It’s a Sunday morning and you’re chilling on your hotel bed in the Maldives trying to figure out what amenities they have at this massive resort that you’re staying at. Instead of getting up and calling the concierge, you pull out your phone and by exchanging a few messages with the resort chatbot you already found information on what they serve at the best restaurant at the resort, a detailed map of the pool deck and where you can rent towels.
The hospitality industry is an industry where success is directly correlated to service, and professional service is demanded 24/7. Instead of just providing answers to questions, deploying a chatbot allows companies to be creative and add in other details such as a cool video or picture that promotes more services and products that could delight the customer.
Chatbots can make a customer’s experience personal and allow humans to focus on more time sensitive and sophisticated tasks. If chatbots are successfully implemented they can help hotels in reducing costs, guest services, and efficiency. Advanced chatbot features like Parametric Codes allow chatbots to be tailored to specific room numbers. A chatbot that knows which room the guest is staying in will be able to deliver room service menus to the guest, and then once a guest selects a meal, the order is then provided to the kitchen, and subsequently delivered to the room. The guest can do this while on their way back to the hotel so that in a reasonable amount of time, the food will have arrived at their room by the time the guest gets back.
In the era of continuous connectivity and high-speed travels, the competition in the travel industry is growing exponentially. Cheap flights are always in demand and are becoming more abundant. Using chatbots are proving to be a way companies can get a leg up on competition and also provide a more convenient way for customers access.
People are Open to Trying Chatbots
How can an emotionless program have a meaningful connection with human beings? Chatbots promote relationship management. By pre-training, chatbots can supplement an entire travel experience by making suggestions based on user preference and adding automated pre-arrival reminders.
In a study by Retale, about 60% answered “yes” when asked if they have ever used a chatbot. While 53% said they were interested in those who hadn’t tried a chatbot. Which suggests that humans are curious about chatbots and don’t mind giving it a try.
One of the biggest issues that companies in the travel industry had to deal with before chatbots were implemented years ago was that the hotlines were always busy and customer representatives didn’t have the time to reach customers in a timely manner. However, since chatbots were successfully integrated, customers can now manage their bookings in a much more straightforward way.
Skyscanner is one of the earliest to adopt conversational search in travel booking. The director of the company viewed chatbots as one of their priorities to make traveling more easily accessible and fun. Their chatbots respond to user’s travel queries where users can follow a link to choose the travel itinerary and the chatbot will provide a link to purchase the flight tickets. Where Skyscanner’s chatbot separates itself is how Expedia uses their flights API data to provide suggestions when the user is unsure. At any point during the conversation, the user can simply type in “Unsure” and the chatbot will begin making suggestions.
Kayak’s chatbots present a way to make traveling simple and their services more accessible to consumers. Their cross-platform messaging service allows the users to pick from facebook messenger, slack, and Alexa skill. After exchanging a few messages, the chatbot will provide information on the estimated cost of travel, generate links for booking and shows a list of locations that are within a specific budget.
Booking.com uses their booking assistant chatbot to help answer customer questions. Their chatbots have a 30% success rate for answering hotel related questions in 5 minutes. It’s programmed to answer frequently asked questions on payment, date changes, transportation and internet availability. They have a unique feature in how they allow the user to initiate conversation involving their account and allows the hotel to send notifications to the messenger. They were only able to offer this feature recently because they built their platform without going through a third party such as Wechat or Facebook.
Expedia connects its chatbot to Skype, being the first bot experience on Skype. Expedia was also the first in the industry to implement a chatbot on the video chatting platform which will connect a traveler to a call agent and let customers search for and complete hotel bookings. If you ever come across a task that the chatbot could not complete, they will connect you to a live Expedia travel representative. By being one of the first companies to use a skype chatbot and collaborating with Microsoft as an early Cortana partner skills kit partner, Expedia has already gotten an edge on its competitors.
Barriers in the Industry
A notable challenge that companies had to deal with is how frequent they have to deal with people that come in various different countries and continents. The language barrier can cause a lot of miscommunication and a personalized request can be difficult to complete.
Although chatbots do not have any emotions, they can create a more individualized offering by messaging in the customer’s native language, and remembering user preference for future reference. They can also adjust room settings at check-in and make suggestions based on your preferences.
Having an emotionless machine handle customers does have its advantages, such as how they can go from handling one customer to a million instantly. Chatbots can deal with both inbound requests and outbound messages. Chatbots will be able to handle simple and repetitive tasks and allow the staff to handle more complex requests. Staffing can be a challenge during peak times when lines get too long and wait times increases. This is where chatbots can free up employees and companies to increase customer satisfaction.
Challenges in Adopting Chatbot Technology
Companies will need to simplify their booking process so it can be accommodated within a chatbot. Chatbots are still in the development stages and will not be ready to handle a sophisticated booking process until the chatbots are perfected.
Chatbots are still error-prone, so it will be a challenge to provide a consistent booking experience. Especially when chatbots fail and need to be transferred to a human being. The transitions will have to be seamless and staff resources will be required in order for companies to provide a great customer experience.
Managing guest expectations will be a huge challenge because with fast messaging service comes expectations of the fast turnaround on their requests through chatbots. Customers will expect a 24/7 service that is instant and without much errors. Anything short of customer expectations can even harm the company instead of improving customer service.
In the End
Although there are still a lot of challenges in how companies in the travel and hospitality industry can adopt chatbots as a digital service, a lot of companies are not afraid to take risks in trying to implement this new artificial intelligence technology. Chatbots can allow them to get a leg up on competitors and increase customer touch points.
From a business perspective, a chatbot can allow companies to place their valuable staff in areas that require humans. Firms will be able to concentrate on other areas such as increasing repeat business and strengthening customer loyalty.
While from a customer standpoint, they can really benefit from having a more fun and convenient way of booking their travel plans. Chatbots have a chance to make a customer experience as personal as they can make suggestions based on your preferences and break language barriers.
After reading about all the benefits of having chatbots in the travel and hospitality industry, we can safely assume that chatbots are your ultimate travel concierge.