Whether you’re enthusiastic or distrustful of chatbots, you can no longer ignore them as they have become the topic of choice for hotel conferences and articles. However, depending on the speaker, it is sometimes hard to differentiate reality from science fiction.
After three years spent developing a hospitality bot called Zoe, I’d like to share with you my heartfelt, and hopefully useful feedback on chatbots’ potential and limitations in a series of 3 short thematic articles.
There is no doubt that AI is the future. The question is, rather, to determine when this type of technology starts becoming profitable and relevant for your e-commerce strategy.
What’s wrong with hotel e-commerce anyway?
Chatbots are engagement tools that allow humans to have a conversation with a machine. Beyond being cool, they respond to an e-commerce necessity.
You’re not so special after all
So far, all your online sales processes massively depend on your customers’ motivation. Think about it, your customers must find you, navigate through your website to get the information they need and then have the good sense to place a reservation on a booking engine they have never seen before. The problem is that you’re not so special and this strategy focuses so much on what’s practical for you rather than what’s easy or natural for your online visitors. This generates a lot of lost conversion as only the most motivated customers end up with a reservation.
Start focusing your attention where it’s needed
If you’re fed up that 97% of your online visitors leave your website without a purchase, chatbots might be worth considering.
You have spent the last few years trying to find the perfect booking engine and making the reservation process incrementally easier for people that are already certain they want your product. Big surprise that your conversion rate is still very low because…wait for it…BOOKING ENGINES DO NOT INSPIRE PEOPLE TO BUY! If you see an increased conversion after switching BEs, it’s because your previous one was so bad that it actually prevented people from buying!
While thinking so hard and spending so many hours on your booking button, you have completely ignored that most people do not know exactly what they want and require guidance: selling to them requires a proactive attitude. Hesitant customers are the ones that need your attention. Chatbots are a scalable way to enable your hesitant customers to create the reassuring interaction that is decisive in their booking process. Your market is bigger than you think.
Manage your expectations — The glass is half full
Chatbots are not able to understand everything and fall short 20% of the time. So, what’s the big deal? Worst case scenario, the customer does not complete his reservation. You have at least received his name, email, phone, his desire and a good excuse to contact him. That’s what salespersons call a hot lead and pay money to acquire. You have all the cards in hand to get back to the customer and close the deal. Yes, it takes time, but can you expect all customers to make an investment, often well over 250€, without asking any questions?
A customer and friend of mine told me recently that it took his staff 8 months to figure out what they could do with phone numbers and email addresses that online visitors shared with Zoe, the chatbot on their website. Since then, their direct sales have skyrocketed. Hunters eat much better than fishermen.
If you’d like to discuss more or have questions about chatbots and Artificial Intelligence for the hotel industry feel welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published at www.quicktext.im.
About the Author: Benjamin Devisme
Co-Founder & Evangelist of Quicktext, a 24/7 AI-powered communication toolbox helping hotels increase sales while improving guest experience. www.quicktext.im
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