Customer satisfaction can soar if you help customers with their planning. Hospitality Partners, a management company responsible for 10 hotels in the Washington, D.C., area, makes trip planning easier for their guests with online advice and information. In 1996, the company partnered with America Online's Digital Cities program, which provides details on tourist attractions, tours, restaurants, and accommodations. The program includes an E-mail address for the "Tacky Tourist," a hotel employee who answers questions about the city. The "Tacky Tourist" also answers questions live in a chat room for three hours each evening. Hotel guests are told about the service when reservation confirmations are sent.

"Customers love the 'Tacky Tourist'," says Holly Boginis, corporate director of marketing. "About 30 people visit the site every day. It helps them prepare for their visits and have better trips. By interacting with the 'Tacky Tourist,' visitors feel as if they have a friend in Washington before they get here. Many say the site saved them a lot of time."

The online tourist information service is more than just an added expense for the $80-million hotel group, which hosts 375,000 guests per year. According to Boginis, the online program brought in $200,000 in revenues last year.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing