Text messaging guide for hospitality (with examples)

sms hospitality

From hotels to travel agencies to restaurants, the hospitality industry can use text messaging to its advantage in a few key ways. 

Customers want to hear from your business in a way that not only makes it convenient for them, but also treats them like they’re welcome. For hospitality, the customer experience must be outstanding from the first touch point. If it is, it goes a long way toward a positive opinion of your company that can last a long time.

Roughly 85 percent of people keep their phone within arms reach at all times, and text messages have a 98 percent open rate. These numbers show that, whatever messages you want to convey, using SMS can almost guarantee that your message will be seen. Text messaging can engage customers, keep things running smoothly as they check in or place an order, and strengthen the trust between your brand and the customer.

Here are some ways texting can come in handy for restaurants, hotels, and the hospitality industry, including examples of how to execute SMS campaigns:

Restaurants

There are so many ways restaurants can use text messages to connect with patrons and grow the customer base. 

Decrease no-shows

You can use text messages to ease the process of making reservations by collecting customers’ phone numbers when they book so you can stay in touch with them about their reservation. One of the benefits of using text messaging to manage reservations is that it can help you cut down on no-shows.

Sending a text when the reservation is booked and then a reminder as the day and time of the reservation approach can help you get closer to a true number of reservations that will be filled. If you make it easy for the customer to cancel through your text message, it might seem counter intuitive, but that will give you an even more accurate idea of how many tables you have left to fill. 

Here’s an example of a reservation reminder you could try:

“Just a reminder that you’re booked at Le Poisson at 7pm tomorrow night. We’re looking forward to having your party of 4. Please reply with ‘confirm’ if you’d like to confirm your reservation, ‘cancel’ if you can’t make it, or ‘change’ if you need to make an adjustment. Thank you!”

Messages like these can be automated to send the day before a reservation, so your staff doesn’t have to send each individual one. If a customer writes back “change,” or requests an adjustment to their reservation, it might be helpful for a staff member or someone to reply back and arrange the change personally.

Take out orders

For the past year, take-out orders have increased for restaurants that weren’t open for in-house dining and for customers who were more comfortable at home. These increases happened for restaurants that already offered take-out to customers, but also some restaurants had to begin fulfilling to-go orders for the first time. 

Using text messaging to communicate with customers for take-out orders can facilitate this process for orders not placed through a delivery app. 

A message like this one will help you communicate that you’ll message the customer once the order is ready:

“Thanks for your order with Sushi Garden! We’re preparing your meal and will text you when it’s ready for pick up.”

Something like the following message can then alert customers that their order is ready for pickup so there’s no confusion or long lines for take-out customers.

“Your Sushi Garden order is ready to be picked up! Please come inside to our take-out window at the rear of the restaurant. Let us know if you need chopsticks or extra soy sauce. Thank you for your business! 🍣”

Sending messages like these may seem basic, but a direct and organized system for pickup can enhance the customer’s experience from the moment they place their order to the moment they receive their dinner.

Customer loyalty

Aside from the immediacy of reservations and placing orders, you can send customers who haven’t eaten at your restaurant marketing text messages to encourage them to come back to your business. A little reminder or a “We haven’t seen you in a while. Here’s a free drink on us!” text message can go a long way to bring back business that’s gone cold.

In general, restaurants often find success when they use SMS messaging to create a loyalty program for customers. Loyal customers who sign up to receive text messages from your restaurant can benefit by gaining access to exclusive deals, events, and be first to know about new offerings and changes to the menu. This strategy is one that will help build your relationship with existing customers so they’ll hopefully visit your restaurant more often and spend more when they do.

Getting the opt in

For restaurants, it all starts with the opt in. Getting the customer to opt into your text messaging communications—so you can send them promotions and new menu offerings—is the first step. This can be done in a few ways. For restaurants that accept reservations, you can ask for their phone number at the reception desk or when they’re making the reservation (whether it’s online or over the phone), letting them know that they’re agreeing to receive texts from you. Alternatively, you could have a printed sign out in front of your restaurant or at the tables that offers customers a discount for signing up for your text messaging communications. 

