Booking.com has launched a new tool enabling customers to personalise their stay as they book. The tool’s all about quick and easy communication between customers and accommodation providers - even when they don’t share a common language.
The service automates the most important and common requests and provides instant translations into 42 languages so that travellers can explore more of the world without having to learn the language.
The Booking Messages interface is available to customers in both the Android and iOS versions of the Booking.com app, as well as the web versions of Booking.com on desktop, mobile and tablet.
Stuart Frisby is the Director of Design at Booking.com based in Amsterdam. With a decade of experience indesigning for the web and mobile, we decided to ask Stuart about the motivation for launching the new tool.
Why is now the right time to launch this?
Communicating via chat and SMS has decidedly become a part of every day life for all of us—we send quick messages on the fly via WhatsApp or reach out to our friends and family via Facebook Messenger. We see more than a third of our bookings coming in via mobile devices. So it made sense to provide a quick and efficient chat interface for our customers and accommodation partners to communicate.
That being said, self-service tooling has been available to Booking.com customers for over five years and in that time we’ve observed that half of our customers seek to initiate communication with the property and/or Booking.com after they have booked.
What technology advances have been involved?
Booking Messages is a first for the accommodation industry and completely unique in the market, as it empowers both customers and accommodation providers to proactively communicate with each other in just a few taps.
Sending a message via the new chat interface is incredibly intuitive and works much in the same way as similar platforms from Facebook or WhatsApp. And unlike some other communication platforms in the industry, where pre-booking communication is required before reservations are confirmed, because all of our bookings are instantly confirmed our messaging interface was designed to make the travel experience as stress-free and enjoyable as possible for everyone involved.
Customers can easily monitor the status of their request and instantly see when their request has been approved and confirmed by the accommodation. If more details are necessary or follow-up questions arise, all communication is visible and available via a single feed. This technology takes away the worry of a busy reception desk, different time zones, or challenges in communication between people speaking different languages. It’s important to note that there are no chatbots involved here. This is simply human-to-human communication made even more smooth and convenient via technology.
Future developments include complete translation support for all open text conversations in the app and additional options for in-stay conversations such as restaurant bookings. The ambition is to create a multi-functional interface that supports transactions of any kind, guaranteeing that no matter where a traveller comes from and no matter where they are going, no one makes it easier for them to experience the world than Booking.com.
When will it be available?
While it is available to all customers globally, it is not currently active for all reservations yet. As a chat interface implies a quicker response time, we’re rolling the interface out in batches to properties we know to be quite responsive, for example to requests they already receive via the Pulse app. With more than 150,000 places to stay already actively using the Pulse app, we expect a full rollout to the majority of Booking.com partners, including full chat functionality for the majority of reservations over the coming months.