The ubiquity and use cases of texting, plus talk with two experts.
Whether your resort or business uses a text channel and it needs improvement, or if you never have, there are many ways to improve guest experience with text messaging. Today’s special service needs for owners, guests, and prospects, combined with the oncoming wave from pent-up demand for travel, requires omnichannel communication and marketing strategy. Put to good use the most ubiquitous channel available. Text messaging is the most preferred channel, garners the fastest and highest response, has the best ROI, and is most effective.
A text channel improves conversational loops and conversions of all kinds while improving guest experience and satisfaction scores. Let’s exam some statistics, meet two C-level experts on texting solutions and marketing, and define and learn about use cases. Essentially, we answer the questions; why texting now, and what can it do for your business and the guest experience?
First the Numbers
There is a TON of statistics about texting out there. So much so, it is hard to keep recent with the growing usage and evidence of rising effectiveness of texting by all age groups.
- 86% of Americans over 50-years-old communicate with text messaging.
- Adults under 45 send and receive 85+ texts every day, on average.
- Ages 45-54 send and receive 33 texts a day.
- Ages 55+ send and receive 491 texts a month.
- Texting takes up 33% of Millennials’ mobile usage.
- 98% text open rate vs 16% email open rate.
- 90% of texts read in under 5 seconds, on average.
- The average response time for a text is 90 seconds.
- 85% prefer to receive text over a voice call or email.
- 75% suggested they’d be happy to receive an offer via SMS
Sources: Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, Marchex, OneReach, Campaign Monitor, G2, Constant Contact, Adobe
Meet Anthony Link, CEO/Co-founder of ConnectionsAI (CAI)
CAI, located in Deerfield Beach, FL, has developed an expertise in implementation of trusted conversations solutions through its texting platform and patent pending technology. CAI serves hospitality and resort companies of all sizes including large brands, resort groups, exchange, travel clubs, software providers, and marketing companies. CAI also works with a large market share of auto dealerships and auto websites plus healthcare, pharma, and home services industries.
Meet CTO of ConnectionsAI, Jason Scinocca
In addition to his role of CTO for CAI, Jason leads an affiliated company, AutoID, as its CEO. Both companies’ proprietary identification solution supplements and enhances digital marketing, many solutions and analytics emanating from text channels and mobile numbers, with the most accurate, actionable web traffic analytics available. ConnectionsAI and Jason excel at APIs and integration development, advocating that best use cases are most effective with data and intelligent messaging.
John: What are the best ways text can be used to start conversations with owners and guests?
Anthony: Start by opening text conversations with your owners and guests through triggered messages based on countdowns to their check-in date. “We look forward to your upcoming stay. Should you need any assistance, please respond to this text. Reply stop to cancel.” That’s a great start. What type of guest is coming to your resort? Owner, renter, exchanger, guest? Have they stayed with you before? Do they golf or have they previously booked family activities? Add a “text us” link option to the reservation email and all web pages. You should also automate messaging triggering using your own data. Start easily with your own manual exports of data and move to APIs with your system software to access your own data.
John: Talk about messaging and mobile numbers for leads curation, sales, and marketing.
Jason: For leads and sales, you already have a lot of data and most likely in different places. Use it. You should seek out and analyze available data, stemming from mobile phone numbers, for lead curation and generation. That helps you decide and prioritize who to focus on and contact them via any channel, by first knowing their likelihood to buy. Discover the “propensity and intensity” to purchase of your leads. Once established, you can run all the leads from your current sources through the formula, and generate similar, look-alike new leads.
Mobile Numbers Verification
John: What about obtaining the mobile numbers or knowing what you already have?
Jason: With more consumers already using mobile numbers most of the time, and while landlines continue dropping, you may have far more mobile numbers than you know. If you’re not sure if the customer data in the “phone” fields of your software are mobile numbers, or you know you don’t have it, take steps to verify, scrub and append the data you do have legally and thoroughly. It is only pennies a record, and well worth it. Then gain proper permissions by simply asking “would you like to receive a message about special offers during your stay? Reply yes or stop to cancel.” Be sure to keep separate service messaging from marketing so as not to be canceled for both. Your solution provider should help you with best practices.
