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Payment process might be your most important customer touchpoint

It’s all kicking off on TripAdvisor…

Tripadvisor Hotel Review

If you work in the hospitality industry, you’ll be aware customers today are highly attuned to how their expectations compare to reality. As customer experience expert Maru/Matchbox puts it, “Unrealistic expectations can ruin travel experiences.” When a customer sees beautiful photos of your hotel online, they’ll expect the hotel to be beautiful. And if you present your hotel as a slick operation, they’ll expect it to be so. It’s only natural, then, for customers to leave negative feedback when the level of professionalism shown in your payment process services doesn’t match up to the image your marketing projects.

Hotel Review

Why the stakes are high

You don’t need us to tell you how narrow the margins for success and failure are in today’s hotel industry. A single bad review on TripAdvisor weakens a hotel’s online reputation, which could mean fewer bookings in the competitive online marketplace. Those lost bookings have a domino effect on hotel revenue, as they remove the potential for those customers to refer their contacts. On the flip-side, a 1% increase in a hotel’s average online rating can increase room occupancy by 11%. In a world where marginal gains and losses in online reputation equate to major business impacts, it’s clear that it pays to get every customer touchpoint just right. Well-managed hotels take a no-stone-left-unturned approach to their bottom line including everything from their market competitiveness to their guests’ hotel experiences – and the same meticulous approach must be applied to online payments.

What’s wrong with long-established methods for processing payments?

Have we got all day? Common problems with legacy digital payment systems include technical errors caused by faulty hardware, failures to cater for customers who favour newer methods, and long wait times at hotel reception made inevitable by dated processes. In their day, the old ways of processing payments were potentially the best and most convenient options available to hoteliers. From many customers’ perspective, however, that’s no longer the case. A growing number of guests now expect to be able to pay for hotel stays using their card via smartphone or computer – the same way they pay for everything from groceries to concert tickets. Deliver this process in an accessible form with a smooth user experience, and there you’ll have a recipe for consummately meeting customer expectations. But what about those payments that aren’t online; room add ons, rounds of golf or event deposits? These can be made digital through a secure, unique payment link, delivered by email or text, that visually matches the hotel’s brand guidelines, which the customer will likely be familiar with from the hotel itself and its website. Payment methods with unfamiliar branding can be off-putting to customers – sometimes to such an extent that they will pull out and request an alternative payment method. Considering the fact 77% of consumers believe security is the most important consideration when paying online, getting this point right is crucial to the effective processing of online payments.

Up-to-date payment processes can bring additional rewards

The first job of a digital payment solution is to provide a world-class payment experience for customers. In addition to that, the payment process can open up valuable new ways for hotels to build up their marketing databases – all in accordance with the GDPR. A popular tactic for infusing marketing advantage into the online payment process is adding an opt-in newsletter/mailing list checkbox at the digital point of payment. Every guest who ticks the box is another hot lead for repeat custom. Now, imagine your reception staff trying to achieve the same thing, in-person, at the hotel lobby, while they and the customer wait for a card payment to go through. Another opportunity that comes with providing and controlling the online payment process is encouraging customers to leave a positive review. A great way to do this is by including links to review sites like TripAdvisor on the page customers see when their payment has been accepted. Optimisations along these lines can transform payment from an important part of the customer service picture, into the most important customer touchpoint from a business impact perspective. In addition to the better online reviews and increased bookings that come with providing a satisfactory experience, you can enjoy the bonus of additional positive marketing outcomes.

That’s why perfecting the payment process matters.

Digital Transformation