Avi Benezra discusses how chatbots are transforming the hospitality industry
Travelling is tough and people are generally tired and frustrated when they finally reach their destination. But then they still have to wait in queues to check in. They also have to make calls to the reception desk for complaints and to order food and hold on for ages. Surely there is another way of doing things that reduces waiting time and the frustration that guests go through? We asked Avi Benezra of SnatchBot a number of questions about chatbots and how they can help the hospitality industry to improve customer service.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is software that uses artificial intelligence and natural language programming to hold a conversation with a human being. It can be programmed to answer specific questions using specific answers. When chatbots first came, they were a bit clumsy but now, with AI, they are more human-like in the way they carry on conversations. If they are combined with robotic process automation (RPA), they can perform a lot of repetitive tasks that normally consume humans’ time. With proper planning a chatbot can improve customer service.
How can hospitality places benefit from installing a chatbot?
A hotel that intends to improve customer service can install a chatbot on its website or in an app or on social media platforms for guests to book hotels, ask questions, check in, order food, etc. Depending on the purpose for which they install the chatbot, they program it to answer certain specific questions. People are so used to texting these days so they can text the chatbot and receive instant answers. It’s like chatting to a human being and that gives people a sense of being listened to, instantly.
Booking. A hotel can improve its occupation levels by being in the face of the people on social media through a chatbot. It can share a lot of information about its service, its special prices, and what people can do for fun in the area. People on the social media platforms who are planning to travel will see the information, either as followers of the hotel or as friends of followers who share the information. If they are interested, they can ask the chatbot more questions and if they like what they learn they can book. This way the chatbot works as a marketing agent of the hotel. Naturally the hotel has to make sure that the bot is integrated to the booking system.
Checking in. When guests are approaching the hotel, they can check in through the chatbot and they are given their room number. This is particularly convenient when the guests are running late. When they arrive, they find the room key waiting for them by the door and they are helped to take their luggage to their rooms. They will definitely be impressed by this fast service and they will probably share the experience on social media, updating their friends.
Room service. The chatbot can be integrated into the ordering system. Instead of using the telephone to order food, guests can chat to the chatbot and completely avoid human interaction. There are no errors in the order so there is no frustration.
Q&A. Guests always have questions. They want to know where they can go for fun, where to book for excursions, etc. The chatbot can be integrated to many systems and be programmed to answer commonly asked questions. There is no need for guests to call reception and hold on while waiting for service or to wait in the reception area for their turn to ask questions.
Human agent answers complex questions. Naturally there are complex questions and problems that the chatbot can re-route to a human agent for answers. With the chatbot fielding general questions, human agents are freed to take care of only the complex issues and they can respond faster.
Customer feedback. The chatbot can be programmed to ask for customer feedback after each interaction. That way the guests will not forget to give their feedback, especially if they are impressed with the service.
Happier customers. The result of self service and fast responses through the chatbot is that the guests are less frustrated. If they are impressed by their stay at the hotel, they are most likely to give it positive feedback and also talk positively about it on social media.
Higher sales. All the people on social media who hear about the positive talk about the hotel will keep that in mind and probably plan to book the same hotel the next time they go on holiday. Good customer service results in increased sales and that begins with a chatbot.
Are chatbots very expensive to develop?
Yes and No: chatbots are expensive and time-consuming if a hotel plans to develop its own from scratch. However, that is not necessary. Collaborators from all over converge at the SnatchBot Bot Store: They created many different chatbot templates for different industries. A hotel can simply purchase a hospitality chatbot template at an affordable price and customize it to its needs without the need for coding. Within a few days it can deploy the bot on its website and on many social media platforms.
The travel industry will never be the same again once small hotel owners come to the party: now that technology is floated on the open market, such as a Bot Store, there is finally a level playing field in the technology that drives the travel and tourism sector.