“Build it and they will come was never right. With texting it’s turn it on. They’re already here.”
When I first met Anthony, we talked about the dot-com boom days and marketing, and how the surge in texting has had similarities. Now texting is beyond the boom days and stands as a pervasive channel of permanency.
Anthony: It used to be ‘build it and they will come.’ Now it turns it on, open up the channel, they’re already here. Turn on the text channel. Start with something, anything. You’ll soon find out who is texting and what they want. They want response, service, information, and a better vacation stay at your resort. Let owners and guests reach you how they want to. Don’t let them wait on the phone or search for an email they may not have opened. Then, use data from their communication and your software to anticipate their questions, needs, and uncertainty, Provide the information and services they want pre-arrival, on-site, and post-stay via text.
Add a Text Option on Everything
Anthony: At the right time send text messages with information, events, and activities notices and to increase participation and increase revenue. Flyers, bulletin boards, webpages, phone calls, and broadcast voice mail announcements are some of the traditional ways to communicate activities and social events. Add texting. Include a text option on everything you do. Everything. Your guests will be happy to receive information early, especially as some recreation and activities are full by the time the guest is on property. This will especially be true when resorts are at capacity for the months and years ahead as expected.
COVID Health and Safety Policies in Advance
Anthony: A web page of COVID policies, health and safety assurances and business closures is necessary, but its only as good as it is viewed and read. Pre-booking and pre-arrival, your owners and guests will have countless questions that you can answer in advance, and without staff phone time or frustratingly long hold times for the customer. Text a link with this rapidly changing information in advance. Reduce incoming phone calls, emails, and cancellations by being proactive with information. It’ll save you time and money.
John: Tell me the top bits of advice for adding or using a texting channel?
- Text enable existing and main phone numbers. Publish “text or call” everywhere your phone number is mentioned. Owners and guests will communicate for many things. You want to keep that engagement open year-round with recognized and trusted phone numbers.
- Choose a provider that knows your business and who can respond best to issues, deliverability and compliance.
- Don’t overthink it. Turn it on and let the customer tell you what they want. Build and adjust use cases as you grow. In a short time, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner and/or implement it better.
John: Please tell me the top five use cases of texting for sales and marketing.
- If you’re in active sales, have upgrades, resales and/or other vacation products to offer, use mobile numbers as a start to curate leads, finding out which leads are more likely to convert. Then spend marketing dollars more wisely knowing who and when to target.
- Establish APIs with software to access and leverage your data. Then message intelligently.
- Send social event reminders and increase turnout to social events where tours can be offered. Just text and ask. Text and confirm. Text and remind.
- Text messages of tour confirmations, tour/calendar reminders, and presentation follow-ups, will increase show-up rates, lower recission rates and ultimately result in higher VPG.
- Offer fee payments via texts. Send reminders and links to owner portals, payment methods and special incentives to pay now.
Open Text to be Ready and Lessons Learned
John: What lessons were learned from early in the pandemic?
Anthony: During the beginning of the pandemic resorts and timeshare hospitality brands were inundated with customer questions and needs from huge spikes in calls and emails. Simultaneously contact centers closed and staff moved to work remotely. Now, while huge demand is looming for travel and vacations, the need to open communication channels, and be available to connect with owners and customers has never been greater. I mean, customer service should solve this, rather than apologize in advance with announcements like ‘due to overwhelming inquiries our response time is longer than usual.’ It’s been a year. Fix it, and get ready for the next crunch time right now by opening more channels. Enabling texting, and with the right use cases, is key. Be more proactive in communicating the information you know your guests need and will ask about. Text conversations service more customers at a time, faster, and keeps the channel always open. You can set hours of service automatic replies after hours, directing guests to a phone number, or that you will respond during business hours.
What is a Use Case?
Martin Fowler is an author, pundit, and software developer. He defines a use case a “a set of scenarios tied together by a common business goal”
Most simply, a use case describes all the ways an end-user wants to “use” a system. The “uses” are requests of the system, with use cases describing what the system does in response to the requests. Each use case uniquely serves a separate goal or function.
I asked Anthony and Jason to give me their top use cases for text messaging and marketing. Believe it or not, this list is not a full list. They had much to say here
Top Text Messaging Use Cases
- First, use existing phone lines.
