You’ve decided to implement a chatbot in your hotel. That’s great! Now what? This article gives you useful insights on how to make the most of your new hotel virtual assistant.
- Technology is never a strategy in itself. So, chatbots can only be part of a bigger plan.
- Chatbots are not humans. Hence, you need to have a clear view of what you can and can’t expect from them. Also, you need to know your team’s role in the success of your project.
- Team adoption is critical to the success of any project. And successful onboarding is very important.
There are some common mistakes you must avoid when you implement a chatbot in your hotel. Here’s how :
Have a clear strategy
Technology is never a strategy. Is your idea merely to add a fun gadget to your website while changing nothing else? Then you probably won’t be as successful as if your real goal were to transcend your marketing strategy.
Hoteliers obtain the best results when their objective is to change their marketing approach. To evolve it from a traditional approach based on their product to an approach focussed on customer centricity. Instead of pushing your hotel’s features so hard, chatbots are a scalable way to listen to each customer’s need first. They provide an answer that makes sense for him/her. Therefore, implement a chatbot in your hotel to create a difference between you and any other hotel.
Chatbots are an essential component of this strategy but they must be combined with all the other things you can think about to improve your guests’ journey.
Some customers will interact with your bot and some won’t, but they all need to feel your consistent dedication to their wellbeing. You never know what each customer will notice. It is the combination of all your efforts towards that goal that will make your global strategy successful. Now, let’s understand how to implement a chatbot in your hotel:
Define your use cases and their impact on your organization
It is essential for you to have a relatively clear idea of what you want before you start seeing vendors or you won’t be able to ask the right questions.
The 3 use cases I see every day are:
1-how can chatbots help me boost my direct sales,2-free my staff from unnecessary tasks and 3-foster customer satisfaction.
Help me boost my direct sales
Chatbots can help you adopt a more proactive sales approach by making personalized interactions scalable on your website, Facebook etc. Your hotel chatbot must be able to manage the whole sales process. However, bear in mind that on occasions there won’t be availability, or even if the bot gives price, availability and the opportunity to book online, sometimes, the customer won’t finish the process. Sales do not magically appear.
The duty your chatbot must perform 100% of the time is getting you a qualified lead (name, email, phone number and desire of the potential customer). In case the bot doesn’t manage to close the deal, you absolutely need to set up a sales procedure to get back to the customer and close the deal. Every time there is a business opportunity, you must pursue it.
Questions to consider
- How does the chatbot capture customer info: name, phone, email, need?
- Is the chatbot connected to your booking engine and CRM?
- Who is going to be responsible for the sales process in your hotel?
Free my staff from unnecessary tasks
AI is very good at handling repetitive tasks. Most customer questions are recurrent and can be automated. A good hotel chatbot is able to understand 80% of customer queries. It means that sometimes it won’t understand and you will see it.
Today you are completely unaware of the failures you have on your website. You don’t know how well it responds to your customers’ expectations because it leaves almost no trail. A conversation history does. You will be able to see every conversation; sometimes they won’t go well and this is not the end of the world. Just remember that you have the customer details and you know exactly what he wants – just call him and solve his problem.
Your staff loses 1 hour every day to frictional time, going from one platform to another. Some chat systems are also able to centralize several communication channels such as Facebook, the live chat on your website, messages from Booking.com, Airbnb, SMS etc.
This is a huge advantage because it helps staff avoid switching platforms all the time.
Coordination between your chatbot and your team is essential. Your chatbot notification center is critical in that regard and must be able to fit your organization. How will the chatbot be able to interact and send the right alert to the right person in your organization?
Key questions for hotels to answer
- How is the chatbot going to blend in with your staff’s daily operations? (mobile app notifications, computer app notifications, emails etc.)
- What are the communication channels covered by the system?
- How will my team be trained?
Foster customer satisfaction
Chatbots make your customer journey more convenient by providing 24/7 instant personalized service.
Your bot’s ability to recognize and respond to customer requests is essential. While shopping for your bot, make sure you choose one that focuses on hospitality. It should have already accumulated enough experience in the field. It is usually a bad idea to work with consultants that will create a bot from scratch according to your ideas.
The only thing that matters is what hotel customers actually ask for and how they do it. The only way to know and train the bot is through accumulated experience. This is really how you will have the most rewarding experience when you implement a chatbot in your hotel.
Training a chatbot is not easy and it is not possible to create new dialogue intents overnight. You need to make sure the chatbot you choose is already able to do most of the things you’d like it to perform.
Ask yourself: What are the existing intents that your chatbot can manage? Do you already work with hotels similar to mine? How does the bot training process work? How does it learn new things?
Onboard your team
Chatbots and messaging, in general, are transformative technologies. So the first thing that needs to be prepared – when implementing a chatbot in your hotel – is actually your people’s mind. Even if it is obvious to you, make sure you clarify what you’re trying to improve in your organization and how it can be a cool way for the staff to save time to focus on important issues.
The big picture is important but defining what concrete responsibilities and behavior you’re expecting from your team is absolutely essential. Having a champion of the project in your team is an excellent idea.
The most common fears that need to be overcome are:
We don’t want to dehumanize our customer relationship :
Chatbots are not meant to replace customer care with machines. They are here to extend your reach and help your staff focus on higher value customer interaction. A chatbot is great at answering frequently asked questions. He can’t tell you what to do if your customer’s flight got canceled and if he’ll arrive one day later than expected at the hotel.
Customer interaction is too much work:
You spend way too much money on advertising and way too little effort in provoking the conversion once the customer is on your website. At this stage, most hotels sales depend 100% on the customer. As soon as you start interacting and getting an insight into the customer, you take control of the process. Maybe taking control will require some changes in your organization. So be it !
I tried it and it doesn’t work !
I’ve seen hotels implement a chatbot and expect it to be absolutely flawless from Day 1. While thinking and speaking is quite natural to you, it is very, very complex to make a machine talk. Your chatbot should improve over time but there will always be situations where your bot won’t be able to answer. What really matters is how this limitation is managed.
I forgot to log in:
The challenge with any great idea is turning it into a habit. Many technologies are great but are underused because they fail to become part of your staff’s daily routine, and that can kill your project. To avoid problems down the road, make sure the technology partner that you choose can fit into your team operations with minimal effort on their side.
Don’t expect your life to change just because you’ve brought in a virtual assistant. It is because your organization and your customers are changing that chatbots become a logical next step in your global strategy.
Let’s keep the conversation going about Artificial Intelligence and find out more about how to implement a chatbot in your hotel.
If you’d like to discuss more on how to implement a chatbot in your hotel or have questions about artificial intelligence for the hotel industry, feel welcome to contact Benjamin Devisme at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website.