A few months ago we launched HiJiffy, a SaaS (or should we say CaaS — Chat-as-a-Service?) that empower hotels to offer guests a conversational booking engine within their Facebook Messenger branded page. Since the booking process happens in a messaging app, we’re now in face of a new one-to-one communication channel between hotels and their guests. This allows guests to mobile check-in prior to their arrival, book other hotel services and inquire staff regarding any queries before, during or after their stay.
We learned some smart lessons that helped us improve the way we do things. Here are some of the biggest lessons we learned:
1. Guests will not wait when it comes to messaging
When someone choose to contact a hotel through messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, instead of sending an email or accessing the website, it usually means they need immediate attention. The importance of a fast answer cannot be underestimated because it directly affects the chances of getting the booking done or to give a good guest experience. This is a crucial reason of why hotels need to be paying attention to messaging apps and instituting better standards for addressing requests that come through them — and a key reason of why chatbots are so important in this industry.
2. Consumers are ready to use chatbots on their daily lives
Over 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed, but most of them never heard a word about chatbots. This may lead to think that people will not interact with chatbots and probably will not know what to do when chating with one. Well, the reality is showing the opposite. Using messaging apps becames so natural that even the least tech people are masters at chatting with a bot.
3. Don’t expect results without a Marketing strategy
We are still in the very early stage of chatbots. Even if we’re not talking about chatbots, consumers are yet not aware that brands are available through Messaging Apps. This way, the number of conversations will be very limited unless you actively promote your chatbot to your audience. Retargeting website visitors and promoting your chatbot in your social networks is the key factor of success. And believe us, they will!
4. It’s now possible to measure human interactions and not just pageviews
Once upon a time, hits where the main metric used to measure the performance of websites. Things eventually evolved to more user-centric interactions such as pageviews and events. Chatbots humanize even more the interaction between brands and users, and with it comes a new analytics framework to understand guests’ intents and expectations. Every user has a name, and to track conversations with each user in the exact same way they did it. Adding to this, there are much more qualitative data as people are more likely to give valuable feedback in a chatting interface.
5. It will take some time until AI unleash its full potential
Artificial Intelligence is still in a nascent phase. This is partially because despite computers learning fast, they need a lot of data to learn from. For most brands, the necessary amount of data needed to achieve full AI-potential will take a couple of months or even years of intensive conversations. It’s better to accept that building an AI-chatbot is going to take time. The best approach to start is to keep people engaged by using simple linear trees that use paths and simple AI routines to discern the intent of the user.
6. External web pages will be an integral part of chatbots
As chatbots try to solve more complex use cases — think of booking a hotel room — it becomes clear that bubble chains with simple text cannot be the answer to everything. This means there’s more to bots than natural language processing and artificial intelligence — and the solution relies on external web pages. There are two cases perfectly illustrating this. When there are multiple pieces of data to enter in the chatbot (such as check-in and check-out dates or number of adults and children), it’s far easier to change this data in a form than in a conversation. The second use case is when there’s a need for richer browsing experiences, like seeing room photos, details and amenities. A webview inside Messenger will be more engaging, with more structured data and additional scrolling if needed.