How to elevate your contactless check-in with SMS (strategies and tips)

How to elevate your contactless check-in with SMS (strategies and tips)
August 09, 2023
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As the world adapted to lockdown and other unique factors of the COVID-19 pandemic, things like contactless payment went from seldom-used efficiencies to mainstream functions that helped us continue running our lives and businesses.

Restaurants, hotels, and manufacturing facilities, among others, were particularly keen to embrace contactless technology, as it gave people easier access and greater independence—both vital for frictionless customer service.

Of course, the safety element is also essential.

For example, there are strict protocols when you visit a laboratory that handles sensitive materials. So it’s counterintuitive to have visitors walk into the lobby and begin using a tablet for check-in, especially at the risk of increasing contamination.

Contactless check-in solves this issue. It’s the best way to grant access without introducing shared objects, unnecessary hurdles, and germs—whether you run a hotel or a food processing plant.

But how do you go contactless?

This guide shares crucial strategies for implementing an effective contactless check-in process and tips for using SMS technology to elevate it even further.

Delivering an ideal contactless check-in experience for guests

As technology has improved, the check-in process has evolved from touchless to contactless. And that’s what people want. If your business doesn’t offer contactless, you risk not retaining customers and getting left for a competitor.

It’s similar to the trend that has emerged with retail shipping. Once Amazon began offering expedited shipping as a standard option, other retailers had to adjust or lose customers. Walmart was an early adopter of the new shipping options that consumers had come to expect, while Shopko and Sports Authority stuck to original models. It’s no coincidence that Walmart has gained market share while Shopko and Sports Authority didn’t.

However, in some ways, check-in processes are an exception to consumer expectations.

Yes, people want to use their phone or tablet to check in. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to use an app to do it.

While apps have become an indispensable way for many businesses to connect with customers and provide a great experience, these end up being a roadblock in some situations.

For example, let’s say you scheduled an appointment at a local spa. It would be advantageous to confirm your appointment and check in from your phone rather than waiting for someone to help you at the reception desk. You can control your experience and avoid unnecessary interactions.

But this spa appointment might be a one-off, with no guarantee that you’d return. So it would be an inconvenience if you had to download the business’ app to check in. Plus, downloading an app and figuring out the functionality takes time and effort, which is contrary to the ease of a contactless check-in.

That’s where SMS can make the difference.

The SMS check-in solution

With text messaging, you can offer contactless check-in that’s independent of an app or works with an app. The advantages of text messages are clear:

  • Works without an internet connection
  • Gets noticed more than other messaging methods
  • Gets higher response rates than other channels
  • Doesn’t require a separate app or system
  • Makes it easier to track data than handwritten forms

To leverage these advantages, incorporate SMS into your system processes. Then, when the customer checks in for their appointment, you’ll receive a notification, triggering the proper steps.

Here’s an example of how the process might look:

  1. Determine how far in advance a customer can check in for their appointment using SMS, ranging from five minutes up to an hour.
  2. Decide whether you’ll permit customers to check in late after their appointment time passes.
  3. Draft the check-in messages you’ll send (or choose from a template).
  4. Choose which employees will receive the check-in messages from customers.
  5. Send an SMS message to a customer 10 minutes prior to their appointment, instructing them to text the word “Here” once they arrive.
  6. Update the customer’s status in your system to “Checked in” once they arrive and send the “Here” message.
  7. Ensure relevant employees receive a notification when the customer checks in.
  8. Send the customer a message with instructions on what to do next.

Using a basic framework like this, you can customize the steps for maximum internal efficiency and the best user experience. Then, based on feedback from your team and customers alike, continue to refine the process.

Tips for creating a successful contactless check-in

Communication is essential anytime you unveil a new offering to customers.

So to ensure that your contactless system is a success:

  • Include all the right information in the most accessible way.
  • Anticipate questions and be proactive in your solutions.
  • Let customers know that they have options—in some situations, contactless check-in will be a necessity, while other times, they don’t have to use it.
  • Include the customer benefits of contactless check-in so they understand what they get from it.

Beyond these customer communications best practices, add a section to your website that mentions contactless check-in and its key benefits. You can also promote it on your social channels and in email campaigns to get the word out. All these touchpoints provide an opportunity to share why you offer this feature and how it can make a customer’s life better.

Collect customer data

Good customer data is at the heart of a smooth, contactless check-in. At a minimum, this means collecting their full name, email address, and mobile number. So make these mandatory fields on your booking or contact form.

Then, based on your unique needs, you may determine that there are other customer details you require. Add these to the initial steps of the process.

You’ll also need to determine if there are limitations on who can use your contactless check-in. Many businesses make the process available to all customers, but some situations require a more selective approach. For example, if a customer has physical limitations or technological limitations that prohibit them from using contactless check-in.

Also, if you determine that fraud or misuse could be a problem, you might consider requiring photo identification or making contactless check-in only available to returning customers.

Get your timing right

Once you’ve determined the qualifications and initial communications, send instructions at the right time. Standard operation is to send contactless check-in communications to a customer the day before or morning of an appointment.

That’s because if you send them too early, customers will forget about it by the time the check-in arrives. And if you send them too late, you could cause undue hardship or anxiety for customers because they won’t have what they need prior to arriving.

Solve these issues by determining the ideal timing, then automate the messaging to avoid human error in the timing of the sends.

The benefits of contactless check-in

As we’ve explored above, contactless check-in offers a better way to manage your daily operations across industries. To recap, here are some of the top benefits:

  • Provide a more convenient guest experience.
  • Reduce hassles and headaches for your administrative team.
  • Establish good communication with customers.
  • Collect valuable customer data.
  • Make your business more competitive.

Elevate your contactless check-in with Twilio SMS messaging

Ready to improve your business’ communications and take the customer experience to the next level? Twilio can help.

We partner with businesses and organizations of all sizes to optimize communications and get better results. Our SMS solution offers developer-friendly APIs, compliance software, routing, and the scalability you need to accomplish your goals.

Start today by signing up for your free Twilio account (no credit card required). Then, enjoy all the tools and resources needed to upgrade your check-in processes and maximize your overall SMS strategies for an elevated customer experience.