Everything About Hotel Chatbots: Benefits, Myths and How to Pick the Right One

February 16, 2024
February 16, 2024
Everything About Hotel Chatbots: Benefits, Myths and How to Pick the Right One

When was the last time you interacted with a chatbot?

Probably not too long ago. A recent study found that 88% of consumers used a chatbot at least once in the past year.

That’s hardly surprising since so many businesses use them today, especially online retailers and service providers.

Even hotel chatbots are gaining traction quickly with usage in hospitality increasing by over 50% in 2022 alone.

The many benefits for guests and staff are the driving force behind this. Among other things, bots offer opportunities to streamline the guest journey, personalize recommendations and drive more business.

Let’s see how that looks in practice!

What Is a Hotel Chatbot?

A hospitality chatbot is software that simulates an interaction between a hotel and a traveler. You can distinguish between two kinds of hotel chatbots: public-facing bots and guest-facing bots.

Public-facing bots are accessible via a hotel’s website and handle questions during all stages of the guest journey. Their primary goal is to help people find the information they need and guide them through the booking process.

Guest-facing bots only enter the picture once a reservation is made. They support the hotel team by managing pre-stay, in-stay and post-stay communication. These bots answer questions about available services, pitch add-ons and provide information about the surroundings and nearby activities.

Both guest-facing and public-facing chatbots respond to users instantly and can ask follow-up questions to move the conversation forward. Since modern bots personalize their responses and suggestions, the interactions can feel almost human. They can also prioritize urgent requests and flag human team members when necessary.

For these reasons, chatbots are sometimes called virtual assistants, virtual concierges or conversational bots. Lately, we’re even seeing the emergence of AI hospitality assistants - but more on that in a moment.

What Does a Hotel Chatbot Do?

Depending on the hospitality chatbot you choose, it’ll have several capabilities:

  • Answer FAQs chat with guests live: Your front desk and reservation staff probably spend lots of time answering the same questions repeatedly. A hotel chatbot can also answer these questions, only it can respond instantly, alleviating the burden placed on your staff. It’s much easier for your guest if they get an immediate reply rather than waiting for someone to answer their call or email. If a question is too complex, the bot passes the baton to your team.
  • Encourage direct bookings: A public-facing chatbot can help guests book a room like a reservations agent would. But again, travelers can complete the reservation in their own time and don’t have to wait for staff responses.
  • Personalize the stay experience: A specialized hospitality chatbot automatically keeps the conversation going with your clients. It stays in touch with them throughout the guest journey and uses their past questions and booking patterns to personalize suggestions and service offers. Talk about leveraging upsell and cross-selling opportunities!
  • Communicate on all channels: The more channels a chatbot connects to, the more your guests are likely to use it. Look for an omnichannel solution allowing guests to reach you via their preferred platform: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Line or WeChat.

How Does a Hotel Chatbot Work?

Which tasks a chatbot can handle depends on how it’s built. Let’s look at the two main options:

Rule-Based Hotel Chatbot

These are built around a set of rules and can only respond to predefined prompts. They look for specific keywords in the user’s query to ask follow-up questions or suggest a pre-set solution for this topic.

If the input doesn’t include a keyword the bot is familiar with, it can’t process the request. You must “train” the bot by manually adding new queries and answers to avoid this frustrating situation. That’s time-consuming and may still not yield the best guest experience since the interactions will always remain somewhat mechanical.

AI-Based Hotel Chatbot

The new generation of hospitality chatbots leverages generative artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to understand and interpret the guest’s questions. This helps them better grasp a query’s context and provide relevant answers, almost as a human would. As a result, the interactions feel more real and conversational, making them more pleasant for guests.

On top of that, AI-based hotel chatbots learn from every conversation. The more they get used, the better they get. And as they continue to develop, these solutions transform from simple bots to powerful and versatile AI hospitality assistants.

Infographic: 7 Benefits of Hotel Chatbots

7 Benefits of Using a Hotel Chatbot

Hotel chatbots benefit your hotel, staff and guests in many ways, from saving everyone time to ensuring a smooth stay experience.

1. Increased Direct Bookings

The easier it is to book direct, the more guests will do it. Unfortunately, simple issues like being unable to find specific information (e.g., parking availability) can cause people to abandon bookings. A hospitality chatbot eliminates this friction through instant support.

Bots can also point guests to the most suitable offer, deal or package. That way they don’t have to scroll through all your promotions and can pick the perfect fit from a curated selection. And just like that, booking direct becomes a better experience than reserving via the OTAs.

2. Broader Reach

With an omnichannel hotel chatbot, guests can contact you via their preferred messaging platform, e.g., Instagram, WhatsApp, or WeChat, instead of just your site. This increases the chances that people will reach out because you adapt to their communication preferences.

Chatbots also extend your reach by interacting with guests in multiple languages. For example, Canary AI Guest Messaging can process over 100 languages in real time. That’s especially valuable for an international client base because it breaks down the language barrier and improves your content’s accessibility for them.

3. Faster Guest Service

Chatbots are always online and respond to queries instantly. They can even manage multiple requests at once when things get busy.

This ensures your guests get a speedy reply, no matter when they get in touch. That’s helpful when a guest just needs a few quick details before confirming a booking. It’s also useful when they simply request extra towels or a wake-up call. The bot forwards it to the appropriate team and they handle it immediately.

