Are Chatbots the Key to Guest Satisfaction?
If you ever had to call customer support, regardless of the specialty, you are familiar with the generic robot voice and elevator music at the beginning of the call. “Thank you for calling X. For Y related inquiries, please press 1”. Truth being told, no one can deny the functionality and the value of the chatbots. They help you get past the basic part of your demand, getting you from A to… well, M. But in the end what you really want, the reason why you made the call, is to talk to an actual person. To have a fellow human help you with your issue. To get to Z.
In the last few years, the hospitality industry has been deeply impacted by technology and its recent discoveries. Travelers’ demand for immediacy is definitely on the rise. We live in a busy world, we need our requirements to be addressed now. We don’t want the booking process to take hours, we don’t have the time to get lost on a website. That is not only time-damaging, but it also takes away our enthusiasm regarding the upcoming trip.
As a result, hotels, travel agencies, and booking systems have all embraced the technological aid in the form of chatbots. They are fast and they are most definitely cost-effective. As anything else, though, there is a another side to this, the one that says that no matter how advanced and personalized a chatbot is, human interaction can never be replaced or eradicated.
With chatbots becoming more and more personified though, it may get harder to acknowledge the difference between robot and human. It's almost like the line in the fictional television show Westworld has turned out to be true: “Well, if you can’t tell...does it matter?”.
Many would say that it does. Sure, simple requests are better and faster handled by an artificial intelligence system. “I want to book a single room for 6 nights, starting from March 2nd”. “I want to book a room at one of the best rated hotels in London”. These would qualify as standard inquiries, that can easily be resolved in an automated way. It can be done immediately and at any hour. Not to mention the cost-efficient side of it, which saves the expenses of hiring an actual employee.
Big hospitality companies have already incorporated chatbots into their strategy. From their website, to Facebook Messenger, to Skype, the possibilities are (almost) endless.
According to Skift, “four travel brands — Kayak, Skyscanner and most recently Expedia.com and Cheapflights — have launched bots of their own”. Expedia, for example, wants to take things even further, with a Skype chatbot that has a Microsoft Cortana skill incorporated. Therefore, bookings, confirmations, cancellations, they will all be voice enabled. Talk about a futuristic take on reshaping the travel industry!
Chatbots are carefully designed in order to mimic human interaction, to such a point that some of them can even have a certain sense of humor. However, features that they lack are empathy and experience. Because once you get past a simple request, once you need a context for your current situation, a precedent or just someone’s reassurance that they will give their 100% to help you, that’s when bots just can’t cut it.
Expedia is just one example of proper human-machine fusion. They are assigning simple, basic demands to chatbots, however, once the complexity of the issue reaches a certain level, it is handed over to an agent, by a simple Skype call. Basically, travelers get the best of both worlds.
There are several ways of combining technology and human touch, in order to keep hotel guests satisfied and engaged. Leaning more towards actual employees, but providing a strong technical platform for them and for staff-guest communication, is TrustYou Messaging. This service enables easy and fast, real-time, two-way correspondence, to make sure that guests’ needs and expectations are met immediately. TrustYou Messaging uses hotel staff, for a real, personalized encounter and operates on user friendly platforms, such as SMS, Facebook Messenger or email. Also, by using TrustYou Messaging, as a hotelier, you can ask guests for on-site feedback, which not only allows you to get a traveler’s take and insight on your establishment, but it can also help decrease possible issues and dissatisfactions and, therefore, prevent negative reviews.
In the end, it’s all about keeping a balance. Make the most out of both sides: go with technology and innovations in order to create time and cost-efficient solutions, but don’t forget about the human touch and personalization. Make every guest feel like they matter, like you care about their experience and well-being, and go the extra mile. Feedback can make the difference between a pleasant hotel experience and a disappointing one.