Posted on Jan 11, 2019

80% of businesses want to deploy a chatbot by 2020. Hence, it is important to know the key features for your hotel chatbot. Hospitality is among the most popular use cases for this technology, probably because the market for hotel rooms is so competitive. Indeed, anything with the potential to foster customer engagement quickly becomes a key source of competitive advantage for hoteliers.

Not all chatbots are born the same and there are 5 distinctive features that hotels must essentially look for in their virtual assistant.

Pre-existing hospitality training is essential

Virtual assistants are not human beings. The quality of their interactions highly depends on the experience they accumulate. You do not want to start from scratch. The volume of interactions that you need to feed your hotel chatbot so that it works properly, is staggering. While choosing your bot, make sure you select one that is already groomed for hospitality.

Of course, you can require some customization but a serious hotel artificial intelligence provider should show you that it covers at least 80 to 90% of your use case in your first meeting.

Solve existing issues instead of looking for useless features

Chatbots are only a means to an end. Do not look for the fancy stuff of the future or quirky features. At this stage, bots are a new way of solving existing challenges such as direct booking, customer engagement, upsell etc. From the first meeting, you should have a clear view of how the hotel chatbot you’re considering will help you solve current pressing issues.

  • If you want to boost direct bookings you should look for a chatbot with the ability to increase your control over your sales process. Make sure it is connected to your booking engine and is very good at collecting your customers’ contact details in the process of looking for a room. So that, even if the customer doesn’t buy from the bot, your sales team can take over on the spot or later.
  • Another example is improving customer support. For this use case, make sure that your hotel chatbot can easily find and deliver the information your guests need and channel requests to the human team without disrupting your organization.
  • Language management

The ability to manage different languages is essential as your guests come from all over the world. Run away from any bot that requires you to script all the answers. You will soon realize that it will be very complicated to maintain your information up to date. Prefer chatbots that are able to process your rough data and make their own sentences. This way, when you update a data point, the changes are automatically passed through all languages instantly.

Instant messaging channels covered

Chatbots help you scale customer 1-on-1 interactions so you should expose them to your customers as much as you can. Most virtual assistants focus on Facebook because it is easy, cheap to build and you can place the Facebook chat widget on your website. However, there are serious limitations that should make you avoid Facebook-based chatbots. 

  • Not everybody has Facebook. 
  • You don’t collect the permanent contact details of your potential customer. After some time with no activity, Facebook blocks your ability to get back to the customer.
  • Facebook can shut you down at any point in time. In 2018, all Facebook chatbots were suspended while the company was reviewing its security standards.

While your chatbot must include Facebook as one of its communication channels, you should make sure it can also manage others. Your live chat, SMS, Booking.com, Airbnb etc. WhatsApp is essential too. Also, make sure that the partner you’re considering has already been whitelisted by WhatsApp services.

Being able to aggregate all your main guest communication channels into one easy-to-use platform is also essential to foster staff adoption.

Staff interaction

Chatbots are constantly interacting with your staff to pass on customer information, requests or to ask for human backup. So, the ability of your hotel chatbot to interact efficiently with your team is paramount. The notification center is as important as the artificial intelligence component of your bot. Very strong chatbots are able to interact with the front desk and your sales department via: 

  • Emails: sends a short email summarizing a customer request and a clear call for action to the staff.
  • Browser notifications: sends visual and sound alerts while your staff is active on an Internet browser. This is useful especially if you use a cloud PMS as your teams are constantly on Google Chrome.
  • Native desktop notifications: sends visual alerts and calls to action directly from the front desk computer. This is the ultimate solution to make sure that your reception team never misses an important message, especially if you have a traditional PMS and your teams do not have the reflex to go to Chrome every day.
  • Mobile App notifications: some hotel staff is always on the move and the chatbot can interact with them through a mobile app that will send alerts and let the staff take over when required.

Artificial intelligence is already changing the face of hotel e-commerce. I hope that these few guidelines will help you understand the key features for your hotel chatbot. Remember that it is important for you to find the chatbot that is right for your hotel.

If you’d like to discuss more about the key features for your hotel chatbot or wish to discuss artificial intelligence for the hotel industry, visit our website or send Benjamin Devisme your questions at bde@quicktext.im.