In the mid-2000s many hoteliers were suspicious of a machine that could manage rates and availability for their multiple online travel agencies (OTAs). Today these are better known as channel managers and have a pivotal role in a hotel’s operational efficiency.
At Wieldy Digital, we believe that chatbots will be as critical to a hotel’s business as channel managers are today and many parallels can be drawn in the adoption journey to mass market. By 2020, Gartner has predicted that customers will manage 85% of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human.
A chatbot offers a new engagement tool, enabling a hotel to rely on a machine to handle their guests’ requests without the need for human interaction. As hoteliers realised that channel managers could be relied upon to manage their multiple online agencies, we believe hotels will come to accept and rely on chatbots to handle a considerable proportion of their guest relations.
Naturally many hotels, particularly in the luxury segment, place great importance on human-to-human interaction with their guests. It is therefore not surprising there has been some resistance at the thought of handing their guests off to a chatbot to manage their requests. However, there has never been a time when the tech-savvy traveller wants everything in a timely, user-friendly and convenient way, and this means the traditional ways of guest engagement (browsing FAQs on a website, phone calls, e-mail or face-to-face) are becoming the less preferred options.
- As much as 60% of millennials have already used a chatbot and 70% agree it was a positive experience.
- Chatbots meet the millennial’s need for instant gratification
- Millennials prefer self-service options when available.
We believe many millennial travellers are looking for a chatbot experience with the business of their choice.
A chatbot offers 3 key benefits;
- Engages a wider audience: the growing number of tech savvy travellers are seeking out a chatbot that offers a real-time, user-friendly and convenient user path.
- Save significant time: your staff will save time from having to answer questions back and forth, both pre-stay and during a guests stay. This time can be reinvested in tasks requiring more application.
- Increase bookings and ancillary revenue: whether it is to assist with bookings pre-stay or up-sell in-stay, guests can use a chatbot as a booking assistant or digital concierge.
Hoteliers have an opportunity to dip their toes into this new type of guest engagement, and we suggest the following to reduce any perceived risk;
- Hotels can determine who gets a chatbot and at what stage of their guest journey the chatbot is available. For instance, if a hotel has concerns installing a chatbot widget on their website and giving access to everyone, they can instead include within their booking confirmation (or welcome email) a link to their chatbot to act as an in-stay digital concierge. Many hotel chains are already using a chatbot for this very purpose and Booking.com recently launched their own chatbot Booking Assistant.
- Hotels can ensure the chatbot always gives the guest the option for live chat with a staff member, and this encourages a good guest experience every time.
- Try before you buy! A chatbot is a new concept for many hotels and a free trial should be offered to evaluate the benefits before purchase.