4. Improved Guest Experience

Quick responses, 24/7 availability, omnichannel capability and personalized responses greatly improve guest satisfaction and the guest experience. All this leads to another important hotel chatbot benefit. You free up your team from small requests and FAQs. This gives them more time to concentrate on interactions that need the human touch.

5. More Chances for Upselling and Cross-Selling

Chatbots can understand your guest’s interests by asking questions about their preferences and interests. Based on that, they make relevant recommendations for rooms, packages and add-on services that boost revenue. This works during the initial booking, pre-arrival and even when guests are in-house. A popular example is offering a late check-out the night before their departure. Of course, you can pitch food and beverage offers, spa services or other activities, too.

6. Streamlined Operations

A hotel chatbot can significantly lighten your team’s load. That’s a massive benefit if you’re still suffering from staff shortages. With rising labor costs, automating guest communication is also a powerful way to manage your operating expenses. Finally, bots can prioritize urgent issues. For example, if a guest reports a water leak, all concerned departments immediately get a high-priority alert that supersedes less urgent requests.

7. Access to Interesting User Data

Integrate your chatbot with your CRM to save information about preferences, past questions and booking services to your guests’ profiles. Use this data to personalize the current and future stays with recommendations for restaurants, activities, and services that match your guests’ needs. After checkout, use these insights to tailor your email marketing and send relevant offers your guests can’t resist.

Misconceptions about Hotel Chatbots

Common Misconceptions About Hotel Chatbots

Although chatbots provide immense value, there are a few myths about them that don’t want to disappear…

Myth #1: Chatbots Only Understand a Few Simple Questions

This used to be true, especially with rule-based chatbots. Their repertoire was limited unless you spent endless hours “training” them. Today that’s different. Chatbots based on generative AI and NLP understand guest intent and provide relevant, conversational responses. On top of that, they use machine learning to expand the list of topics they can engage on.

Myth #2: Guests Don’t Want to Interact With Chatbots

True, people didn’t like using chatbots because they didn’t work well. But again, that’s in the past. Today’s guests are happy to interact with your bot if it gives them the necessary information. Research even found that nearly 50% of travelers were keen on staying at hotels that automate communication. They know that modern hospitality chatbots significantly improve their experience.

Myth #3: Chatbots Feel Pushy and Will Drive Away Potential Bookers

Many hoteliers worry that chatbots could make guests feel like you’re pushing a sale on them. Depending on the bot, that could be the case. But it doesn’t have to be.

The chat doesn’t need to pop up or push for a room booking. Instead, you can make your bot unobtrusive, so it’s there waiting on your site for guests to use when they’re ready. If a user doesn’t want to book but needs information, the chatbot will respond appropriately and provide the requested details. And if the guest chooses to book, the bot supports that too.

Important Hotel Chatbot Features

How to Choose the Right Hotel Chatbot for Your Property

Which hospitality chatbot will work best for your hotel depends on your goals. But no matter your requirements, these six hotel chatbot features are critical.

1. Customized Guest Interactions

People expect more than cookie-cutter questions and answers from chatbots. Ensure your bot’s reactions to guest queries are tailored to them and conversational. An AI-based chatbot like Canary’s is ideal for that.

2. Integration with Your CRS and Booking Engine

If you want a public-facing chatbot that drives direct bookings, it must connect with your central reservation system (CRS) and your booking engine. This allows the bot to pull live availability and rates and process direct bookings.

3. Option to Connect to Multiple Communication Channels

A chat on your website or your webapp is a great start. But it’s even better to keep the conversation going across several channels. This gives guests more flexibility and increases your chances of driving business, be it room bookings or the sale of add-ons.

4. Several Language Options

Some of today’s best hotel chatbots can communicate in over 100 languages. This makes it easier for international guests to access information, request support or book rooms and services, especially if your team doesn’t speak their language.

5. Data Management

You want a bot to collect guest data and save it to your CRM. This helps you personalize future interactions, improve the guest experience and boost sales with tailored offers.

6. KPI Tracking

Track how many questions your bot answers, the sales it generates and the issues it solves. Exploring this data reveals where tweaks could further improve the guest experience and drive more business down the line.

The Future of Hotel Chatbots

When it comes to conversational chatbots, we’re only at the beginning. As developers refine the language models and technology behind bots, interactions with them will keep becoming more human.

Soon, guests may even have difficulty telling whether they’re engaging with your bot or a team member. With that, acceptance and even demand for this form of communication will increase among travelers.

At the same time, hotel chatbots will steadily become better at collecting and processing guest data. This will open the door to new levels of service personalization. Even your team will benefit from this type of analysis since they can leverage this information during their own guest interactions. And thanks to the bot, they’ll have more time and headspace to connect meaningfully.

Your property stands to benefit from this massively; you’ll be able to wow guests with more tailored experiences, build your reputation for outstanding service and drive more sales.

All this makes hospitality chatbots a valuable part of a modern hotel tech stack and hotel operations.

Ready to unlock these advantages at your hotel? Discover how Canary’s AI-powered conversational assistant can get you on the right track!

Learn How Canary Can Help Your Properties Thrive

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