April 12, 2012, 10:46 AM

Multilingual live chat service helps spur hotel bookings

The Four Seasons in Cyprus conducts live chat in English, Greek and Russian.

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The Four Seasons hotel in Limassol, Cyprus, draws visitors from around the world, which means it has to accommodate guests who speak many different languages. To help the hotel extend its style of one-to-one service to the booking process the hotel recently added a live chat service that supports chat sessions in multiple languages.

The five-star hotel last June added a live chat service called LiveWebAssist from communications provider IceWarp. Hotel executives says the service appealed to them because a built-in automated translation function makes it possible for the hotel’s chat agents to communicate in a consumer’s native language, regardless of whether the agent speaks that language. When a consumer enters a chat session, he types his question in his native language, say Russian, and the web-hosted live chat software translates it for the agent’s native language. The agent answers in her native language and the software automatically translates that answer into Russian.

Agents are online for eight hours each weekday. After hours, visitors can e-mail their questions, which are answered the next day. Most consumers who request chat are Russian, British or Greek, says Nick Aristou, executive director for the hotel, although the software supports translations in 50 languages. He says bookings increased immediately after it started using live chat.

“Chat support in the client’s own language is assisting conversion,” he says. Bookings from Russian consumers jumped dramatically. After implementing live chat, web site bookings from Russians increased 40%.

An archive feature of the chat service also stores a consumer’s chat history and identifies to the agent any consumer who has chatted before. This lets agents pick up conversations where they left off with consumers who return with additional questions. Visitors spend an average of seven to eight minutes on chat, Aristou says. For routine questions, such as ‘what’s your cancellation policy?’, agents can tap into an archive of pre-set answers stored on LiveWebAssist system. Aristou says it takes agents about three clicks to serve up a quick answer this way.

The LiveWebAssist service was still in test mode when the hotel began using it last year, but has since officially launched. Monthly fees per agent start at $30 for single-language support and $45 for multiple languages and the translation service. A site must add about 10 lines of code to deploy the Internet-hosted chat service, says Ladislav Goc, president of IceWarp.

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