This is a guest post by Paula Carreirão, a Content Producer and Hospitality Expert at Asksuite, the global leader in hotel reservation chatbot focused on boosting direct bookings.
AI Chatbot to the Rescue
Yes, first impressions count.
You might be able to change one’s perception along the way (or the stay), but it does get much harder to change the game once you are already falling behind.
I believe that most hoteliers are aware of this. And that’s why they put so much effort and attention to make the check-in process as smooth as it can be.
But here is where the most common mistake is made: the assumption that the first impression is the one made in the real-world.
When, in fact, the guest experience begins a long way before the front desk agent is searching in the system for the reservation, and the bell boy takes the guest’s luggage to the room.
The guest experience starts online: on your website, on your Facebook page or Instagram profile.
This article is about showing the value of the pre-booking experience and the impact this stage has on the traveler’s journey and the hotel’s revenue. By the end of this piece, you will find out how hotels can be prepared to turn online visitors into guests, leaving the best first impression, while boosting direct bookings.
The Traveler’s Journey
As I said at the beginning of this article, the traveler’s journey begins way before they arrive at the hotel lobby. It continues a long way beyond the check-out. Fortunately, technology can assist hotels and travelers throughout the entire journey.
In the image below, you can see some of the Hotel Tech-Winners of 2020. These are the best tech tools in the world. Tools that can help hotels and travellers in each and every step of the journey:
All these steps play an important role in the guest experience. But, as I said before: first impressions count. For the purpose of this article, my focus is on the booking stage, more precisely the moments before the traveler presses the button and becomes a guest.
Let’s imagine a traveler starting to plan her dream vacation. Or perhaps just taking a few days off, for relaxation. She grabs the notebook or mobile and begins searching for a hotel. A hotel at the destination of her desires (Or perhaps dreams!)
Browse, browse, browse. Then.. EUREKA! She found it: that beautiful hotel, amazing pictures on the website, great location, and facilities. Here is when her experience kicks off. To have a mobile-friendly website and a great website design is the first step to cash in on that booking.
Now that she is attracted, so many questions start to pop up in her head: “can I do a late check-out?”, “do the hotel allow pets?”, “what are the differences between the rooms”? She needs her answers to make up her mind and book a room.
Ok, so the hotel might have a FAQ-section. After all, the questions can be quite repetitive. But FAQs are not enough anymore. Who reads it, anyway?
Probably the traveler’s next step is to try to reach out to the hotel. She tries connecting through Instagram, where she was looking at more pictures of the place. Send a DM. Wait for 5 minutes. Nothing. Tries Facebook page. Nothing. E-mail seems to take too long to be answered and phone calls are out of question, as she is in another country.
Now, guess what? She goes to an OTA page and looks for another hotel option or book the same hotel there because she thinks “it’s easier and safe”. So either the hotel loses the booking to its compset or at least loses a direct booking. Not good!
Hit the mark: The AI Chatbot
As you can see, hotels may miss a lot of business opportunities by not offering to potential guests an online customer service. Here is where the magic can happen and hotels can impress the most skeptical customers: An AI chatbot.
Instead of losing the traveler in the web jungle, an Artificial Intelligence chatbot can help hotels to retain the visitor by providing interaction. When a hotel doesn’t have online support, its website acts more like a display than a communication channel.
When users see online support, in the form of an AI Chatbot, they will try to interact with it to find what they are looking for. That is the hotel’s chance to close the deal. Chatbots give the user the experience they expect, helping them to find what they are looking for, and consequently, increasing the chances of booking.
And all that while the traveler is lying comfortably on her bed…
Besides, with an AI chatbot, not only business opportunities are being missed, but also the chance of helping hotel staff with the workflow. AI-based solutions can automate processes and assist humans. It’s a smart, and not too expensive, way to speed up work (especially the boring repetitive ones!). They offer a higher-end user experience at a lower price point.
Not to mention that a hotel chatbot – a chatbot that only works with the hotel industry, as the one Asksuite developed, can add images to the answers, understand natural language and are also integrated with booking engines. With all these features, it’s easier for the chatbot to give the extra-push travelers need to press the BOOKING BUTTON. Much more than just chatting, don’t you think?
Efficient as a machine, warm as a human
It’s vital to stress that chatbots (or machines) are not here to replace humans. So hoteliers don’t need to worry. They are here to be a support tool for the hotelier’s top performance and to enable hotel staff to focus on more complex tasks.
Customers’ expectations are higher than ever. They come from different channels and they demand speed and efficiency, as well as personalization and empathy. The best recipe is to find the right balance between staff interaction and AI-powered customer service. That way hotel services will be efficient as a machine, but as reasonable and warm as a human.
Did I leave a good first impression on chatbots?
About the author:
Paula Carreirão is an ex-hotelier with many years of experience, She started as a hostel front desk agent and made her way up to hotel boutique management. As a Content Writer at Asksuite, she enjoys talking about the benefits of technology and Artificial Intelligence in the hotel industry at the blog Ask Insights. You can also find her on LinkedIn.