Posted on Nov 28, 2018
Chatbots and hospitality: ready or not?
Chatbots and hospitality — are chatbots ready for us or not? Most of my customers have asked me this question at some point.
Here is my concrete experience of what hoteliers can expect from chatbots today.
The quick answer is that it depends on your expectations. If you are looking to replace every human interaction with artificial intelligence, chatbots won’t work. However, you need to implement a hotel chatbot ASAP, if you want to increase sales and improve customer-centricity. Your hotel chatbot will be your a virtual assistant.
Take the best of both worlds
Most hoteliers understand that chatbots are not here to cut down your teams. They are here to help them achieve more, in a much faster way. Chatbots are like electric bikes. They can take you very far, very easily. Humans are great at managing unique and personalized requests. Virtual assistants are excellent at handling recurring questions and requests instantly. So, take the best from both worlds.
Staff onboarding: Hotel chatbots are like new members on the team. Everybody must understand why they are being implemented. And how they will fit into your marketing strategy.
User interface: Hotels are chronically short-staffed. Hence, communications between the chatbot and the team must be extremely efficient and ease operations. Beyond being useful to customers, your chatbot must enable your teams to focus only on conversations that really require their attention. AI is important, but be sure to choose a chatbot that has a very strong notification center. It should be able to alert staff through various means according to their preferences and the nature of the notification. Like as pop-ups, sound alerts, email, app messages and so on.
Think about what you want to achieve
A conversation format engages people better than plain text. You can write all over your website that you have parking, but many people will still ask the chatbot about it. A chatbot’s ability to leverage conversations and deliver a personalized answer to each customer is a key asset for hotels. Then the answer is 'yes' to chatbots and hospitality when you want to increase sales and develop customer service.
Sales: Chatbots help online visitors by dispelling their doubts and proceed with a booking. About 20% of customers that interact with your chatbot will make a booking on the next 3 weeks.
Customer service: Guests expect instant service. The challenge here is to be able to manage and respond to an ever-increasing flow of messages as fast as possible.
The value proposition of chatbots
Deliver instant responses: Real-time service has become essential to sell to, and satisfy customers’ expectations. Adding more people to the team may not be the best solution owing to employee cost, turnover, and a constant need for training. Chatbots are able to instantly answer up to 70 to 80% of customers’ queries. The staff is then freed-up to deal with interactions that really require their attention.
Connect with mobile first customers: Your customers are mobile addicts. Instant messaging has become their favorite way of accessing information because it is quick, easy, and personalized. Chatbots help make your content available on demand on Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS, and other messaging channels.
Scalability: A single chatbot can engage an unlimited number of people at once, 24/7. It can also instantly answer in several languages. You no longer have to wait for a customer to make the effort to contact you before starting a conversation. When your chatbot says “hi”, it automatically opens the door to a new online visitor.
Maximum customer engagement: Well-designed chatbots have a personality designed to put customers at ease. This will encourage customers to willingly share maximum actionable information (name, desire, mobile number, email etc.). Any unknown online visitor that interacts with your chatbot becomes, at the very least, a qualified lead. At best, your virtual assistant manages to turn the visitor into a customer.
Where humans need to step in
- Chatbots can learn but they cannot improvise: A chatbot cannot answer a question it has not been trained to answer. And that is ok. When a virtual assistant doesn’t answer, it asks the staff for assistance. It can be taught how to answer the question the next time.
The barrier to chatbot adoption is essentially mental. Are you ready to remove that barrier and take a step forward when it comes to chatbots and hospitality?