Discover the world of chatbots, an already existing AI technology applied to many industries, and learn how and why it should be included in your hotel's daily operation and guest communication6 mins read
Technology moves quickly. And for hoteliers, knowing what advancements will be beneficial and what could prove harmful, can be extremely difficult. No solution currently exemplifies this better than chatbots. The use of artificial intelligence has exploded across other industries, with the majority experiencing the benefits of automating low-value tasks in order to improve customer experiences, promote efficiency and cut costs. Yet hospitality lags, as it often does, failing to take advantage of the benefits offered by this emerging technology. And while the term artificial intelligence can mean many things to many people, and can be applied across multiple spectrums to achieve a variety of outcomes, for the purpose of this article, we will speak only of the use of AI in chatbots. It is here where AI can have the greatest impact on hotel operations.
So, why have so few hoteliers adopted chatbots within their business models? We’ve all used them at some point. The helpful pop-up bubble you find on most websites asking if you need assistance — that’s a chatbot (I know you didn’t really believe that was a real person). Perhaps some hoteliers have had poor experiences with this technology in the past, and are understandably reluctant to implement a technology they believe that could damage the guest experience. But advancements have been swift, and chatbots are now not only effective in building upon a property’s brand identity but are often the preferred method of communication by many guests.
The importance of chatbots!
Despite an adoption rate that has been slower than other industries, many leading hotel brands are now convinced on the efficacy of implementing chatbots into their guest facing operations. So, why is this the case, and why should all hoteliers consider the use of automated messaging platforms into their properties?
- Messaging is now the preferred communication channel of your guests. And providing travellers with the options they not only want but demand is critical in building engagement and long term loyalty
- Chatbots are capable of interacting in whatever language your guest prefers. Language barriers are the number 1 point of anxiety for modern travellers. Overcome this, and you not only separate yourself from other operators, but you truly offer your guests an experience that is personalized to their needs.
- Chatbots automate low-value repetitive tasks that add little value to the guest experience. This not only gives guests instant access to the information they require, but reduces costs, and frees up staff to engage in truly meaningful guest interactions.
- Giving your guests their own personal chatbot provides a level of convenience that has not previously been available. Instant and automated answers to any question or enquiry. The ability to order food and beverage from anywhere, at any time, from their own mobile device. The capacity to book hotel services whenever they want. All this eliminates instances of guests being placed on hold, transferred from department to department, or having to wait for simple answers to simple questions. It’s communication on their terms.
- Chatbots require no investment in hardware. A guest’s own mobile device is all that is required to innovate guest interactions. And they are updated constantly. Meaning hoteliers avoid any upfront investment in hardware that quickly becomes outdated, needs continual maintenance, and often has a 2-3 year replacement requirement.
The steps a hotelier should take before the final decision!
Ok, so there are some huge benefits to implementing chatbots into a property of any size. But with more options becoming available daily, what should a hotelier look for when deciding upon a solution to implement into their property?
- Ensure the solution provider has a deep understanding of hospitality and its complexities.Without a true appreciation of the systems and challenges that face all operators, it is difficult to build technology that seamlessly integrates into existing processes.
- It’s preferable that the chatbot takes the form of a progressive web application (PWA). Guests no longer want to download traditional applications, especially for short term stays. And we all know that technology is only as good as its uptake. A PWA has the look and feel of a standard application but doesn’t require any downloads, therefore removing a major barrier of use.
- Select solutions that provide additional functionalities such as push marketing, feedback collection or F&B ordering capabilities. This provides a true 360⁰ communication platform that not only allows hoteliers to learn valuable information about their guests, but also gives you the ability to drive revenue from other hotel services.
- Ensure the solution has the capacity to accommodate live messaging. There will inevitably be the occasional question or enquiry that an automated solution does not understand. People enjoy testing the capabilities of everything, it’s human nature. Giving the backend operator the ability to manage such situations in real time will ensure that hoteliers can manage such occurrences seamlessly, without any guest dissatisfaction.
- Look for options that integrate into your guest preferred communication platforms. Solutions that can integrate into WeChat, Messenger or Line will allow guests to interact with your property on a platform they are already familiar with.
- Select a solution that allows you to easily and efficiently make changes. Hospitality is a dynamic environment, with offerings changing on a daily basis. Solutions that require developer intervention to update responses can become inefficient and costly.
If you are still not sure if chatbots are for you, then I’ll leave you with a line from one of my favourite movies, Moneyball: “The first one through the wall always gets bloody. Always.” And why? Because you’re threatening people’s beliefs. Their ideas on how things should operate. Their perception of their own value within an organization. And whenever that happens, people get scared. But ultimately, those who don’t let this fear overcome their need to innovate, and search for new methods to enhance guest experiences and improve their hotel operations, those are the ones who will thrive in a world where the desires and expectations of modern travellers are continually changing.
Byron is a co-founder and Executive Director at SABA Hospitality. He oversees sales and marketing, as well as writing blog and social content. Having a particular interest in what drives customer behaviour, Byron regularly speaks with hoteliers across the world on the implementation and success of various guest engagement strategies.