It might be a new year, but some topics of conversation that came to the fore in 2016 are still playing on our minds. For example, we're still trying to work out whether it's worth a hotel's time to invest in a chatbot.
The signs in 2016 were that the hospitality industry should consider chatbots, with over 2.5 billion people now holding a phone installed with at least one messaging app. Within a couple of years that will reach 3.6 billion, about half of humanity, according to Activate.
Last year also saw major messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and Slack introduce bots, helping acclimatise people to the still slightly strange notion of speaking to an AI.
Some travel brands have already gone in on the trend and launched bots of their own. In 2017, we're expecting the hospitality industry as a whole to embrace the technology.
Writing on Medium, Pedro Gonçalves, the co-founder of HiJiffy, a chatbot for the hospitality industry, details how travel brands can benefit from following the chatbot trend:
1. New reservation channel
Online travel agencies are good for business, but hotels are wary of becoming too dependent on them – they'd much rather have travellers coming direct to them and not have to pay the commission. Chatbots provide a platform and incentive for travellers to book direct, with the added assurance of having any questions about their trip answered.
2. Build loyalty
The technology that powers chatbots is able to interpret the user's preferences and turn them into recommendations. This personalised treatment extends to all stages of the customer journey, with chatbots on hand to interact with customers before they arrive, during their stay and even after they've returned home. Therefore, the overall guest experience is enhanced, encouraging the customer to book another stay.
3. Guest profiling
As guests interact with your chatbot at every stage of the customer journey, they'll be handing over valuable information, which can be collected and turned into a guest profile – giving your travel brand the ability to personalise services in accordance to what the profile tells you about the guest.
4. New source of revenue
The more relevant the offer, the more likely it is that a consumer will want to take a business up on it. Using guest profiling from previous stays at your hotel, chatbots are able to send out ultra-personalised offers to customers, which could see them make a reservation when they had no real intention of doing so.
5. Free up staff
There will always need to be a healthy amount of human interaction between staff and guests – chatbots are not designed to put people out of a job, only to supplement them in their work. However, having chatbots pick up some of the slack will allow staff to put all their efforts into making the stay for guests as good as it can be.
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