Hospitality with Bots
A digital transformation has been occurring that has created a multitude of possibilities for consumers and enterprises alike. Digitization has affected nearly every facet of how business is carried out, and those that are early adopters and have taken advantage of these new opportunities are already seeing a rise in customer satisfaction and increased revenue.
Bots and Conversational Hospitality
The notion of “conversational hospitality” is a shift in the paradigm of how businesses in hospitality interact with their customers. Using bots, guests can have a two-way interaction and not just a one-way transaction.
Studies have shown that a staggering percentage of customers in the hospitality industry feel actively disconnected from the service experience. Let’s look at a simple, common example: Imagine that a customer is looking for an answer to a question. Typically, the first place they might look is the internet—either a search engine or a particular website. If they can’t find their answer on one web page, they’ll likely look elsewhere, and each time they must re-enter their request.
Already frustrated, the customer then calls the customer service department and must again state their request to an IVR (interactive voice response) system. If the system is unable to understand their question (which, unfortunately, happens all too often) the customer will eventually be routed to a live agent. There may be a hold time, and when the agent is able to help them, the customer must again state their question, in the hopes that no escalation is required and that the agent can help them.
At that point, the customer—who had only one question—has gone through at least three engagement channels, if not more, and each time had to restate their request. This is, essentially, a blatant disregard for a customer’s time, which often manifests in a consumer’s mind as a lack of respect.
There is a plethora of data showing that a single poor experience can cause a customer to abandon a brand, even if it has been their preference in the past. Most of those who do so indicate that they would not abandon a brand simply by feeling appreciated as a customer.
Bots can offer an entirely new customer service model by using NLP (natural language processing) technology and artificial intelligence to transform the traditional approach into something streamlined, personal, and interactive. Bots use contextual awareness to converse efficiently and in real time, and can be deployed to mobile apps and other channels so that the consumer has a choice in how to converse with the bot through text or speech, in human language rather than machine language.
Personalization through Context
The concept of contextual awareness goes hand-in-hand with another integral factor of conversational hospitality, and that’s personalization. Modern consumers want brands to be able to anticipate their needs beforehand; essentially, they want the business to come to them. They want their time to be respected, and they want to be able to get this experience quickly and easily.
This might sound like a huge undertaking, but this is precisely what companies are already employing bots to do. When guests use bots, there is no GUI to navigate, no need to spend time on hold with a live agent, and no line to wait for staff to be available. A customer simply engages with a bot on the channel of their choice, via text or speech, in a two-way interaction that draws context from their request. The bot identifies the proper channel by which to answer a question or resolve an issue, and replies appropriately.
Bots can take that contextual awareness to the level of personalization by using a guest’s preferences and behaviours to anticipate their future needs and make recommendations or send offers based specifically on them. For example, a bot could use a guest’s previous dining habits to make recommendations on nearby restaurants and offer reviews of each. If a guest books a hotel, the bot could supply offers on rental cars, inquire if they need an early check-in or numerous other possibilities. This level of personalization is a strong distinguishing factor between brands, and that gap will only grow as more enterprises turn to digitization.
Digitization is quickly becoming the way of the future for customer service, and to that end, conversational hospitality provides a seamless, consistent, and personal experience for consumers. Expensive development and non-integrated systems are becoming a thing of the past; simple front-end development and end-to-end integration are the new standards. Hospitality providers that effectively employ bots into their digital strategy will quickly see the advantages in the forms of higher customer engagement and a strong cultivation of loyalty.