Imagine a print out at each table with a promotion like this one:

“Get a free burrito when you sign up to receive texts from us. Text CARNITAS to 415-555-6666 to sign up.”

The phone number should ideally be simple and easy to remember (something like 415-555-TACO, maybe). You don’t want your customers to have to think too hard when putting them into their phones. With the right text marketing software, you can get a custom number for your business text messages and automate actions based on particular keywords.

Or, you can make it even easier by displaying a QR code that, when scanned, automatically generates a pre-written message with your unique business phone number. All the customer has to do is scan and hit send to get the deal and subscribe.

When using print advertising to promote your text messaging communications, it’s important to use a keyword and a dedicated number. A keyword helps you, on the back end, automatically separate those customers who signed up with the keyword CARNITAS to make sure they get their free burrito code. 

With text messaging software for restaurants, you can set up an automated text message to respond to the customer once they send the keyword to your number. This is your chance to make sure they agree to receive texts from you, and give them the opportunity to redeem whatever you offered as incentive for signing up. Here’s what that might look like:

“Thanks for signing up! Reply Y to start receiving text messages from Burrito Brothers (and claim your free gift), reply STOP to cancel any time.”

Then, once they reply with “Y,” you can make good on your offer:

“As promised, here’s your voucher for a free burrito: burritobrothers.us/free. Follow the link and show the voucher at checkout.”

 

Hotels and vacation rentals

For a hotel or vacation rental company, one of the key objectives is to make the customer feel welcome. There’s a reason hoteliers call their customers guests. 

Some brands want their guests to feel doted upon, that their needs are met and, indeed, exceeded. Some brands want their guests to feel comforted, like they’re family. Others want to make sure the process and experience is convenient, seamless, and snafu-free.

Hotels and vacation rentals often need to communicate differently than other companies. There are real-time and immediate concerns that need to be addressed before a guest’s stay begins, during the stay, and even afterwards. 

To communicate all that needs to be said in email that might get buried between newsletters and work updates would be too challenging. When a hotel or vacation rental company wants to reach their guests, they need a way that makes the customer feel welcome, at ease, and in touch whenever they need to be.

That’s why SMS works so well for the hospitality industry. Texting is quick (nine out of 10 people read a text message within three minutes of receiving it). It’s also convenient since the average American checks their phone 96 times a day, and millennials spend at least 48 minutes a day texting (compared to 10 minutes a day on email).

Let guests start the conversation

Using text messaging means you can start the conversation with guests as they’re perusing your website. If you include either live chat or a “click to text” feature while interested customers are browsing, they’re able to connect with you on their own and ask their questions without the hassle of calling or the wait of using email. 

Allowing leads the opportunity to reach out to you while they’re researching is a tried and true way to help increase conversions that might have otherwise gone to a competitor with their questions (and possibly their business).

Faster check in

Texting can enable a faster check in and check out process at hotels, too. You can send a text on the day of check in with the address and the details about checking in. 

If you decide to follow Hilton and other hotel companies and use a digital key, your guests can use their phone for the entire check in process, without having to interact with the front desk at all if they choose not to. Then, on the day of your guest’s departure, you can automate text messages that let them know exactly what the details or instructions are for that day. 

This level of convenience could come in handy for busy guests or late night or early morning travelers. 

Create positive experiences 

Using SMS also means your sales team can have one-on-one conversations with potential and current guests, a strategy that enhances the customer experience. Imagine being able to receive a real-time text from a guest about a broken hot tub, being able to send maintenance to fix it with a quick text, and then receiving a “thank you” message back from the guest as a picture of that guest enjoying the fixed hot tub. That would be the ideal way to keep guests highly satisfied even if there are issues in other areas.

Part of what would drive such a seamless customer service process would be enhanced internal communications, made better by (you guessed it) text messaging.

Connect internally

As internal teams adopt SMS, hotels and rental companies can use it to get in touch with inspectors, housekeepers, or to enable guests to report maintenance requests. All of this can happen quickly and easily, without the usual delays that cause frustrating guest experiences.

 

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