Chatbots are one of the top hotel technology trends in 2017 yet many hoteliers do not know what benefits they bring. Hotel guests are looking for an extra ordinary guest experience and chatbots can help enhance the hotel guest experience by filling a concierge role. We asked Justine Santa Cruz, the VP Strategic Partnerships and Alliances of SatisfiLabs to give us an introduction to chatbots and how they can benefits hotels.
Read this article to learn:
✔ How chatbots lead to a happier and more engaged hotel consumer
✔ Which channels are most successful for chatbots
Ali Naqvi: Can you give and introduction to AI and chatbots?
Justine: Artificial Intelligence in the world of chatbots pertains to any technology that mimics how the human brain works and how a human associate would help you in an environment where you need service. Chatbots are computer programs used by brands and businesses to talk to their customers with the most accurate answer every time.
Ali Naqvi: Why should hotels look into this technology? How does it benefit them?
Justine: This technology benefits hotels in a couple of ways. Imagine a potential guest deciding on their next trip, browsing through a hotel website, looking at various rooms and different offers etcetera. If the hotel website has a chatbot, it would pop-up and help answer the guests’ questions and also direct them down the booking path. A virtual travel agent that will give the customer the best, personalized choice for them.
Let me give you another example. A family is planning a vacation looking at a certain hotel properties and has certain needs. The hotel has to have a pool, a crib, babysitting services and be close to a theme park. The family may have a hard time finding this information on Google so they would likely call the hotel and say, ‘Hey concierge, I have a family with three kids. These are their ages. We want to do these things. This is my budget. Can you help us?’ The chatbot can then jump in and give recommendations across properties and cities, saving the family a call to every property on their list.
Ali Naqvi: So chatbots fill a concierge role?
Justine: Yes. It can be a concierge role at the discovery level. Right now many hotels cannot respond to every customer inquiry out there as they don’t have enough staff. With a chatbot, hotels can answer thousands of questions simultaneously, gather customer input and actually deliver a recommendation.
Hotels can also answer a guest’s questions during their stay. If a corporate client’s WiFi isn’t working and an Ethernet cable is needed, the guest could call the concierge or just ask the chatbot in the room’s Amazon Echo or Google Home. That’s just one of many ways a bot can enhance the total stay experience.
Ali Naqvi: What is the first step a hotel should take if they want to make use of a chatbot?
Justine: The first step for hotels is to figure out where they could better serve their customers. It’s as simple as asking themselves the following:
- Where are we unable to answer our customers’ questions?
- Where are we leaving them disappointed?
- What data will help our customers make a better decision?
- Do our customers need more assistance booking, during their stay or after when they plan on coming back?
Once a hotel has determined how they can better serve their customers, they need to consider the format and what data they have available internally. Property-specific APIs are great so that the bot can access room information, availability and amenities in real time.
APIs or other forms of structured data makes bots stronger and actually useful. If a hotel has APIs available, they must be using this for the chatbots immediately! But we also know that a lot of hotels and companies don’t have structured data, and that’s not a problem. Our system also accepts PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents and other unstructured data formats to train the bots. At the end of the day, we’ll take the best data you have no matter the format.
Ali Naqvi: Which channel do you see as being most successful for a chatbot?
Justine: My experience is that people use Facebook and the web for exploratory use cases such as looking for a room or looking for a vacation. However, when it’s more utility based or people have a more specific task in mind they tend to use Twitter for customer service issues and the brand’s mobile app.
What is interesting with an app is that you can get different features from the phone, like location. We use geolocation a lot and if you have downloaded an app from a property and you are searching for the nearest Starbucks, the chatbot can give you directions based on your current location.
Ali Naqvi: Can you provide as an example from the hospitality industry?
Justine: Hilton has created conversation surveys with our platform for each of their specific entertainment services. They send out an email or an SMS asking guests to visit a specific url. Once entered, the chatbot takes over and will ask them a few post visit questions. Hilton is collecting all the answers and optimizes the experience for future guests.
Ali Naqvi: Any concluding thoughts to share?
Justine: More and more guests now seek an enhanced guest experience and are actively seeking brands that delivers this. Your guests are looking for an experience from their first touch point with your hotel until they leave your hotel.
We have disruptive travel services like Airbnb that provide seamless digital experiences, which increase the expectations of guests all around the world. Guests now expect the booking and stay experience to be as easy as an Airbnb booking.
Hotels can increase loyalty by being with their guests throughout the interaction from pre-booking, booking, pre-visit, welcoming them, tending to their needs during the stay and follow up on their experience with a post-stay survey. A chatbot can be a good first step to do all this for them.