Chatbots: Bringing hospitality to 2018


It feels like guest experience management - especially in hospitality - is stuck in the past. Why do I say that?

The year is 1998. If you want to book a hotel room, you can easily do so via calling the hotel or sending them an email.

Now, 20 years later - while you can access all the information in the world with a device that fits in your pocket or order food with an AI home assistant - you still book hotels via calling or email (or via web, but that isn't very ground-breaking, either). Still, the problem isn't necessarily the channel. The problem is how we use those channels.

We live in an age of digital, bot-based customer service. Many industries have embraced this with great success; take self-checkout tills at grocery stores or customer service bots at online retail stores. Hotels need this too.

Bots are stuck with their pre-programmed responses. Their responses are bound to be very linear in nature. Will they ever understand nuances?

Consider this: a guest would like to know if the hotel accommodates larger parties at their restaurant. Let's say the chatbot is programmed with certain policies, one being that the largest allowed party is 80 people. The guest wants to accommodate 90. The bot is adamant about it not being possible, while a human could replace the "no" with an "I will find out". These sorts of things might make or break a great guest experience, so it is something that must be considered.

At the time of writing this, we have not managed to create a superhuman AI that could answer every single question a hotel guest could ask. But is this really a problem? Questions that make up at least 95% of all queries hotels get are quite simple and easy to predict. A guest values rapid response times, and a chatbot can deliver those.

It would be unfair to dismiss chatbots as a viable solution to fast, engaging customer service just because the technology is not quite there yet. And as previously stated, they certainly are already good enough to handle a major chunk of everyday guest engagement.

However, this should not be considered as an all-or-nothing situation. Why not let the bot take care of the general, easily programmable conversations and let the humans take over when the bot recognizes its limit?

The most annoying thing about chatbots is certainly this:

"Sorry, I didn't understand that. Please try again."

"Did you find this helpful?"

I certainly do not find that helpful. It should never feel like the bot's inability to understand is the end of the conversation. That's why it should look like this:

"Sorry, I didn't understand that. Would you like me to connect you to a human (/Hotelway employee/hotel staff member)?"

Now that I would find helpful.

Guests want personalized service. How can this be done without humans?

A simple "Hello, [insert name]!" at the start of the conversation might be the most general way of personalizing content, but it is inherently fake. Real personalization is something that improves customer experience - makes them feel cared for and their life easier.

This might sound counterintuitive but using chatbots really makes it easier to deliver personalized experiences to all guests, despite them not being human. And - because the technology is not quite there yet - we at Hotelway have decided to embrace it and use chatbots for the general stuff and only involve humans when it is absolutely necessary.

Interested in this subject? Read on:

Messaging, Chatbots and Omni-Channel Marketing

5 Reasons Why Businesses Will Need Chatbots in 2019

Personalizing your Chatbot

Why Human Hotel Live Chat is Better Than Chatbots