartphones while traveling by bus or train.

Of course, there are some dos and don’ts when using SMS. The first rule, of course, is to give guests the option to opt out. SMS messages, as the name implies, should be short and straight to the point. SMS in the hospitality industry should be, above all, a way to improve service, not just revenue.

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How can hotels use text messaging?

Many hotels and hospitality companies are investing in developing their own apps. However, this type of investment is costly for hotels and requires customers to download the product, which not everyone is willing to do. Skift‘s travel experts report that most hotel apps are not worth downloading. All cell phones are capable of sending and receiving text messages, and all guests have cell phones. So why not notify guests with a tool they are already familiar with? SMS are not just for reservation confirmations anymore. They can be used to enhance the guest experience and increase revenue.

Additional hotel services and add-ons

Use SMS to cross-sell and upsell guests: Making it as easy as possible for guests to book additional services. A message is sent to staff to make spa appointments, book tours or request airport transfers.

Other room service requests

Some guests spend their entire stay with the “do not disturb” hanger on the door. Others want more frequent service, extra towels, more pillows and later check-out. So guests are given the option to text hotel staff for all of these requests.

Send booking reminders

This is one of the most common use cases for SMS in the hotel industry, this way the number of missed bookings can be reduced. Guests are sent an SMS reminder when their stay is due. With custom fields, the message can even be personalized with names, times and more.

Request TripAdvisor reviews

When the hotel feels a guest has had a positive experience, it asks them to share it by sending them a link directly to TripAdvisor via SMS. Unlike emails, SMS have a higher open and click-through rate.

Advantages of using SMS in hotels

This was an overview of why SMS should be used for hotels. It’s obvious why text messaging is useful for guests. 91% of users who have opted to receive text messages from a business see these messages as “somewhat” or “very useful.”

Consequently, the benefits to businesses are enumerated:

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Increased revenue

When guests can easily request services, they are more likely to book. In addition, a better hotel experience leads to more repeat bookings.

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Improved guest satisfaction

There is no better advertisement than a satisfied guest who is happy to give a good review. With fast, convenient service, a hotel is well on its way to success.

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More efficient hotel staff

Less time spent on the phone means staff can devote their time to other tasks. Waiting times are kept as short as possible, and text messages make it easy for staff to keep track of requests.

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Autoresponders and keywords

Automatic messages can also be set up to be sent hours, days or even weeks after a guest has signed up to the marketing list. This keeps the hotel in mind and makes it easier to greet guests. Keywords such as “WLAN” can be used to save time and respond to frequent inquiries.

Conclusion

As the number of mobile users grows worldwide and more choose to receive text messages from brands and businesses, SMS will play a larger role in the hotel industry in the near future. With integrated APIs like those from Message Networks offering technically sophisticated and privacy-compliant SMS services, the hospitality industry will benefit from easier, faster and better guest communication channels that will outperform even the fanciest messaging apps on the market.