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OM in the News: Hotels Turn to Text Messaging

July 7, 2015

hotelAs a well-traveled businessman, James Linn felt silly during a trip this month, when he forgot to pack dress socks. In the past, he would have rushed to a store to buy an extra pair. Instead, he texted the Hyatt Regency. The front desk texted back within minutes, saying it would have socks waiting for him in the lobby.

Today, having a concierge ready at the tap of a thumb is an amenity offered mostly at luxury hotels, reports The New York Times (June 30, 2015). But more hotels of all types are beginning to accommodate guests unwilling to call a concierge — increasingly relying on text messages to keep smartphone-wielding guests happy and spending money. At the beginning of last year, Zingle, a start-up running the technology to connect hotel customers to concierge by text, ran a pilot program at a handful of Four Seasons and Loews hotels. Today, it works with about 300 individual hotels, including Hyatt Regency.

Hotels hope to encourage guests accustomed to ordering from Seamless and GrubHub to rely more on room service, where business has slid nationwide. In 2010, American hotels made $2.33 per room from room service requests. By 2014, that average fell to $1.61. But even more important is saving a hotel from a bad review on TripAdvisor or Expedia. For picky travelers, little things like a broken light or a leaky faucet can shave a star or two off an online review. But if guests can air grievances more easily and hotels respond quickly, it could lead to more positive reviews.

When a guest sends a text to a hotel that uses the Zingle app, the message is delivered to the phones, tablets and desktops of dozens of hotel employees. When a staff member begins to type a reply, the app lets the others know someone else is on it, so the guests do not receive more than one response. Hotel staff members say the system helps them keep requests organized and respond quickly. Hotels aim to answer all texts within 3 minutes.

Discussion questions:

1. How else can hotels use apps to increase service quality?

2. What other technologies are being introduced by hotels?

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