Over 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed and is estimated that by the end of 2018 a total of 3.6 billion users will be using messaging apps to connect with friends and businesses, being now clear that messaging really is the new social media.
Many hotels already offer messaging options to their guests, some giving the ability to text them through their own apps or establishing messaging channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or even SMS.
The real revolution is yet to come and is showing is first signs. When major messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and Slack introduced bots earlier in 2016, became clear that bots will be an integral part of the future. Some travel brands embraced the new technology almost immediately — Kayak, Skyscanner, Expedia.com have launched bots of their own — and is expected that in the following months more travel brands and independent hotels will follow the trend. But how can they benefit?
New reservation channel — Individual properties and chain hotels want to reduce their dependency on OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) and are trying to increase direct, non-commissionable web business. When hotels start to be present where the users are (messaging apps), consumers will start to use this natural way of communication to book their trips.
Building loyalty — Chatbots will increase guest engagement and enhance the overall guest experience, by giving a personalized treatment in all stages of the costumer journey: from the pre-arrival experience to on-property interaction and even in the post-trip.
Guest profiling — A chatbot that interacts with guests at all stages of their journey will gather valuable information, which can then be used in an automated way to provide personalized services during guests’ current stay or in future stays.
New source of revenue — Using guest profiling from past stays in the hotel, chabots are able to send relevant offers to consumers: from booking an airport transfer to a massage in the SPA or a dinner reservation. All of this will be directly booked without the intervention of the staff hotel.
Free up hotel staff — From an operational point of view, front-desk staff are freed up to provide services only humans can, leaving everything else to the bot.
By offering instant responses and a natural form of communication, chatbots will help hotels elevate the guest experience to a whole new level. It’s unlikely that chatbots will entirely replace the need for human conversation, because guests will always want a person to deal with complaints and more special requests. But even in that cases, bots will know when they should transfer the conversation to a human agent.
Chatbots will become a huge asset to hotels.
NB: This is a viewpoint by Pedro Gonçalves, co-founder at HiJiffy.