Who remembers life before messaging apps, when it didn’t feel intrusive to simply call someone? The first SMS message was sent in 1992, although it wasn’t until later on in the decade that texting became ubiquitous. Social media messaging apps followed in the 2000’s, and now the private messaging app reigns.
Whatever the service used, most of us are fully hooked on messaging both in our private and professional lives. Businesses take note: messaging with clients has been cooking for a while.
In the hospitality industry, where businesses need to stay connected with guests, answer their questions, resolve their issues quickly, and heighten the guest experience, messaging is a natural choice.
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Let’s take a look at the major contenders in the private messaging scene:
The popularity of text messaging tends to vary by region. SMS is still popular in North America, while in Europe and Asia people prefer messaging apps. With the dominance of platforms such as WhatsApp, Messenger and WeChat and the coming of Apple Business Chat and Android Messages, many organizations are deciding not to implement SMS because of the additional costs.
Facebook Messenger was rereleased as a standalone messaging app in 2011. More than two billion messages are exchanged between people and businesses every month on Messenger. Businesses can manage the service through their Facebook page, where they can set a welcome greeting and instant replies and activate other features.
WhatsApp is a messaging service owned by Facebook. It allows the sending of text, voice, photo and video messages as well as multimedia files. More than 1.5 billion users send 65 billion messages per day on WhatsApp. Last year, the WhatsApp Business app was launched, allowing business to create a profile, set up automated greetings and program quick replies. More recently, the WhatsApp Business API was launched, allowing integration with messaging software solutions (including ReviewPro’s Guest Messaging Hub).
WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose ‘super app’ combining messaging, social media, appointment-booking and mobile payments, among other features. The app has over one billion monthly active users, the majority of whom reside in China, where Facebook, Twitter and Google are banned by the government.
Twitter Direct Messaging (DM) is an internal private messaging service for Twitter users. Used by some businesses as a customer care platform, it allows individual and group conversations and the exchange of photos, videos and GIFs. Twitter has over 330 monthly active users, 80 percent of whom access the network by mobile device.
Telegram is a messaging app with more than 200 million monthly active users. It is considered to be especially secure because all content shared on the app, including chats, groups and media, is encrypted and can even be set to self-destruct. The service can host groups of up to 100,000 members at once and can receive and send documents of any kind. The service also allows customer feedback for businesses.
The most popular messaging app in Japan, Line was originally developed as an emergency response to the telecommunications network damaged in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. The app allows the exchange of photos, videos, voice messages and texts and is also a popular gaming platform.
Viber, now known as Rakuten Viber, is an encrypted calling and messaging app originating from Japan that allows users to make free voice and video calls and send messages. The app has 260 million monthly active users and offers a ‘Public Accounts’ option for businesses and brands.
Apple Business Chat
Currently in pilot mode with the rollout being finalized, Apple Business Chat is a new platform for iPhone users geared towards mobile-based e-commerce. When combined with Apple Pay, customers can search, chat and pay for services via their device. The platform can be integrated and customized with other apps and offers advanced features like restaurant menu selection and calendar updating.
Currently in pilot mode, Android Messages is Google’s answer to messaging and offers similar services to other apps, including group messaging and the exchange of photos and videos. The app will supplant SMS messaging within Android phones.
Many large hotel companies have a custom-build app, which enables staff to message guests directly, control content and communications, and track guest activity and preferences. However, propriety apps can be expensive to build and maintain, and it’s not always easy to convince guests to use them. For consumers, messaging services are a more convenient and practical option.
Website Chat Widgets
A website chat widget is a pop-up window on a website that greets site visitors and offers live assistance. Consumers have quickly grown to rely on these widgets as a quick and efficient way to get answers to their questions in real time. Some widgets are operated by staff members, others by a chatbot.
Everyone has their favorite app, and there is no shortage to choose from. For hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses that deal with people from around the world, customer service today means being active on a range of channels to allow customers to contact you using their preferred service.