The latest figures show there are more than 1.5 billion people in over 180 countries who currently use WhatsApp. With users sending over 60 billion messages per day, WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging app.
In 2018, the company announced the free WhatsApp Business App which would allow small businesses to interact with clients quickly and easily via their messaging service.
The growing popularity of WhatsApp’s business application could be great news for vacation rental owners who are hoping to improve their customer service. As well as being able to get in touch via more traditional channels such as phone or email, communication via WhatsApp provides an on-demand, one-to-one experience for impatient guests who are eager to receive answers or – better yet – book their trip.
What are the advantages of WhatsApp customer service for vacation rentals?
Consumer research by guest feedback platform, TrustYou, found that social and text messaging were identified as corresponding to the highest levels of guest satisfaction. As some reputable hotel chains such as Starwood and AccorHotels have already begun to adopt this trend, we can look to them for a prediction on what to expect if vacation rentals launch their own WhatsApp customer service.
1. WhatsApp is a communication channel your guests are already using
One of the most beneficial features of using WhatsApp for customer service is the fact that your potential guests are already there.
According to Thomas Dubaere, COO of AccorHotels Northern Europe, “guests want to communicate using the methods they are most familiar with”. By offering WhatsApp as a contact method, it means you can communicate with guests on their terms – rather than yours.
“Most of our guests tell us they feel very comfortable using [WhatsApp], so enabling them to use it to order room service or ask reception a question is a logical step to ensuring they have the best possible experience in our hotels,” Dubaere adds.
2. Faster inquiry response times
Not only is WhatsApp a highly convenient channel for guests to contact property owners, but the very nature of the app also means that it’s quick and reliable when it comes to responses.
When travelers are in the discovery phase and searching for accommodation, they want fast answers to their queries to help narrow down their search. Having a dedicated WhatsApp customer service number means you can get back to your potential renters quickly, efficiently and privately.
3. Easy-to-use and no training necessary
Given the fact that WhatsApp is already the most popular instant messaging service, you’re likely already familiar with how it works. Even better – so are your staff members! Unlike introducing a new tool or software that none of your team have ever heard of, adding WhatsApp to the mix will require very little (or zero) training and allow for a smooth transition towards using it for business communication.
4. Free worldwide messaging
As long as both you and your guests have an active internet connection, they can contact you for free (or vice versa) via WhatsApp. This is a huge step forward for vacation rental owners who traditionally receive a large portion of their bookings from overseas travelers. No longer does either party have to worry about expensive SMS fees or international dialing costs when planning a vacation.
In addition, there is no limit on the number of messages that any one account can send. You can also make the most of the free service to send images, videos or audio messages to prospective guests to give them more information about your property, explain anything they need to bear in mind about your house rules or even give them a demo on setting your property alarm.
5. Improves rental revenue
Starwood Hotel’s W Doha piloted a program using WhatsApp and other messenger services and soon noticed the positive effects for their guests.
In an article for Skift, Daniel Kerzner, Starwood’s vice president of digital loyalty and partner marketing for Europe, Africa and the Middle East shared some of the brand’s insights. “Participating hotels are seeing uplifts in revenue, associates are more efficient and more comfortable using the service. It’s increasing the amount of restaurant bookings and spa treatments, for example. Guest index scores are going up.”
Since then, Starwood has rolled out the “Let’s Chat” campaign at over 150 hotels and resorts worldwide.
The ease of communicating via a familiar channel like WhatsApp can also result in the effortless upselling of services to travelers. As you’ll already have basic information about your guests at the time of booking or inquiry, you can use WhatsApp to send a personalized promotion or to entice repeat guests into booking again. Additionally, you can send links to your website’s direct booking via WhatsApp for commission-free bookings.
6. Encourage guest feedback
Hospitality businesses like vacation rentals rely on good reviews to convince future guests to make their booking. By using WhatsApp for your vacation rental, it’s easier than ever to ask for feedback while guests are still on-site at your property.
TrustYou also found that guests are 3.6 times more likely to leave a review when the accommodation provider requests it. Setting up automatic messages on WhatsApp is a great way to achieve this. Not only do you get the chance to check in with your guests at various points both during their stay and afterward, but you can also prevent them from leaving a negative review.
7. Access metrics for ongoing improvement
Measuring the ROI of using WhatsApp for customer service purposes is easy from the business app. As a business owner, you can see how many of your messages were successfully sent, delivered and read – just as you would with any email or newsletter campaign. You can then adjust your messaging style and tactics as appropriate.
Besides this, businesses using WhatsApp can also set up a professional profile which will be verified and given a green check mark.
As well as being a straightforward medium of communication for vacation rental professionals, WhatsApp can also be a fantastic tool for lead conversion and booking generation. While an increasing number of property owners begin to use WhatsApp for their customer service efforts, we can expect to see greater guest engagement, higher satisfaction levels and more upsells and add-ons.