Chatbots and hospitality: ready or not?

Posted on Nov 28, 2018

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’re looking to replace every human interaction with AI, it won’t work. However, if you want to make your marketing strategy as proactive and customer-centric as possible, without killing your staff, then you absolutely need to implement a virtual assistant ASAP.

Take the best of both worlds

Most hoteliers understand that chatbots are not here to cut teams, but to help them achieve more, faster. They are like electric bikes: chatbots can take you very far, very easily. Virtual assistants are excellent at handling recurring questions and requests instantly and the staff is great at managing very unique and personalized requests. So take the best of both worlds.

  • Staff onboarding: Your chatbot is like a new member of the team. Everybody must understand why it is being implemented and how it is going to fit into your marketing strategy.

  • User interface: Hotels are chronically short-staffed, so the communication between the chatbot and the team must be extremely efficient and help operations. Virtual assistants are here to save you time. On top of being useful to customers, the chatbot you choose must help your teams 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 that is able to alert staff through various means according to their preferences and the nature of the notification (pop-up, sound, email, app message etc.).

Think about what you want to achieve

A conversation format is much more effective in engaging people than plain text. You can write everywhere on your website that you have parking; many people will still ask the chatbot all the same. A chatbot’s ability to leverage conversations and deliver a personalized answer to each customer is a key asset for hotels that want to increase sales and develop customer service.

  • Sales: Here, they 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 and 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. Bringing more people in might not be the best solution because of employee cost, turnover and the constant need for training. Chatbots are able to answer up to 70 to 80% of customers’ queries instantly. The staff is then much more at ease to deal with interactions that require their attention.

  • Connect with mobile first customers: Your customers are mobile addicts and 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 the same time 24/7 and deliver instant responses in several languages. You no longer have to wait for a customer to make the effort to contact you so you can break the ice, when your chatbot says “hi”, opening the door to a new online visitor.

  • Maximum customer engagement: Proper chatbots have a personality designed to put customers at ease so that they will 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 and at best, your virtual assistant manages to turn the visitor into a customer.

Where humans need to step in

  • Chatbots can learn but they can’t improvise: A chatbot can’t answer a question it has not been trained to answer and it is ok. When a virtual assistant doesn’t have an answer, it will ask the staff for assistance and can be taught how to answer this question for the next time.

The barrier to chatbot adoption is essentially mental. Are you ready to remove it?

If you’d like to discuss more or have questions about chatbots and AI feel welcome to contact me at bde@quicktext.im.