Chatbots and Travel
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The constantly changing tourism industry
Tourism has changed a lot in the past decade. Today’s travelers no longer go to the physical location of their local travel agent in order to book their trips, they are more and more digitally savvy, and believe in the tech they use daily to do all of their research online. As shown in a study conducted by Expedia, people end up visiting 38 websites on average while planning their travels and increasingly look for personalized offers and travel plans.
With the meteoric rise of instant messaging apps, and them surpassing social media in active users, we can conclude that travelers are getting more demanding, wanting lots of information, personalized content and immediate answers to their queries.
They don’t want to wait, and the company that answers their need for immediacy (whilst meeting their budget) will most likely win the business.
As a result, the hospitality industry needs to change the way they communicate with visitors; while travel companies need to find new ways to improve the customer journey and make travel experience more convenient.
In this new context, automating some of the operative tasks becomes necessary and allows the business to tackle some of the challenges posed by this new generation of guests. Artificial intelligence and chatbots, which are some of the solutions which have positioned themselves among the digital trends in recent years and have already proven their efficiency in various sectors, then become a viable solution to solve those issues.
When integrated into a hospitality business, AI powered chatbots offer a lot of benefits pre-, during, and post-stay, for travelers as well as for companies using them.
Hospitality Chatbots’ ease of use and practicality
Online bookings, and therefore queries prior to booking, can come from anywhere in the world, meaning different time zones and languages.
Guest queries are often time consuming to answer. They can be asked in different languages, and more often than not, they are repetitive. Guests in general do not look at the information in the prospects left at their room, and want immediate answers to their questions. Human agents, such as receptionists, are not always available to provide prompt support, whether it is at night, or during a check-in/check-out rush.
Chatbots, on the other end, are multilingual, offer instant responses, and 24/7 availability, which is ideal for customer-centric businesses such as travel companies, accommodation providers, or even destinations. They can, for example, help a tourist visiting a destination, even if the information centre or the reception is no longer working.
Another advantage of this self-service solution, digital assistants can use existing platforms that users already have installed on their phones, which means that there is no need to download another app. As chatbots can be implemented on any channel or social network, your guests can reach out to the digital assistant through messaging apps such as Telegram, Whatsapp, Signal, Viber and many more.
Finally, users can ask questions in their own words and get an instantaneous response, rather than surfing the internet for possible answers. Talking to someone is a much easier and natural experience find out new information.
Chatbots’ smart recommendations and personalized travel experience
Chatbots can be fine-tuned over time using the data collected through prior interactions with guests. Coupled with AI and Natural Language Processing capabilities, the bot then becomes smarter and provides improved services and user experience.
This is particularly interesting when taken into account that 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to create a more a personalized experience.
Increase conversion and build customers loyalty
Offering your guests a 24-hours-a-day service during their whole stay is already a big bonus. With a chatbot, there is no need to wait anymore for the receptionist or a live agent to be available – they can solve their problems and clear their doubts any moment that suits them. Reservations of services as well as payments can also be processed by the chatbot itself, therefore providing a simple, streamlined user experience. With this self-service solution, the opportunity for creating long-lasting guest loyalty is greatly increased.
And if the bot somehow doesn’t find the answer or gets asked something which differs from the rest of the questions and requires a human to jump in, it can escalate to a live agent rather than your guest closing his messaging app and never using the chatbot again.
Collect data, obtain feedback and manage complaints
From a data-driven perspective, chatbots record all of their communication with the users, thus allowing companies to do market research as they go and gather rich qualitative data from their customers. They offer real actionable insights into customers’ experience, purchase history, and problems – helping you refine, change, and develop different services as you see trends emerging.
Chatbots can also be used for quality assurance. Collecting feedback from your customers, has been greatly improved by automatically sending reminders asking them to write reviews and submit ratings for your services. Post-trip, bots can send out feedback forms that can be sources of valuable information on how to improve a guest’s travel experience, which can lead to improving your business as well.
Chatbots use AI to categorize feedback based on predetermined instructions. For example, if a complaint is identified, a private channel is opened and can be prioritized for easier handling, so the guest can address their complaints freely. Designated employees can then address problems in the moment, before a negative review goes up on the internet.
So, what makes the AI in the hospitality industry especially interesting?
The answer is the ability to use both consumer facing and business facing tech solutions at the same time. Providing guests with personalized experience while processing acquired data to generate advanced business intelligence.
The world is constantly changing, technology is affecting us on a daily basis in the ways we don’t even notice. From the AI that recommends movies based on user preference, to self driving cars, the uses of artificial intelligence are limitless.
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