4 lessons learned while building chatbots for hotels
Hotel chatbots have become mainstream and hoteliers are more and more open to this new generation solution. After 4 years of building chatbots for hotels, there are a few insights that I’d like to share with you.
1- If you’re still wondering, chatbot for hotels do help increase direct bookings
2- Chatbots for hotels will always be a work in progress because the potential of this technology is almost limitless
3- Chatbots for hotels improve your website performance because they create a feedback loop
4- However, you should remember that chatbots for hotels can only be as good as your sales strategy
1- Chatbot for hotels help increase direct bookings
Chatbots for hotels are not just a nice add-on that you put on your website to be cool. They are a fresh way of looking at online sales. It’s where you understand that you can drive more conversion by listening to your online visitors and offering them the instant, personalized and relevant answers they need to complete their booking.
Of course, you could do everything manually. However, 65% of guest messages are recurring low value questions. So why spend human resources on repetitive tasks when a chatbot can perfectly well deal with these questions? In fact, they can give you more time to focus on important conversations where your human staff will make a difference.
Hotel chatbots are not here to replace receptionists. They just help customers access the information that is relevant to them instantly. More than anything, chatbots are an evolution of websites.
2- Chatbots for hotels will always be a work in progress
When we started building chatbots for hotels, we thought that we would be able to teach our AI to answer all customer questions in 1 year. 4 years later, we’re still working on chatbot improvements. In fact, more than time, what matters is how many hotels you can work with. More hotels mean more interaction, and the easier it becomes to train your bot. We needed several hundreds of hotels to reach critical mass. Critical mass changed so many things that our AI became something else. (That’s why we changed the name from Zoe to Zalia).
Some hotel groups try to develop their own chatbot using the services of a bot designer that will deliver a chatbot but not be there to make it learn & evolve. Other industries such as airlines or railways have no choice but to hire a bot designer. Hospitality, however, has a unique advantage. There are so many hotels that it is possible to create a bot as a service where learning is shared among hotels but the answers are personalized. This way your bot learns much faster.
Our challenge for the coming 2 years is to reinforce our chatbot ability to exploit synergies with external solutions. That’s why we do our best to connect to as many hotel solutions as possible: PMS, booking engines, upsell platforms, hotel operation management software and also third-party solutions such as parking reservations, taxi apps, etc.
3- Chatbots for hotels improve your website performance
Hotel chatbots are not perfect and will sometimes call the hotel staff to take over. However, one thing is clear. When something doesn’t work on your website, customers will let you know through the chatbot. Most of the time hotels do not have any feedback loop in place. Chatbots help them realize much faster that their website generates frustration.
In case of price disparity customers will tell your chatbot. My advice to the hotel was to offer a sweet deal to the customer and ask him what OTA is responsible for the price disparity.
As soon as you start to listen to what potential customers have to say, you’ll realize that a lot of things could be improved, to boost your direct sales.
As soon as you have an issue with your booking engine, customers will start telling the bot. Letting online visitors express themselves can lead to mistakes from the bot but it is a wonderful opportunity to improve your website.
Beyond issues and bugs on your website, hotel chatbots enable you to see what information is always requested by customers and which keywords come back frequently. This can be useful to rethink your website or improve your SEO.
4- Chatbots for hotels can only be as good as your sales strategy
If your chatbot is connected to a decent booking engine, the average conversion rate should be close to 7%. However, if you decide to really leverage the potential of your hotel chatbot conversations, you can easily reach 30+%.
Many conversations will work well but for some reason, the customer will not buy on the spot. This is because your rooms are expensive and most people need to think before spending 500€. Chatbots for hotels offer the possibility to follow-up on these leads by giving you all the data you need to push the right buttons and close the deal.
Having the right sales processes in place is the key to leveraging your chatbot’s potential.
If you’d like to discuss what we have learned while building chatbots for hotels, or have any questions about the use of artificial intelligence in hospitality, please visit our website or contact Benjamin Devisme.