With the launch of Booking.com’s instant messaging feature, Booking Messages, in May, we caught up with the team at Booking.com in their Amsterdam headquarters to find out more
Booking.com recently launched its new Booking Messages interface, a chat-inspired communication platform that allows guests and accommodation providers easy and direct contact with one another the moment a booking is made.
The Booking Messages app came about as a result of Booking.com’s culture of “small step, rapid innovation” and an aim to alleviate customer pain-points when it comes to travel. “One of my fellow designers likes to use the term ‘travel sucks,’ which is an interesting thing for someone who works at a travel agency to say,” says Stuart Frisby, principal designer at Booking.com. “But he’s right – outside of the fact that it’s really easy to book a hotel now, travel is really difficult.”
One particular hiccup in the travel experience Booking.com was keen to tackle is the difficulty of communicating particular needs or simply making contact with your accommodation prior to arrival, due to different time zones, busy reception desks, and, in particular, a language barrier.
Booking.com’s answer was to diversify their product out of the transaction (ie booking accommodation), and develop a programme that would change the way interaction takes place once a reservation has been made. “We know that 75 per cent of our customers prefer self-service options to take care of simple requests,” said David Vismans, chief product officer at Booking.com. Naturally, talk turned to the ubiquity of instant messaging in daily communication.
Booking Messages is an easy-to-use, chat-like interface that replaces email or telephone correspondence by centralising all communication with a property in one place. Customers can choose from automatically pre-translated templates for certain predefined requests such as check-in and check-out times, as well as questions about parking and bed preferences, all in real time.
Still in its early stages, Messages is being introduced to Booking.com’s accommodation partners in phases but is currently being used by 150,000 accommodations. In addition, customers will soon be able to initiate open text conversations with their accommodation with complete translation into all 42 languages supported by Booking.com. Features like this and more are currently being tested and are expected to be released shortly.
“What we’ve done is we’ve taken an interaction that can often take multiple days, multiple emails, multiple languages, eventually maybe someone even having to call Booking.com to get a follow-up to their request, [and made it] as familiar as sending a text message to a friend or colleague,” says Frisby.
“Now we’re able to support this type of interaction where customers can really tailor their experience to what they’re looking for in their travel. We’re trying to remove friction and add delight to what is often a frustrating experience.”