Chatbots for Hotels
Even Jeff Bezos recognizes that the use case of chatbots for hotels is obvious as Amazon has launched Alexa for Hospitality. Not only is it the ultimate customer service use case (because people are constantly asking questions about their room, services and other things) but there are many chatbot enablement opportunities as well.
Let’s try to imagine all the ways that a chatbot could assist guests (or even hotel staff) in accomplishing the various jobs to be done.
The guest arrives at the hotel. The first thing they do is check-in. This often involves waiting for a receptionist to become free before providing them with ID and credit cards and signing forms.
Not only is there a wait for the receptionist, but the process of checking in takes time.
Check-In: Chatbot solution
The guest checks into the hotel when they have free time on the day of check-in. They do this over WhatsApp. The bot asks them to take a picture of their IDs and asks them the relevant questions. The bot then informs them when the room will be available. At this point, the bot also informs them about the facilities and asks them if they want to book anything in advance for that day.
On arriving at the hotel, the guest presents the check-in details to the receptionist dedicated to pre-booked in guests who validates their credit card and gives them their room key.
Guests frequently have questions for reception or other hotel staff. They have to go to the phone and figure out how to dial reception and wait to get through, or they have to go to reception in person to get their questions answered.
Questions: Chatbot solution
Guest has a question. They type in or speak the question to the chatbot. The chatbot can answer the question or escalate to a human. This is a typical customer service use case and it works best if the chatbot is backed up by a human. It delivers the normal benefits that chatbots for customer service deliver in that the customers can ask for help asynchronously (which is even more important on holiday) and can get instant responses from the chatbot. They also have a history of their interactions so they don’t need to explain the issue to others.
Guest Enablement: Current
Guests often need to book activities or reserve at restaurants. This entails phoning up the relevant department or speaking to relevant staff in person. The problems involved include difficulties reaching the right person, or delays in the human operator completing the task.
Guest Enablement: Chatbot solution
These types of tasks can easily be done by the chatbot with the additional benefit that the customer no longer has to be on the hotel premises to engage with the hotel. The chatbot implementation is easier for a hotel because the chatbot does not need to manage payment in most cases since the hotel has the credit card on file.
We have seen a few use cases that would help make the guest experience better, but can chatbots help staff? The answer is yes. A voice interface could help receptionist and even staff that are mobile on the hotel premises, to get important information quickly. For example, a staff member could ask about rooms, guest bookings, guest arrivals, guest history very quickly. This would allow them to deliver a much better service to the guest in question. It would not be feasible for them to get the same information in the moment from multiple computer systems in the way that these types of queries are currently done.
Of course, one consideration is privacy and this is where Alexa has struggled. Many guests switch off Alexa because they don’t want their private conversations recorded. This is something hotels need to consider.
It is, of course, possible to deploy chatbots that are completely private by deploying them on-prem or on a private cloud.
The privacy issue is less lightly to be an issue with text-based bots that run on chat platforms such as WhatsApp. Unlike smart speakers, they are not continuously listening to the user (although Google is listening to guests through their phones anyway, but that’s another matter).
Another reported issue with Alexa is that it has on occasion unexpectedly woken up guests in the middle of the night. Obviously you don’t want the device to negatively impact the guests stay in any way.
There are many ways that chatbots for hotels can improve the lives of guests and staff. A well thought out chatbot strategy could also lead to more business for the hotels as it is likely that guests will book more services and purchase more products if frictions to doing so are removed.
In addition, chatbots can help hotels optimize their provision of services so that they can do more with less staff and thereby reduce labour costs. Chatbots can answer the frequent repetitive questions that allow staff to focus on the value-added questions.
In short, there are many obvious ways that chatbots can benefit hotels.