We caught up with Daan de Bruijn, Founder of Bookboost, to discuss how direct messaging can help hotels take back control of guest relations from the OTAs.
Bookboost provides messaging solutions to increase guest engagement and boost revenue for hotels. The omnichannel platform allows hoteliers to send messages across a wide range of channels (SMS, Facebook Messenger, Email, WhatsApp, etc.) from one place. Proactive direct messaging enables hotels to segment and manage guest profiles in order to strategically send direct messages to specific guests at the right time.
Having created a direct messaging product with a 99% open rate, that converts 10X more than email and leads to +11% more reviews, Daan explains why it is so important for hotels to take back ownership of their guest relations – and muses on the positive trend in the industry of hotels opening up to integration and partnerships.
Why did you start the company?
My background is in the hotel industry and I kept hearing the same struggles from different hoteliers: “are OTAs good or bad for my business?”
After conducting a deep dive, my conclusion was yes, they are important for bringing in new guests. But I realised these platforms were having a negative impact on the industry because they owned and controlled guest relations.
Now obviously, guest relations should belong to the hotel, so they can get to know their guests and continually improve their service. By taking control away from hoteliers, I realised that the OTA platforms were holding back the hotel industry and preventing hotels from improving their quality of service.
How has your product developed?
The trigger was loss of control for hotels over guest relations. All hoteliers stated that it was so important to learn from guests and treat them as individuals. And we realised that direct messaging was the best way to achieve this.
Guests always have their phones in their pocket, they are always one click away from WhatsApp, SMS or their preferred channel of choice. However, hotels have multitudes of guests, from all over the world, using different channels. We then figured that AI was necessary to build relations with this many guests at the same time.
It’s just not possible for large scale hotels to get to know each guest manually.
Were hotels aware of this pain point?
Forward thinking hotels were very aware of the value of messaging and the problem of communicating on a personal level with such a large number of guests.
Some hotels didn’t see a problem with the OTAs, they saw them as a good way to get bookings while saving on marketing.
However, every hotel believed that after the booking is made, they should own the relationship. As time has progressed, hotels are now more aware of the need for personalisation, which makes it easier to explain the benefits of Bookboost.
How are hotels being educated on the available guest relations solutions?
One thing I can see in the industry, which I think is a great development, is that most companies are now stressing how important it is to offer open environments. This openness to partnerships and allowing solutions to integrate is a great step forward.
This plug and play approach helps to educate hotels because they do not need to commit to just one provider. They now have the ability to pick the best partners for different tasks and specialisms.
Can you give me an example of your product in action?
For example, if a guest from Malmo travels to a hotel in London, we can assume that they are probably travelling by plane. This means they may find some information on how to get from the airport to the hotel useful.
On the other hand, if the guest is only travelling from just outside of London, there is no reason to offer any travel advice through direct messaging.
What insights have you found related to guest relations?
Wherever it starts along the guest journey – on the website, after booking, etc. – whenever you establish a relationship, it contributes to the guest experience.
Through monitoring feedback across our customer base, we’ve been able to create heatmaps, figuring out what different guest segments need through the different stages of the customer journey.
How does this translate into results?
We like to talk about return on experience. When you offer a great experience, you start to see guests becoming more loyal and more likely to give the hotel the chance to improve rather than posting a negative review.
For example, if a guest finds a desk lamp in their room that isn’t working, they could write a bad review. But if they receive a message during their stay, asking if they are happy with their room, they are much more likely to tell the hotel about the lamp. By making the guest feel catered for, this simple personal message and response can help significantly boost review scores.
We’ve also found that guests are more likely accept a premium price for an upsell product after a positive experience.
We’ve seen from customers that this innovation allows hotels to get to know guests personally at scale. This is something totally new in the industry.
So many hotels receive guests at check-in and often don’t communicate until they check-out three days later. With no feedback and no measure points, they will struggle to build loyalty and improve in line with guests’ expectations. It’s the same as running a company, if you never speak with colleagues about what is going on, you will never understand the exact impact of your management choices.
What challenges have you faced selling into hotels?
Generally speaking, not every hotelier prioritises technology. This is tricky in that we build solutions to enable hotels to improve their whole product, but sometimes hoteliers do not see that. The challenge in hospitality is that some hoteliers are not as open to technological innovation as other industries. We’re often a few steps behind the aviation industry, for example.
Also, the different systems used by hotels can be scattered, which is difficult for the hotelier, and difficult for providers. Sometimes we need to say no to a hotel because their setup is not open and it would stretch our resources to work with it.
It’s really great that companies are becoming more open to integrate with each other, but the industry could be moving faster if other companies did not have such scattered systems.
Who is the perfect stakeholder for you to chat to? How easy are they to access?
On one hand we have a great concept because it can touch upon lots of parts of a hotel, at the same time this is a challenge because Operations, Marketing, Revenue Management, etc. all need to be onboarded, along with signoff from the General Manager in most cases.
This makes sales a little more complex because our product can live in all of the different areas of the guest journey and could sit in a large number of departments.
How do you overcome these challenges?
Over the years we’ve seen patterns, it’s really about getting everybody on the same page. We have strategies and different approaches to content, meetings and workshops to make sure everyone understands our product. How we get to know a hotel can determine how we communicate.
For us, selling to an independent hotel can be nearly as complex as dealing with a hotel chain.
Do hotels usually ask for pilots?
We usually agree upon a three-month proof of concept. We look into the guest journey and set up accounts with a tailored approach, rather than plug and play, to ensure the process is totally optimised for each individual client’s setup and needs.
WhatsApp is a new place to communicate, rather than email, so some companies want to see how it works after three months before committing.
What are your top accomplishments as a company?
We contribute to guest experience. When our customers are happy and send us a thank you for helping with a solution during their stay, that is so important for us.
We recently won two awards – Best Guest Messaging Solution for Europe on Hotel Tech Report and World’s Leading Guest Messaging Platform at the World Travel Awards.
Everyone here is passionate about how we are making a positive impact on the travel industry. There is no bigger reward for us than customers expressing their happiness.
What is the future for Bookboost?
It’s a long future!
We are giving hotels the right tools to build up a personal relationship with each and every one of their guests. When every hotel feels that each of their guests feels personally treated then we would consider that we had accomplished our mission.
Interested in how guest messaging could help you take bak control of guest relations to boost revenue across your hotel chain? Get in touch and we’ll discuss the different ways we can help you get started.