Wyndham adds a little magic to its booking process

PARSIPPANY, NJ—Much like there is a lot of competition out there for hotels, there’s a lot of competition for mobile apps. And, with consumers placing a high priority on app real estate on their smartphones, an app better have functionality that consumers will find useful on a repeat basis. For Wyndham Hotel Group, this means Booking Magic.

Booking Magic, a feature of the free Wyndham Rewards app, enables users to set up calls with Wyndham agents at their desired time and locate a hotel based on current GPS coordinates, eliminating the need for potential guests to wait on hold until a customer service agent becomes available. “It’s a first-of-its-kind feature for any hotel app,” claimed Noah Brodsky, SVP worldwide loyalty and engagement at Wyndham Hotel Group. “Users can log onto the app at a rest stop and with one click say exactly when they want a Wyndham agent to call them back—whether it’s in 30 minutes or three hours—to book a hotel room. Upon calling back, the agent will use the guest’s current GPS coordinates to find hotels nearest to them, and then facilitate the entire booking process right then and there. It’s unlike anything else being offered in the industry today.”

Brodsky noted that the ability to book on-the-go is especially important to Wyndham guests. “Wyndham is a company that’s heavy on roadside Americana brands—think Days Inn, Super 8 and Howard Johnson—and, as a result, more than half of our bookings are same-day, walk-in reservations,” he explained. “While that’s been the case for a number of years, what’s interesting today is that, thanks to a proliferation of mobile devices and advances in technology, we’re finding new and exciting ways to engage and interact with these guests long before they arrive at our hotels.”

While it may seem counter-intuitive to have a mobile app that enables phone calls, one reason for the addition of Booking Magic is that Wyndham found it’s how guests prefer to book. “When hospitality companies first got into mobile several years back, I think one of the great surprises was this idea that even though guests could book via mobile, many of them only wanted to use it to search. Then, when it was time to book, they wanted to speak with someone,” explained Brodsky.

“This is certainly a trend that we continue to see today, and our call center volumes from mobile reflect that,” he continued, noting that although it doesn’t affect how call centers are operated—Wyndham can easily adjust staffing to handle the increased volume—it has changed how the company thinks about the guest booking path and how to make it a simplified, user-friendly process. “It’s that mindset that’s led us to introduce new guest centric features like Click-to-Call, Express Book [booking same day via mobile without the need for a credit card]and, most recently, Booking Magic,” said Brodsky. “As most of our guests are frequently booking same-day from the road, it’s important to us that the booking process is as safe and seamless as possible.”

While Wyndham guests have historically been same-day walk-ins, that type of behavior increases overall during certain economic times—like, for example, when gas prices are low. “With gas prices at a record low, we’re seeing even more Americans hitting the road for long weekends in what we’re calling ‘the resurgence of the road trip.’ In fact, according to a recent Wyndham Rewards survey, 53% of consumers plan to travel more in 2016, and most of these adventures include road trips exploring the country and visiting loved ones,” said Brodsky. “Also, more than ever, we’re discovering that the ever-connected Millennial generation finds great utility in using their devices to connect via phone, instead of booking online. A combination of all these insights, and the desire to meet our customers exactly where they are, led us to the inspiration for Booking Magic.”

How have app users responded to Booking Magic? “The feedback that we’ve received so far has been great and, although the feature has only been available to members for a short time, we’re seeing its use increase with each and every month,” said Brodsky.

“Mobile is an incredibly important and growing distribution channel and, therefore, it plays a key role in our global distribution strategy. When we relaunched Wyndham Rewards this past summer, we did so alongside a completely reimagined and vastly improved mobile app that not only allows us to better serve the needs of our members but opens the door to engaging with them in ways that were never before possible. There’s tremendous potential in mobile and we feel as though we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg,” said Brodsky.

“Hotel apps are the new necessary travel passport,” he continued. “They are increasingly becoming digital hubs of activity with features that expand well beyond simply booking a room—think geo-location, keyless entry, mobile check-in/out and expanded payment options. In the future, we see mobile as a fully integrated part of not just the hotel stay, but the greater Wyndham Rewards experience.” HB