We are hearing a lot about ways to digitize the guest experience, and chatbots have been an important part of that discussion. But hospitality chatbots raise a lot of questions like: What types of chatbots are there? Do guests like hotel chatbots? Is it complicated to implement a hospitality chatbot? Do I really need a chatbot for my hotel? We go through some of the most asked questions to help you see what the chatbot-buzz is all about.
What is a hotel chatbot?
A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversations with human users. Some chatbots use advanced technology, like Natural Language Processing (NLP) to interpret human language and communicate conversationally. NLP is used by, for example, Google search and Google translate. At ReviewPro we have been using NLP for our semantic analysis to interpret what guests are saying in reviews and survey responses.
What are the different types of chatbots?
In general, we can distinguish between two types of chatbots: rule-based chatbots and AI-based chatbots.
How does a rule-based chatbot work?
Contrary to popular belief, not all chatbots are using artificial intelligence (AI). Instead of AI, a rule-based chatbot uses a tree-like flow to understand guest queries. The chatbot will identify keywords and based on those, it will ask follow-up questions to the guest to eventually get to the correct resolution. This tree-like structure and the answers are all predefined which allows you to be in full control of the conversation, even if you are not responding yourself.
How does an AI-powered chatbot work?
On the other hand, an AI-powered chatbot is powered by NLP, which means it will try to interpret the human language and try to understand the intent, so what is it that the guest wants. The benefit of AI-powered technology is that it will keep learning. So, the more it interacts with guests, the better it will become at understanding the intent and the better it will respond.
There are also hybrid chatbots that combine characteristics of both types. ReviewPro’s Guest Experience Automation™ (GEA) chatbot, for example, uses AI technology to understand the guest’s intent but will use follow-up questions to get to the right resolution. This allows you to be more in control of the answers, making sure they are in line with your brand’s tone of voice while communicating exactly what you want.
What to look for in a hospitality chatbot?
The hospitality business is a niche, which means that often you need more specialized software. As guest requests differ a lot from regular e-commerce or customer service requests, you also need a hospitality chatbot that is trained in handling guest queries. Now, what else should you look for?
- Multiple messaging channels: we all have our favorite messaging channels, and those can differ from market to market, or even person to person. In some markets, we see WhatsApp ruling, in others SMS, and in China WeChat is king. A chatbot provider should be app-agnostic and offer you the option to integrate with as many channels as possible, so you can make sure you can offer the channel your guest prefers.
- Guest profiles: every interaction is a gold mine of data and should also be treated as such. Save all your interactions with guests into a rich guest profile, so you can use this to send them tailored communications, or to personalize their stay next time they come.
- During-stay features: a chatbot can offer great support for your guests pre-arrival by answering all their queries and questions or helping them through the booking process. However, support is just as valuable on-site. Messaging offers your guests a digital communication channel for them to reach out to you. A chatbot can relieve the pressure of your front desk staff and respond to the most frequent questions, like at what time is breakfast? Furthermore, they can help streamline incoming guest requests for room service, maintenance, etc., by sending them immediately to the relevant team.
- Escalation: when a request comes in, it needs to be handled with urgency, especially when an issue is reported. With fast communication, we have also gotten used to fast resolutions of our problems. To ensure no request goes unanswered, an escalation process is vital. Any request that was not responded to within a pre-established deadline, can be escalated higher-up to make sure every request is looked at.
- Analytics: any successful organization relies on data-driven decisions, allowing us to increase efficiency and performance by continually perfecting our operations to keep up with changing guest expectations.
- Automated outbound communication: automating the response to incoming queries is one thing, but to go the extra mile, hoteliers should also be able to reach out to their guests at the right time. Outbound communication done right allows for better and more personalized guest experiences, setting the right expectations and creates new opportunities for additional revenue.
Do guests like hotel chatbots?
Although in the past hospitality chatbots have been frowned upon for their robotic answers and inefficiency, their abilities have increased vastly since then. We also cannot forget that the world around us has changed. Our communication has become primarily mobile, our interactions have become faster, and we have been faced with a global pandemic. We can say that guests and their habits have changed, and so should the hospitality industry.
We also cannot forget that messaging and chatbot technology has been applied in other industries, like airlines, e-commerce, etc. For the guest continuing their daily habits of ordering food or making reservations via their phone when in a hotel, is an increased commodity.
Not convinced? Maybe these numbers will help:
- By 2022 we will be talking more to bots than to our spouses (Deloitte)
- 64% of agents with AI chatbots can spend most of their time solving complex problems, versus 50% of agents without AI chatbots. (Salesforce)
- Given the choice between filling out a website form or getting answers from a chatbot, only 14% of customers would choose the form. (Salesforce)
- According to a recent poll we conducted, two out of three hoteliers say that they are likely, or even very likely to implement a hotel chatbot soon.
Is implementing a hotel chatbot complicated?
Although many providers sell you a long-term project when selling a hotel chatbot, it does not have to be this way. The implementation process for a chatbot can be significantly reduced by pre-training a chatbot with typical hospitality questions which any establishment – however unique it is – must deal with. The chatbot can then fill in the answers with data from a pre-filled knowledge base and to further speed up the process, it can also benefit from something that is called the positive network effect.
The positive network effect is the incremental benefit gained every time a new user joins the network. For example, Airbnb benefits from the positive network effect, and gains from every user joining to rent their apartment, as it means it will also attract more people looking for a place to stay.
How does this apply to a hospitality chatbot? When we built our GEA chatbot, we made sure that every time the chatbot gets updated with new abilities and knowledge, it would be active for everyone who uses the chatbot. This means that the chatbot will become more powerful the more it is being used, as more information is being added.
Can a hospitality chatbot help me to increase revenue?
Besides generating a quick and easy exchange of information, a chatbot can also generate additional revenue streams. There are a few different ways it can do this:
- Instant help: instead of driving website visitors away when they cannot find what they need, a chatbot can help them out in just a few seconds, which will increase their likeliness to book with you.
- Booking engine integration: by integrating your chatbot with a booking engine integration, the chatbot can push direct bookings from within the same conversation that the guest has started when asking about the pet policy.
- Two-way communication: by sending out pre-stay messages to your guests with options to personalize their stay with a restaurant reservation or a spa visit, you boost upsell opportunities and decrease the chance of your guests canceling last-minute.
- Better guest experiences: creating better guest experiences will in turn lead to a better online reputation, which will eventually boost bookings and revenue.
Do I really need a hospitality chatbot?
Chatbots have been around for a while but with the recent pandemic, they have known a big push across all industries. The hospitality industry has been more hesitant to accept these new technologies, largely because of a fear of losing that “human touch” that guests expect. However, we are getting used to interacting with bots through various other industries where AI, chatbots, and automation have already been introduced earlier.
Our society each time is moving towards a more digitized society with interactions happening largely over mobile phones and very rapidly. Where we used to be able to wait for days to receive a response, thanks to the likes of instant messaging services such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. we are now accustomed to fast communication. A business that cannot keep up with these evolutions will soon be looked at negatively. So, soon guests will expect instant responses and resolutions, can you deliver those comfortably without introducing a chatbot?
The guest experience, in the end, is something ever-changing and evolves in parallel with how our society evolves. This means that hotels too will have to adopt mobile-friendly ways of communicating, especially when we look at younger generations. Implementing a hospitality chatbot does not mean lesser human interactions. It means increasing the efficiency of your staff by eliminating repetitive and simple tasks so that they can concentrate on creating better and more meaningful experiences on-site.
Do you want to know more about Guest Experience Automation™?