23 January 2018 | Andrew Sanders
Messaging, Chatbots and Omni-Channel Marketing: Will Hotels Rely More On Technology Than Humans for Guest Service in the Near Future?
By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.” - Gartner Predicts
Once relegated to science fiction, bots are now very much a part of our daily lives. From chatbots that learn a user's moods to provide meaningful responses, to messenger bots that can answer weather questions to help users dress appropriately for a day out, bots are becoming increasingly valuable and sophisticated. At the same time, brands are faced with a growing number of marketing channels to navigate, further expanding the complexities involved in delivering the correct message in the most effective place to increase conversions. Advertising is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking, making it essential for hotel brands to accurately address all channels in order to maximize success.
Personalization Through Messaging and Chatbots
The profound importance of personalization and comprehensive customer care in the hotel industry makes it an ideal environment for applying messaging and chatbot innovations that enhance the user experience.
Major advancements in artificial intelligence, voice search, and messaging chatbots carry the potential for significant disruption in the hotel industry by allowing new players to gain traction through inventive means. The modern consumer expects immediate responses to their queries, and chatbots can consistently meet this demand, while the inclusion of call-to-action buttons and images within chat bubbles speeds up the conversion process further. As the sophistication of chatbots increases to offer human-like conversation, a multitude of opportunities arise for hotels to improve customer service while reducing costs at the same time.
Paid ads and promotions are a necessary but costly way to generate traffic. However, this traffic must be properly engaged in order to increase conversions and warrant the expense. Direct bookings can be effectively secured via chatbots, whether through Facebook Messenger or a hotel's website, while the automated process reduces employee resource requirements.
Chatbots provide an excellent way for guests to check-in and check-out on their mobile device. Consumers love avoiding lineups at a front desk when conducting a simple task, making chatbots an ideal method for saving time and improving the customer experience both at the beginning and end of a visit.
Many questions and complaints that arise in a hotel are actually relatively simple to understand and solve, such as being booked in a room with the wrong beds or wanting to know the correct time for checking out. A hotel bot can easily offer a solution to the majority of these problems without the need for human intervention. And an intelligent bot is aware of the scenarios that demand a personal touch or a more complex response that can only come from human intervention, thereby directly notifying staff to provide seamless customer service.
Personalization and hotels go hand-in-hand. Although it may initially seem counter-intuitive, chatbots can actually enhance the personal experience. By staying connected through the entire journey, from before guests arrive until after they return home, chatbots can greatly increase loyalty through comprehensive attention and exceptional care.
The vast range of services available at a hotel can result in guests calling multiple extensions throughout their stay for both information and reservations. This situation is far from ideal, sometimes causing aggravation and even a reduction in the number of services ordered due to frustration. A chatbot can provide a wonderful solution, eliminating the need for multiple extensions and even prompting guests about other services they may be interested in but don't know about yet. In fact, Gartner stated: "By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human." And while some of this shift will be due to automated shopping through a website and other media, it's likely that a significant amount of guest interaction will be with chatbots in the not-too-distant future.
Hitting the Right Channel at the Right Time
According to research conducted by Expedia Media Solutions, consumers visit an average of 38 websites per travel search. It's common for people to jump between various marketing channels and mediums while planning the details of a trip before they make their final decisions. In the evolving travel ecosystem, solidifying a thorough omni-channel marketing strategy is an essential component of keeping up with the expectations of the modern consumer.
In general, customers are channel agnostic, moving from one marketing source to another as they research options, read reviews, and compare prices. And the travel industry is certainly not an exception to this rule. Brands that provide seamless navigation to allow customers to continue right where they stopped, regardless of the device, are able to create a superior experience leading to an increase in bookings.
Although it can be a daunting world to navigate, social media is a critical component of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Posting the right photos and videos at the right time can provoke interest and excitement in potential guests, while including an interactive concierge app on a hotel's pages can be an ideal method for providing additional information within social media. For some hotels, frequent Tweeting generates a significant buzz that leads to bookings from new guests via Retweets and the creation of popular hashtags.
Of course, personalization is always the key to success, and a focus on highly shareable content is essential. Because the number of travel brand options can sometimes be overwhelming for consumers, a data-driven strategy that delivers the right content at the right time via the right channel can allow a company to stand out from the pack.
The importance of technology and omni-channel marketing in the hotel industry is growing at a rapid pace. And while it may seem daunting at times, innovative travel technology solutions, such as new applications of messaging and chatbots, offer exciting ways for hotels to personalize customer care. Similarly, while the number of marketing channels increases, brands can develop strategies that cut through the noise to reach interested consumers in new ways, leading not only to an increase in bookings but also creating personalized impressions that build an exceptional level of customer loyalty in the long-term.