The Problem with Hotel Chatbots

A recent article suggested that hotels are moving too quickly to chatbot technology. Here's what it got wrong (and right).

I recently read an article that suggested hotels are moving too quickly to chatbot technology. Needless to say that I disagree. While current AI chatbot technology has some potential challenges and limitations, it has also brought its share of benefits to the hotel industry. I think it’s important to make a fair assessment of the points that were mentioned in the original article.

Let’s look at what was said and whether it’s true.

Claim: The majority of people don't like them.

Our opinion: True, most people prefer a live agent. But what if there's no one around to answer? Would you rather get no answer at all?

I would rather get an answer, even if it comes from a chatbot. Not to mention that some people don’t want to speak with a person. They just want an answer to their question.

Claim: Chatbots aren't always faster than humans.

Our opinion: False. They’re ALWAYS faster. There's no way that a human can type nearly as fast and come up with answers nearly as quickly as a chatbot. Let alone their ability to display videos, photos, and links.

Claim: Chatbots don't always give the right answers.

Our opinion: True. While chatbots don't always get it right, they usually do. In fact, our statistics show that hotel chatbots have a success rate of over 80% in accurately addressing guests' questions.

Equally important is that chatbots learn from their past mistakes, so the chances of inaccurate responses get significantly lower over time.

Claim: They can't understand emotions.

Our opinion: True for NOW but not forever. First, let’s agree that visitors want answers to their questions. They don't care if a person is in tune with their emotions. They're not going to counseling. They just want to find out what time is check-in or how late is the restaurant open.

If they don't get a proper answer quickly and professionally, they're more likely to go to another hotel.

Mind you, I'm not discounting the fact that Hospitality is all about service and caring. It is! But the future of hospitality is to be more human when it matters. Not necessarily all the time. Especially not when it’s about getting an answer to a simple question.

Claim: Chatbots fail at hyper-personalization.

Our opinion: Again, true for NOW but not forever. With the advent of ChatGPT it is only a matter of time before personalized attention from a chatbot will be a reality. It will know customer preferences and be able to offer the right person the right deal at the right time.

Claim: Their answers are not detailed enough.

Our opinion: True and False. Sometimes chatbots have very detailed answers and other times it’s not necessary. It all depends on the question. For example, when someone asks about the restaurant, there’s a lot of detail required.

  • What are the opening hours?
  • Which meals are served?
  • What type of cuisine is served?
  • What’s the dress code?
  • Do you allow outside visitors?

In contrast, when the topic is about air-conditioning in the room, there’s not a lot of specificity needed. They don’t need to know about the AC remote control. It’s not that important.

The level of detail in the answer will depend on the topic of the question.

Claim: Chatbots can't handle complex questions.

Our opinion: True but not for long. Again, we are already seeing examples of very complex questions being handled quite easily by ChatGPT. It's only a matter of time before it permeates the Hospitality industry.

Claim: Chatbots negatively impact guest loyalty.

Our opinion: False. There's no evidence for this claim. In fact, there’s counter evidence provided by independent sources. For example, when a guest receives a promo code from the hotel chatbot, he will make sure to check back again the next time he wants to stay at the property.

Claim: Chatbots negatively impact profitability.

Our opinion: Patently false. We have done case studies on our own property, showing up to a 30% increase in direct bookings through the chatbot.

Claim: It's all about the guest experience.

Our opinion: True. That’s why you want to make sure that you can answer your visitors’ questions instantly. Otherwise, they will leave with a bad experience and either book through an OTA where the hotel will have to pay 20% commission, or (worse yet) book somewhere else.

Which would you prefer – to get an answer or no answer at all?

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