- Text enable your regular, already known, and trusted phone lines, and all numbers (customers are already trying to text you. Answer). Texts from all numbers come to the central platform for routing and transfer. Does not interfere with voice calls.
- Reservation confirmations
- Send text confirmation in addition to email. Have a “Text Us” option on all reservation emails and web pages, confirmation pages.
- Pre-arrival series:
- “Looking forward to your stay!” with links to information.
- COVID policies, what’s open/what’s not, map/directions, activities schedules, event reservations, parking.
- Advance schedules, pools, entertainment, kids’ programs, amenities reservations. “RESORT LOGO – Need anything? Respond to this message. Reply Stop to Cancel.”
- After-hours directions or check-in details?
- Contactless check-in and check-out.
- Room readiness.
- Mid-stay – Guest on-property
- Welcome messages – “LOGO – Welcome! Reply here if we may serve you in any way.”
- Event invitations: social events, meet & greets, wine & cheese, etc.
- Try a mid-stay light survey. Also includes “We hope you’re enjoying your stay. Respond here if we can do anything to make your stay more enjoyable. Reply Stop to cancel.”
- Service requests/work orders.
- Incoming messages from guests directly routed to proper department seamlessly and out of view of the guest. Auto-reply – request received. Someone will be right with you, or after hours, service hours listed and directions to please call if urgent.
- Engineering, Housekeeping, supplies, work orders.
- Packages, gifts, service deliveries.
- Extend my stay / Late check-out requests
- Late checkout requests. Text it in, message routed to Front Desk confirmed via text directly replying to guest.
- Confirm departure and check-out. Bill requests. Routed to Front Desk.
- Thank you for your stay! Take our survey, make a resort review, need anything else? Would you like a special offer for another stay or to refer a friend?
- Try mid-stay, post-stay, post-tour surveys delivered via text. Engagement rates and completion rates much higher via text than any other delivery
- Tours and Sales
- Confirmations of tour/presentation time (requires verbal/written confirmation)
- Calendar invites sent for tour/presentation date/time
- Tour time reminder one day, one hour, gift reminder.
- Thank you/Follow-ups post-presentation. Whether sold or unsold, thank you, any questions? Will lower recission rates and keep prospects open.
- Review requests.
- Ask guests/owners to submit resort reviews and send them links.
- Keyword automation
- Keyword filters and AI will route common requests and messages to the right department.
- Establish APIs
- Develop APIs with your PMS, CRM, Work Order, and other software. Leverage data for intelligent messaging and segmentation.
- Year-round Communication Channel with Text
- Once your main and trusted phone numbers are text-enabled, you have a year-round additional channel for engagement.
- Pre-booking / year-round messages
- Booking deadlines
- Points expiration
- Exchange deadlines
- Ask to accept special offers via text
- VIP club and loyalty club information
- Fees due, incentives to pay now
- Owner news and information
John: How can resorts prepare to handle the pent-up demand for travel that will bring, is bringing, plenty of customer service needs?
Anthony: The tsunami of demand coming requires great accessibility and service engagement with owners and guests. Get ahead of the demand by proactively sending information and commonly needed resources for vacationing guests. And it won’t take more staff time. Implemented correctly, it will take less. Take your reservations communications, your resort policies, your activities, your event information and send it to arrivals well-before their stay. You do this now via email. Add a “Text us” link to all emails for sure, but also send links to the information in a text. The traveler self-serves their thirst for the information you initiated via text. If they need something, you now have another channel to fulfill that request. You will save time, lower cancellations, increase satisfaction, and improve guest experience long before customers are on-site.
Guest Textexperience™ is Only Part of the New Beginning
We all know that brand experience, the promise of providing a great vacation experience and product, begins with points of contact and customer engagement. Get out in front of it. Open up the most ubiquitous communication channel in the hand and pocket of your customer. Find the right provider that knows your business. Replace the provider that doesn’t. Choose wisely, but choose and go. Best do it now, to prepare for the gathering tsunami.
John Locher, RRP is founder of Locher & Associates, a consulting services firm specializing in business development, marketing, the secondary market, and technology solutions. email@example.com