Exclusive: Whistle’s Founders on multi-channel communications, machine learning, and more

We recently sat down with Christopher Hovanessian and Jonathan Rojas, co-founders of Whistle. Whistle is an intriguing guest messaging solution for hotels. We discussed trends in the industry and got their thoughts on where hoteliers should be making investments for success in 2020.

What are you seeing hoteliers focus on when it comes to guest communications and guest experience? 

An increased focus on personalization is one trend we see. It is a big opportunity when it comes to delighting guests. The more data a messaging platform can work with, through integrations, for example, the more capabilities it can provide to hotels to customize interactions. Hotels are beginning to segment interactions with repeat travelers, loyalty members, and guests who have specific preferences. Guests are now being appropriately acknowledged as the unique individual that they are.

Service Recovery, while perennially important in hospitality, is seeing a lot of focus lately. It is an important area of focus for guest communication, and one that Whistle is always looking to provide innovative solutions for. From our inception, we have noticed that guests are more comfortable airing grievances through asynchronous channels, like messaging. If implemented and executed correctly, messaging provides hotels with more service recovery opportunities while the guest is still in-house.

Which aspect of the guest lifecycle is most important — pre-stay, in-stay, post-stay, or all of the above? In other words, how should hoteliers be allocating their attention and budget across each of these different stages of the guest journey?

All of the above, and then some! They’re all important. But one area where hotels could focus on more is pre-stay. Great pre-stay communication creates a positive impression of your hotel and service from the get-go. Your hotel becomes the main point of contact early on, and many guest-related tasks or requests can be completed prior to the guest’s arrival, shortening the check-in process and thus improving guest experience. 

In regards to messaging itself, pre-stay engagement assures the guest that messaging is an effective means of communicating with the hotel, and as a result, they are more likely to engage with your hotel in the following in-stay phase.

Hotels have managed pre-stay messaging in different ways. For example, the morning before a guest arrives in your hotel, they receive a message welcoming them to the hotel, “we look forward to having you…is there anything we can do before you get here?” 

This allows hoteliers to arrange for things like transportation or taking care of any special requests ahead of time. You can also improve efficiency because you’re taking care of many of the guests’ needs before they arrive. There’s also a revenue component here, where cancellations can be handled ahead of time, allowing the hotel to recoup some of the lost revenue from canceled rooms. 

Some hotels are still resistant to adopting a guest messaging solution. Is messaging a novelty, or something that every hotel will eventually need for the foreseeable future?

Messaging is the preferred channel of communication for customer service; it’s here to stay. Hotels that have been quick to adopt a guest messaging solution have a huge advantage over their competition – it really makes a difference. 

From the guest service perspective, messaging can dramatically improve a hotel’s service scores. From our case studies, we’ve found that hotels see about a 24% increase in service recovery opportunities by messaging with guests while they’re on property. 

With automation, hotels can consistently deliver high-quality, personalized customer service. Messaging also travels around with the guest, making it a convenient, yet non-invasive means to keep constant communication around the clock. This all comes together and uncovers more service recovery opportunities for the hotel, resulting in a more pleasant experience for guests.

From an operational perspective, hotels are seeing heightened levels of efficiency and cost savings. Hotel agents are able to assist more guests per hour through messaging than any other medium. Service requests/ work orders can be automatically dispatched, and all communications are logged. Messaging can really help alleviate the front desk’s workload; it serves as a digital front desk agent, allowing your team to be more hands-on with guest in front of them.

There’s a lot of talk these days about machine learning and AI, and we hear that Whistle has been busy building its very own, in-house Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) model. We’re intrigued! What does this mean in layman’s terms and what is the ultimate benefit for hoteliers?

Whistle developed a conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) model that categorizes guest’s messages and can predict the correct responses to guest questions and requests. What this means is that Whistle can suggest or automatically prompt the appropriate response to the guest, and auto-prompt service requests and work orders to internal departments via Whistle’s task dispatching module or other integrated Service Optimization solutions like Quore.

Revinate has built the industry-leading Hotel CRM and Email Marketing solution, so we, of course, have to ask about the role of guest data and email marketing in all of this. Is email marketing still an effective channel compared to others like live chat, etc.?

We believe that outside of the guest’s stay, email marketing reigns supreme. Messaging is still a coveted and personal medium — if you use it out of context or for marketing purposes, you’re more likely to turn the guest off and lose their trust. Email marketing allows hotels to deliver significantly larger amounts of rich information, something that other mediums cannot do, effectively, at least.

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