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Analysis / eCommerce

The Hospitality Industry Welcomes Chatbots With Open Arms

Chatbot

Chatbots are a hot ticket item across many vertical markets, but few are more welcoming than the hospitality industry, with hotels, airlines and booking agents embracing and engaging with bots. Not a week goes by without an airline or hotel chain rolling out a chatbot to help with customer service queries. Six months ago, 15% of airlines used chatbots, that could be closer to 20% today, with research suggesting that close to 100% will do so within a few years. From business trips to package holidays, more people are making use of a bot to reduce the stress of travel.

Fly Me Courageous, Chatbot

Around the world, regional and major airline players like Avianca are trying to capture customer engagement and loyalty with useful bots. Theirs, powered by Accenture, helped the company “see a way to differentiate their business in a very competitive industry. By supporting flyers through routine tasks – check-in, flight status, seat changes – with a simple and accessible mobile solution, they could lower the stress of travelling – and raise the bar for customer experience.”

European giant KLM’s bot shows how they can extend beyond flight finding and booking by offering a smart way to receive flight documentation. Booking confirmation, check-in notifications, boarding passes and flight status updates can all be delivered by Messenger.

Most of these bots operate on Facebook for maximum exposure, but there are plenty of other chatbot destinations, solutions and vendors willing to provide them. Travelaer builds bots focused on the airline industry, while providing apps and other elements for a full digital experience while Skychat provides specialist bots for airports to make the departure and arrival experience as smooth as possible.

Talking Hotels & Travel Shops

With hotel, ticket booking and price comparison services hogging much of the available advertising space, the battle is raging to attract and grab every customer. The industry has moved on from just a room to using bots to help make the travel, dining and tourist experience as good as possible.

To augment a traveller’s experience, chatbots can respond to questions and pop up with suggestions as you travel. They can help recommend restaurants or entertainment based on your preferences and, for people who don’t know what they want, expect the use of chatbots to help them discuss options from sun and sea to emerging destinations.

In a recent Ecommerce Magazine piece on 2018 trends, Andy Budd, the CEO of Clearleft explains how conversational commerce will be a big trend this year. He highlights “the rise in conversational commerce through the creation of shopping-related chatbots on Facebook Messenger, or Voice agents on Alexa or Google Home. Voice agents are useful for purchasing intangible things like flights or train tickets. This is where chatbots step in, as they’re able to mix conversational interfaces, with product images, descriptions and calls to action. The best conversational commerce bots are also social, allowing friends to share the online shopping experience.”

For any company looking to provide a best-of-breed chatbot experience, vendors like SnatchBot have a library of working examples to build on. They can help build, connect and publish intelligent bots to interact with customers on Messenger, Skype and other platforms.

Cashing In On The Chatbot Future

While consumer chatbot adoption and acceptance is still modest, both statistics are growing fast, As people become comfortable with them, they won’t think twice before spending money with a bot, which is where the early adopters among the hospitality industry will see the big rewards.

What’s not to like about a class upgrade offer from the airline chatbot as you see the queue for economy class with a scrum of hen and stag parties ravaging duty-free? Hotels or ticket agents can use bots to provide last-minute vacancies or ticket returns to offer better deals, or trips that will make a visit special.

That’s the longer play, and why so many airlines, airports, hotels and so on are getting involved with chatbots now. Getting the speed bumps out of the way now provides them with plain sailing as the user base grows, and consumers are more ready to go with the advice of a smart chatbot to provide them with benefits, bonuses and instant, reliable customer service.

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Chris writes about augmented and virtual reality, chatbots, games and anywhere the miracle of technology will take us next.